Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This is something unique

Hi. I am updating this blog after a long time. I haven't had much travel in the last few weeks, once went to the Troon beach, the photos of which have already been uploaded in all the social networking sites. I actually am quite bored with this travelogue thing, I mean you too would be bored with it - because half the time, I keep blabbering about the scenic beauty of this place and the other half the time, it's my work-atmosphere that I keep recounting. So, now I will write only on some special occasions, something really unique like today, I have got something to relate:
  • My Professor has gone to Berlin for a week for a conference. That means no-one is going to check my progress over the next week. Certainly, that would make me happy. I too thought so. But, today after work, I felt very bad. To be precise, I missed my Professor.

    Every morning he would come to my table with a cup of coffee in his hand and exclaimed to me the most enthusiastic 'Good Morning' ever. Then he would ask about what new have I done in my work, what I should do and gave me some brilliant out-of-the-box ideas that he had in mind about application of the thing which we were trying to design. And at the end of the day, he would again have a 15 minutes talk with me asking how things were going, what plans do I have for the weekend, some things about India and then I would ask him about him and his family and with an impeccable smile he used to bid me a bye. I would come back home elated.

    And today, when he was not around, I could feel his absence. I feel great to have finally found a teacher, who I miss when he's not around. This is the first time I am feeling such a thing in my life.
  • Graffiti will stagnate for sometime, about a week or so, since I am busy with organizing and coordinating the publishing work of my novel through internet. Meanwhile, I am going on a trip to Northern Scotland over this weekend, heard that it is breathtakingly beautiful.

  • I found that I can compose poems quite easily now. It feels good, after-all 'again' my experience echoed with my philosophy of life - 'Persistence triumphs.'
P.S. Three romantic movies you must watch - The Notebook, Indecent Proposal and P.S. I love you.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Peculiarities of Glasgow

Hi, there are certain very peculiar things of this city of Glasgow. Day by day, I come to witness new things and I am being amazed at each and every moment. Here are some of them:
  • People out here don't use horns at all. In a jam, no matter how long the car-queue is, people sit back, relax, read newspapers or listen to music, but never do they use horns. That's a sight that I had never seen earlier.
  • I could see more pets walking on the road than homo-sapiens themselves. It seems that almost everyone has a pet out here. Meanwhile, there are no stray animals on the road. I miss my Indian roads, with no traffic rules for animals.
  • People here are animal-loving, it seems so, since here birds like pigeons and sparrows do not run away if you go near them. People definitely love animals as well as their taste. McDonalds and Burger King out here carry a tag-line '100% pure beef!'
  • The population is very health conscious and therefore are fit. One could see people running on the footpaths all round the day. Exercising is as important part of the daily life as attending nature's call.
  • The engineering students here are very well versed with programming, in all kinds of languages.
  • People are very courteous. They hold doors until every person of the group passes through the door. If my eyes cross through any other person, a sudden beautiful smile is what I am bestowed with.
  • Music is a part of every home. There are people with varied instruments performing at every street side. Violin, harp, saxophone, guitar, tamba, accordian and what-not, it seems to be a very ingredient of this culture. Even all my group-mates know how to play one instrument at least.
  • The typing speed of everyone is almost like mega-racer. It seems that they have been given professional coaching for speed-typing, my professor's typing speed seems to be about 90-100 wpm. Earlier I used to think that I am really fast at typing with 62 wpm, but now I have developed inferiority complex.
  • There are good people out here too. The way serials like 'How I met your mother' or 'Friends' have portrayed the west seemed to be untrue. Life-long relationships do exist here, much like India. My Professor and his wife Ana make a very lovely pair. However, there are a bunch of people who are perverted since I could see from posters of some eye-dazzling events every now and then alongside the road but I haven't encountered anyone like that in my University.
P.S. I am loving this foreign land. Earlier I used to miss my home, my friends and my country but now I am happy with this two months seclusion from everything I was addicted to. It has brought me closer to myself and made me reflect upon subtle things that are important to me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

About the work-culture

The University's Silhouette

In my last few articles, I wrote that the work culture is really awesome or work is fun. This attracted lots of questions from the curious minds of my friends. So this article is for those who want to peep into the work-culture of a foreign university. Again, bullets will prove to be easily readable, so here are they:
  • My Professor's name is Johannes Courtial. He is young(about 29-32 years of age), dynamic and adventurous. He comes to the college on his mountain-bike daily. His hobby is rock-climbing, swimming, travelling, jogging and mountain-biking. He is fit and looks younger than his age.

