Continued from Day 10630

Fun Fact: With 3,721 words, this is by far the longest post on this blog. I suppose I was just extremely write-y this week, before my new semester begins. So, do you have the time… to listen to me whine?

Day 10631
Friday, 28 September 2018

Whoever thought it was a good idea to introduce an invasive species like the python into Florida two decades ago… What were they thinking? That thing is an apex predator. They will breed fast, and eat up all the alligators and mid-size mammals if you let it. God save the Everglades, because I don’t think humans can.

Speaking of what humans can or cannot, watch this intense 8-minute YouTube video:

I hate this cold. And it’s not even winter yet. I do not want to sound whiny here so I’ll just go be depressed for the next 6 months. I will have to find a way to motivate myself to get out and about every day or I am going to die. Figuratively. Literally.

I went to the library today, to return the books I never read. On the way back, I bought 10 chicken wings for €5 (€0.50 per chicken wing) at the Legend Chicken near Aachen Bushof. Expensive, but that’s eating out in Germany for you. I need to stop eating out so frequently, and save money for my German classes. This will hopefully be the last time this semester.

I chose not to take any new courses this semester. I’ll attend Advanced Finite Element Methods (AFEM), Mathematical Optimisation (MAO) and Advanced Space Propulsion (ASP), and hopefully prepare for Hypersonic Aerodynamics & Atmospheric Entry (HAAE), Advanced Space Dynamics (ASD) and Advanced Mathematics (AM) exams too.

In sports news, India beat Bangladesh in the Asia Cup Final. That was close. India won their 7th Asia Cup (men’s) and 13th overall. Continental champions, yet again!

In my childhood, I used to play hide & seek, kabaddi, kho kho, cricket, football, hockey… I guess that’s it. Oh, and that running game… Lock & key? Hide & seek, kho kho and lock & key were games we played when boys and girls had to play together, or when boys lost the ball while playing cricket, haha. Girls played cricket too, but rarely. We avoided them because they were never serious about it. They played for fun but for us it was very competitive. 1 girl run counted as 2 boy runs, because they didn’t have as much practice, hence were “weak” players. My sister’s highest score was 2 runs. Yes, 2 runs.

What memories of childhood games do you have?

Day 10632
Saturday, 29 September 2018

I went to the market (New Sherona, Nagammal and Netto) to buy rice, fish and other groceries. Made pulao for lunch, which was so heavy I only had milk rice and fruits/salad for dinner.


For some weird reason, whoever designed the jerseys for the 1997-98 Silver Jubilee Independence Cup thought it was a good idea to have the German colours on them. (Related: The Greatest Ever Comeback in ODIs)

During my recent visit to India a month ago, I saw a government sponsored Swachh Bharat campaign billboard while driving through Guwahati. It read something like:

“What is the point of your education if you throw garbage on the street to be eventually picked by an uneducated person?”

I was really impressed seeing that. The government is doing its part, but are we citizens doing ours? Or are we so used to blaming the government, we forgot that we, the people run this country?

What really annoys me though is when people do not follow traffic rules. I mean, come on. Everybody wants to get to their destination, you are no special. Just stick to your lane, and we will all reach on time! When people try to sneak through, break rules, park improperly, etc. is when jams happen and that affects everybody. I hate people who are inconsiderate of their actions affecting people around them adversely.

While you are here, you might as well watch this:

West Indies beat South Africa 🇿🇦
🇦🇺 Australia beat New Zealand 🇳🇿

I have heard of stories passed on from elders in the native village, like the chudail (witch), the ghost of a dead women, who likes children so she kidnaps them. She chills out in one of the tree branches, and her breasts sag to the floor, and that’s how she lures little children… I’m sure you have heard a version (it varies from region to region) at least once? I guess it was a cooked up legend to scare children and young parents of children to secure their kids after dark. Indian folklore must have more such stories. I have another story, but I shall save it for another day.

Are you still recovering from a recent breakup? If yes, I am sorry. I know it sucks. All relationships (except one) end like that. We go through our life looking for that one that does not. I feel you. It’s also nice that you are trying your best to enjoy your ‘me’ time in the meantime, until you find someone, even if you’re failing. That is okay. Be sad. Be bitter. But just keep going. You will get through this, and be happy again. Trust me.

I am NOT looking forward to the winter, have I stressed that enough yet? I barely survived the last one. Well, there’s the Oktoberfest that happens in October (“Surprise!“), which is really an occasion to get drunk on beer and dance madly in a crowd. I do neither, so I don’t attend it, but there is a fair, amusement rides, side-stalls, and games as well for the less adventurous. Aachen is a small city on the Belgian and Dutch border, so we have people from the other border towns over as well. Christmas was fun. The whole town was lit. So were the fireworks on New Year’s. That is pretty much it. You could tell I am not a very outgoing person from that, couldn’t you?