    He is originally from Germany, but has taken education in Britain, so has a perfect British accent. He has published over 100 research papers, currently he is working on the topic called METATOYs, a word coined by him which is the acronym for METAmaTerials fOr light raYS. You can search wiki for the same word and get an introduction which is written by my professor. He is very passionate about his topic and his passion is visible in his personality. He gets excited like a child while talking about metamaterials, his expressions suddenly blooms whenever I come out with a result that he hoped for.

    His frequency of publishing research papers is very high - almost 15-16 papers per year. And this is the culture here. People are fast and professional in their approach.

  • The timing of work generally is 10 am -5 pm; 5 days a week with an hour gap for lunch from 1-2 or 12:30 to 2, as you wish. But the timings are flexible. I had my timing shifted from 10-5 to 1-8 to give me ample time in the morning for any kind of homework.

  • The professor gives sufficient time daily to every individual working under him, and asks about their work, their doubts and checking their progresses. He has lunch common with the whole group. On a sunny day, we have our lunch outside in the garden of the campus to let sun tickle our skin. The professor goes for swimming and jogging every two days of the week before the lunch. He invites us along but I haven't accompanied till now.

  • On Friday, the whole group goes partying. If it is a sunny day, we go to a park, play football and relish the barbecue. The people out here take the weekends too seriously. They don't do any work in the weekend, neither my professor, they just chill out. My professor made my travel plans to the Troon beach last Friday.

  • Everyone treats me so dearly. I(as well as Sharvil) are the youngest one in the group presently, so any of our problems gets solved in a minute with everyone turning to our help. The professor is so enthusiastic that in just a small mathematical breakthrough we achieve; he showers perfectly crafted praises to us.

  • The best thing I like about the whole optics group is they are very fun-loving. Unlike the serious, ghastly professors of IIT; they are very friendly and helpful, as well as very adventurous. The word 'professor' was such a heinous word for me before I came here and suddenly the same word has become so amazing.
If we all had perfect mentors like Prof. Courtial, the whole world would be a collection of people with utmost passion.

P.S. It is an amazing thing that in a new environment it is only the nice things that appeal to us.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bullets of the last week

I think writing long big diaries is not what many people would consider reading. So here are bullets; bullets of anecdotes which contain in itself a separate story of my videshi life. Here they go :
  • Monday(25th May) is a holiday on account of Queen's birthday. So a long weekend for us. The irony is 25th May is just the official birthday of the Queen. The original birthday is on some other day. Long live the Queen. I wonder what would happen if the Queen dies. Will they give a holiday for that too? And what about the new Queen then - her birthday? Will they change this day?
  • Yesterday was Saturday, to add to our fun, we boarded a bus to Clydebank - the literal meaning of this word conveyed it was somewhere around the river Clyde. We wanted to have a serene walk around the Clyde. There were four of us(Me, Sharvil, Keshav, Rajiv - all from IITD doing internship in Glasgow) and that is what I mean by 'we' in this bullet. But, this Clydebank turned out to be an industrial area. There were malls, docks, shipping area and we had to traverse about 4 miles on foot to finally reach the bank. That too, all on our own with a map. Crossing through the lonely ways, discovering new paths and thinking twice seeing the map every now and then - Are we heading in the right direction?

    On our way - still on the discover mode!

    The way seemed more like a haunted path not used by the people around for decades. The mysterious paths gave us some stunning views of how Scottish nature looks like. With small tunnels, to land-dunes to even running meadows, life never saw such a beauty.

    Swans playing along the bank
    Swans lining the bank with their milk-white skin, seagulls decorating the cloudy sky vauntingly with their flag-like wings and ships loading the cargo with the ongoing breeze brushing against my seven-days beard(which is no more than 2-3 cm) brought a strange feeling of Deja Vu in me.

    The Clyde view
    I felt that I had been to this place sometimes ago. I will go to that place once more someday, all alone and sit by the bank and cherish my happy moments. The noise of the gulls and the playfulness of the swans strikes a chord within me and tells me that I am also a part of this nature - in synergy with all it's beautiful creations.

  • The University of Glasgow - It had been my workplace for the last 5 days. I had some amazing experiences being a part of it. I was sitting in the common room doing my work. There were three professors sitting on the adjacent table talking about black holes. I guessed that they were from the astronomy department, which was quite obvious from their talks. Suddenly one of them said, "Last week I had a talk with Stephen Hawking about the quantum behaviour of black holes." I was dumbfounded.
University Campus - View when entering the main building

I feel that I have been transported to another world - the world of giants, exposure-wise.
  • Some trivia : The University of Glasgow was the first university campus to be fully lighted by electricity in 1871, courtesy to the pioneering works by Lord Kelvin. It's very renowned across the whole globe.
  • Work : In the initial few days I had a really tough time with work. I could not understand a thing. On the third day did I finally have some grasp of the thing what we are doing. I am going to be enlightened into many languages and softwares with my work here. The work being totally theoretical requires me well versed with LATEX, Mathematica, POV ray and Adobe Illustrator. That's a real nice grooming since education out there in India, especially physics is not much centred on computer based stuff. The professor is so friendly, that most of the time I spend with him.

    My everyday consist of about 40-50 minutes talk with him. He has arranged my entry into the departmental football team, and also he his planning an excursion for us into an island along the sea on Scotland's coast. Seems fun is coming my way. Plus, he is also pleased with both of us. He always start praising the IIT guys. Really IIT gives so much respect, all across the globe.

    Then, we have lunch together with the whole group, and everyone is so fun-loving. They crack jokes, even some naughty ones and I am perplexed whether to laugh or not? I choose to be smiling - that's the best way to control my emotions. My lunch consists of a chicken sandwich, a chocolate cake and a vanilla shake; total worth three pounds. The daily expense here is about 6-7 pounds per head, that too we live too lavishly. Brown bread, soups, milk, ice-cream and 12 cans of pepsi keep our oesophagus packed.
  • Ph.D Talks : One day, our professor asked us to accompany the group to a talk to be given by the Ph.D students around. There were doughnuts which served as refreshments and were the fuel for such a large turn-up outside the lecture theatre. We went inside the lecture theatre carrying our doughnuts and eating it from all the four sides, to make it's radius short, thereby making it carriable. The inside view was brilliant. The lecture theatre was better than the auditorium of IIT Delhi. Parallel movable boards, that too 9 in number and three white boards - for projection and a big auditorium which can seat about 200-400 people. The Ph.D talks began and as expected we could not understand a thing of what was being discussed. How do you expect us to know about lepton's angular momentum after all?

    Even our professor could not understand much what non-optics Ph.D talked about. The ending was sweet. There was a show of hands to choose who amongst the three presenters were the best. The one who would be the best would be given a champagne. And there was a tie, between Ph.D students of optics group and particle physics group. Certainly we thought, this could not be resolved but the magnanimous presenter told that he would give one champagne each to each winner. So, we will be having champagne soon. This concept of awarding seemed very fascinating to me. The incentives adds value to the work and gives a feeling of accomplishments. Nice experience here.
  • I found so many shops, with cheap goods. I am going to do a hell lot of shopping. The Bus Stands and Railway Stations are amazing - ultra clean and modern.
That's the Railway Station - Overground

P.S. Guys, I had been having a trouble of what to bring back from here. Finally I found a souvenir to bring back for my friends. I am going to bring a peculiar thing of this place for all of you - yeah All. And that is ultra-soft quilts. One roll can be enough to satisfy about 50 people for one of their nature's sacred call.

Monday, May 18, 2009

First Day At Work

Today, I got up at 7 in the morning, my body clock actually is in synergy with the time out here; because in India I had this habit of sleeping at about 3 am(i.e. 10:30 pm here) and getting up at about 11 am(i.e. 6:30 am here). I had a breakfast of bread and coffee and went to the University at 8:45 only though the professor called us at 9:30 am. It was drizzling a bit and the cold wind added to the excitement. We reached the place at around 9:10 am and waited outside Prof. Courtial's chamber.

About half an hour of wait ticked away, suddenly a young man came in front of us on a cycle. His face resembled the face that I searched on google a day before. Seeing us, he unfastened his helmet and with a child-like excitement shook hands with us. He pronounced my name correctly, I felt relieved that at least I am not harsh to these people. He introduced us to all the members of the Optics group and then gave a brief introduction to all the laboratories around. The people are so friendly and cooperative, that I wonder sometimes, "Can people really be so good?"