The old movies and songs had a certain charm, decency and sanity. It is sad to see how fast things and people are moving. In fact, just look at how much the world has changed just in the last 7-8 years. It is difficult to imagine a world without smartphones and fast internet now but that’s how we lived before 2010. The pace at which we are moving ahead is amazing.

I also feel so stupid when I look at little kids today. They are so confident, knowledgeable and self-aware, and I was just a silly little boy who had no idea about anything. I was also the younger sibling, because my memories are of me holding my sister’s hand (the edge of her skirt when I was even smaller) and hiding behind her when somebody tried to talk to me. I think I am just as shy now as I was then, except there is nobody to hide behind now. Those childhood days were so good.

And now, welcome to this episode of engaging with you, my reader. Like always, please feel free to use the comments section to express yourself. Let me go first:

  1. My biggest worry right now is to do well, and not fail at what I am doing, in this foreign country far away from home. It is that ‘log kya kahenge?‘ that never really goes away. I am always more worried by what society must think of me than what I think of myself, and I cannot seem to be able to change that. What do you worry about the most?
  2. I have written actual letters, but that was years ago when there was no internet and children were not allowed to use the landline. I remember exchanging a letter or two with friends from the old school, whenever we shifted to a new city and school. But that’s it, they would fade away as I made new friends. Until we moved again, and new friends became old. Have you ever written actual letters with pen and paper?
  3. The frequency of me checking my phone depends on whether I am expecting a text. Most times it just lies there. But if I were to give a definite answer, I would say maybe once every hour. How often do you check your phone?

That is enough Q&A for today.

Day 10633
Sunday, 30 September 2018

I was a diamond thief in my dream last night. I don’t think my heist was very successful. My mum turned up when I was in the middle of it, and started complaining about how dirty the house was.


(Did you read about my previous dream on Day 10625?)

Aren’t the commercials the most important part of an American football game?

It really is unfortunate that some Bollywood movie songs are sexist, it has been since the 50s (as far as I am aware). But there are also those that have beautiful lyrics, so full of meaning, they hit right in the feels, and in that moment you feel like that song was written just for you. I couldn’t pick my favourite Bollywood movies, there’s just too many. But the ones that come to mind are A Wednesday, Chak De! India, My Name is Khan, Pink, Teen, Trapped and Newton.

I cleaned the toilet and wash basin, applied hair oil, shaved my beard and took a head shower. Made pulao for lunch again. We managed to save around € 162 on our electricity/gas bills over the summer. Now it is time again for winter, and heaters, and high bills.

I find the chat heads on the messenger app very annoying. I don’t like anything popping anywhere on my screen. They remind me of pop up ads on websites.

I have zero privacy. But meh, I dance naked in the shower, on days I am less scared that I will slip and fall and hit my head on the tub. I am adventurous.

I also cut my finger opening the canned fish. I am getting too old for this shit.

In other news, At least 832 people have died after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake triggered tsunami waves as high as six metres (20 feet). This is especially scary, because it brings back bad memories of 2004. I shall be keeping an eye on the news in the coming days. (Source: Sky News)

Sarah Taylor, the England wicketkeeper, will miss the Women’s World T20 in the Caribbean in November due to her ongoing fight with anxiety that has caused her to take regular time away from the game in recent seasons. That’s so sad. She is a wonderful player, which shows that mental health issues can affect the best of us. I hope she recovers soon from it, and so do I. (Source: ESPN Cricinfo)

🇿🇦 South Africa beat Zimbabwe 🇿🇼

Cricket, Vijay Hazare Trophy:
Karnataka beat Vidarbha

Alemannia Aachen beat RW Essen, 1-0
Bengaluru beat Chennaiyin, 1-0

We had no cable TV or internet at home 15 years ago (I was 19 when we got broadband), so I spent my childhood watching Doordarshan and playing cricket against the wall. If I recall myself in 9th standard, I was obsessed with Charlie Chaplin (my parents gifted me the entire collection, around 88 movies, of his movies for my birthday). I must have that VCD collection lying somewhere. The 2003 World Cup happened; and there was that painful wait for the 5th Harry Potter book because J. K. Rowling decided to take a break and get married (the 4th had come out in 2001). Well, at least they kept the movies coming in the meantime. What were you doing in 2003?