The professor took out his Canon EOS and captured our photos to upload in the website. And now, our photos are in the Official Website of Glasgow University Optic's Group. (

Another two hours went by in administration and organizational stuff, where we were to sign some documents and finances were to be cleared up. Then the professor called us to describe what ideas he had in his mind for us, and explained the things. The knowledge was completely new and fascinating plus his enthusiasm proved to be a fuel to our interest. He was accompanied by his Ph.D student Alasdair C. Hamilton, a six feet six inches tall, heavy guy; who too was very friendly. His accent was a bit troublesome, since he happens to be Scottish. Done with the primary orientation, we went into the specific room allotted to us, towards our specific table. I fought with the research paper with a flickering concentration due to reasons unmentioned(The Scottish people talk so loudly).

The Workplace

At 1 pm, it was the lunch time. We went to the Byres Street with the group and brought a meal worth 2.99 pounds. Roasted Sandwich, a cherry cake and sprite was enough to satiate my hungry stomach. The lunch was on a common dining table, in the HOD's room. The HOD Optics Department Mr. Padgett turned a bit on the serious note; introvert and reserved from the rest of the group. The lunch ended, studies began, read two research papers in two hours with eyes drowning with sleep. I hate this period 1 pm - 3 pm; be it Delhi or Glasgow, sleep never forgets to bug me during this time.

The Byres Street

The professor called us at about three to have a small talk about the research topics and about what he expects us to do. Our predecessor from IIT last year did some groundbreaking research and the professor expects us to be able to achieve atleast that benchmark. This is difficult and challenging but very interesting. Challenging and interesting is a rare combination - you never get tired trying the thing if it's interesting. The professor is so passionate when it comes to his area of research - Metamaterials. He related his tryst with research and told about Glasgow as a city. He asked our favorite sports and asked us to join him in bicycle races, jogging and even invited me to play football with the group members.

Prof. Courtial with his daughter Beatrice

The professor then let us meet his six months old daughter and his wife, who greeted us very cordially. The professor bid us a bye saying, "Now, I've to go and change the nappies." That ended my day at the University, have a lots of homework at hand and my eyes are already droopy.

P.S. Sorry Airtel, I ditched you for Vodafone. This is my number : +447789472909. I know no-one is going to call me.
P.S. The international rate(5 pence per min) is lower than the local rate(20 pence per min).
P.S. Did a shopping of 10 pounds, only!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Journey

14th May
All set to go for the next day. At 5:30 pm, Sharvil(my travel-partner) called and informed that our connecting flight at Heathrow, London was preponed by three hours leaving just an hour in our hands to catch it, thus making it impossible for us to board it. In haste, we cancelled the Air-India tickets and booked Emirates, depreciating our bank accounts by about 6 grands, but that was no problem with the experience we were going to have the next day. Happiness was due to one more reason - Emirates allows 30 kg baggage in comparison to the meagre 20 kg by Air India.

The Emirates Airlines

Plus, our connecting flight was to be taken from DUBAI.

15th May
We had a 9:50 pm flight and we were in the check-in line of the airport at 7 sharp. The link failed about two times and we reached the tip of the line only after standing in the queue for one and half hour. General procedure takes no more than twenty minutes. Left irritated by the services, I just pledged inside that I am not going to board an Emirates flight ever again.

During check-in, God had in store for us another set of adventure. Our luggage exceeded the limit by about 10 kg, i.e. the total weight of our baggage was 69.7 kg, which is way off than what is allowed(60 kg per two persons). Luckily, Mom dropped two packets in my bag and I took out all the excess baggage into the packet, making the luggage weight to be 61.5 kg, huh, lucky me. The packets were now our hand-baggage in addition to the laptop.

After a dozen of scrutiny, I finally boarded the flight - Boeing 757 jumbo-jet - Emirates. The mere sight took all my fatigue. It was big, bigger than every other flight at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

Greeted by an Arabic air-hostess dressed in the traditional Arabic dress, I entered the flight. With screen with a thousand movies, a million songs, equi-numbered radio-podcasts and hundreds of TV shows, Emirates left no stones unturned to make me feel blessed. "Emirates is the only airline that I'll travel in" was the slogan my mind kept reciting. It took just two minutes for Emirates to shift my paradigm. The delicacies were an icing on my cake, delicious and served with courtesy.

This is the view inside Emirates Airlines

16th May - DUBAI
If I close your eyes and drop you inside the Dubai Airport, I bet you would think that you are inside a grand shopping mall. Electronics, foodstuff, cigars, bags, furnitures, apparels and what-not! You name it and you will get that. A fully wi-fi enabled area, I went online at the airport. To my surprise, Orkut was banned in UAE - it was written that it has prohibited content - God knows what! Meanwhile, Sharvil had a 12$ pizza and I too got a bite.

The Dubai Airport - Terminal 3

The airport is so beautiful, that I had an eerie feeling even while using the toilets, since it would make the thing dirtier, which I didn't want.

We had an eight hours stay in Dubai. I had a nap in one of the easy chairs, which was in no-way easy. In the morning, we had another flight to catch - flight to our destination - Glasgow.

16th May - Dubai to Glasgow
It was morning and the take-off was from Dubai. What more a man wants to please his eyes? WOW is the word. Had a look at the Burj Al Arab 7-star hotel and the Marina Dubai, a splendid sight.

The Marina Dubai and Burj Al Arab 7-Star Hotel as seen from my plane

We then towered over the clouds and had occasional looks through the clouds to the lithosphere downwards. Crossing through Iraq, Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Germany, North Sea to finally UK took almost 9 hours.

Though plenty of episodes of Friends, the movie - The Dark Knight and about a dozen tracks from all across the globe provided some entertainment, the real entertainment came from the yum delicacies. They serve so passionately. The delectable food with all kinds of beverages - ALL KINDS(except champagne), mind it tastes better with the graciousness of the air-hostess. I tasted Jack Daniel's whiskey, it was like a homeopathic liquid, and brought a strange comforting warmth to my throat when I gulped it.

The flight toured over the clouds, the horizon seemed endless and eyes seemed astonished to see the mirth of nature.

The Panorama

The flight lowered down the clouds and the pilot announced that we are going to land in 5 minutes. The breathtaking panorama beheld my eyes and I could just think one thing - two months are going to be spent in heaven. The mountainous meadows, vast stretches of land and cloudy weather was more than enough to soothe my skin burnt with Delhi's scorching sun.

The landing was safe, that's why I am alive out here writing this, and my ear buzzed with Scottish accent coming from all around. Of ten things they say, I can understand just 3-4 things, so plenty of difficulties out here. After collecting our baggage, which were in perfect condition, we boarded a taxi to the White House Apartments - our accommodation place. Yes friends, I live in the White House. The moment we entered our room, we exclaimed, "Holy Shit". This is way better than we had imagined. Everything, right from a hearth, TV, Broadband, alarm clock, microwave, OTG, Laundry service, bath-tub, dishwasher, geyser, music system and even a personal-landline; everything is here. It is like a royal suite, and you know what finally sun has arrived piercing all the clouds to my bed.

That's the first meal - hot and sour soup!

I am yet to discover this place. Today is the day reserved for all the explorations. That's all from my side, you tell, how is India.

P.S. Toilet paper, it sucks, I am never sure that I am completely clean or not.
P.S. Had a breakfast of Maggi and Tomato soup, god knows when I'll get something more Indian.
P.S. I left my toothbrush there in India, can anyone bring it? It is very costly here. :(

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


University of Glasgow. The campus is more like a royal campus of a Duke's castle. The main University building is actually a castle which was donated by the king of Scotland to make a University for the education of the masses. The legacy is 600 years old, much around the time when Columbus was accidentally discovering America. The notable alumni of the University are the revered economist Adam Smith, the noted physicist William Rankine, the Nobel prize winner Lord Todd and another dozen of Royal society members. Other than the heavy accent of Scottish people, the only problem for me is 'Khana'. I know how to cook, but I don't know what will be available for me to cook. Will miss mom's cuisine for sure.

Enough talks for now. I am embedding a bunch of pictures downloaded from the net, hope you will share the same excitement as I've.

The tower of the castle, seems much like a lighthouse

The fifteen storied library

The campus from a distance

I am leaving India on 15th. Will rejuvenate this blog once I inhale the foreign air. Till then, take care. Bye.

P.S. The photographer within me is ready to explode.