Did you know, I wrote a novel called Psychic Wonders around the time? I was 14! Well, my book was laughable at best, it was never meant to be published. That was just one of many things I wrote to keep myself occupied. I was a shy introvert. I still am, that’s just me, can’t change that. Looking back, it was heavily influenced by Harry Potter (because that’s what I was hooked on to at that age)- three friends, boarding school, etc. I never saw myself as that much of a writer anyway, although a professor at the Texas A&M University did commend me for my (his words, not mine) “high quality written prose“, haha.

Do you ever listen to a piece of instrumental music, and just kind of “get it“? I get that when I listen to the main theme of Braveheart. Goosebumps.

I haven’t watched the movie, I don’t know the plot, but that theme just gets me. The late James Horner was a bloody genius. Then there’s this:

Music knows no boundaries. Unfortunately, I have not read enough books to have a similar knowledge of literature. The two books that influenced me the most are Rahul Dravid (biography by Vedam Jaishankar) and Wings of Fire (the autobiography of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam). They were gifted to me by my parents on my 15th and 18th birthday respectively, and I think these two people have unknowingly played a role in shaping the ethics and morals I want to live my professional career with. I may or may not have succeeded, but that’s a story for another book. Mine.

Dr Kalam was a great man. Did you know, I had the opportunity of meeting him twice? In Bangalore 2011 and again in Mumbai 2013. I remember reading a biography before Wings of Fire. It was called Dreams to Reality. Have you read it yet?

If I ever get a chance to pose just one question to Elon Musk, it would be:

“Do you hire Indian nationals?”

Well hey, a man’s gotta eat. Hire me, then we can talk rocket science. But in all seriousness, SpaceX does not intrigue me anymore. I have my eyes on ISRO. They are breaking new ground, and I want to be a part of that.

Day 10634
Monday, 1 October 2018

I spent € 10,286 in my first year in Germany, and I am about to spend another € 2000 on German classes. I don’t have money to go home at the end of this semester, or the next, so unless I earn that back and some more, I ain’t going nowhere. Oh, fun.

I don’t know how the semester is going to be yet. I have 4 hours of German class 5 days a week, and I’m writing 6 exams at the end of the semester.

I always had Muslim sounding (“Is that offensive if I say that?“) named people in my class since childhood. Maybe fewer girls but boys for sure. But now that I think of it, I can recall only 3 Muslim girls (I am assuming they were Muslim) throughout my academics. Afeefa, Ahmadi and Fatima. Afeefa was in primary school. I liked the name because it spelt the same backwards, and I remember being so fascinated by that. I was like, wow what a name! Come on, it is a pretty name. She was cute too, but that is secondary.

I get that Islam is a minority, but there were guys. I remember Syed Abdulla, Jasir Jamal and Mohammad Rameez (who was one of my best friends in high school), but no girls. Maybe girls go to a different school because public schools have uniforms and they have to wear the burkha and cover the head, etc and it conflicts with the uniform? I never thought of that. Such a pity.


That’s the picture of the first ever Indian national cricket team. They played under the title of “All-India“, because it was before independence. India lost, of course. In fact, they had to wait until 1952 to win their first match. This was in 1932.

Wisden summarised the tour as one of “immense value to the Indians themselves who, about the middle of the summer, were fifty per cent better than when they arrived, and the lessons they learned will no doubt be passed on to the Indian cricketers of the future”. (Source: Wikipedia)

Google Maps tells me I travelled 43,349 km in the past one year, and 92.49% of it was air travel. 350 km (0.81%) was walking. That is less than a km a day. That’s a shame. I just made a mental note to walk more, on a daily basis.

Although I have only been to Punjab twice in my life, I have grown up listening to stories of Amritsar from my parents, who lived there before I was born. The heat, the cold, the tension in the 80s, curfews, operations Blue Star and Black Thunder, Golden Temple, Wagah border, Jallianwala Bagh, samosas, jalebis and lassi, etc. etc. They came from south Indian families, a newly married couple not knowing even Hindi, let alone Punjabi, in a time when there was no internet or mobile phones, but it must have been the goodness of the people they met that has left a lasting impression on them.

I made fish curry today. It came out really well. It is already 11:30 pm now and I have to send a letter to Romania. Allow me to explain. You know the app called Slowly? I made a pen pal in Romania. Her name is Cristina. Her English does not match my high quality written prose, but she seems very wise.

Christina Luliana says: “A real letter compels you to listen what the other person has to say, before you can provide feedback. Nowadays, we don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply, and this is causing problems in communicating with each other.”

I take some time every night before I go to bed, to sit down and reply to any letter I may have received (in the app) during the day. I started using this app 9 days ago, and I am enjoying it thus far. It takes two days to Australia, and 5 hours to Romania. So, I have to wait 4 days to a week to hear back from the Australian, while I can write to the Romanian every day. It takes 21 hours to deliver to India, so I talk to the Indian every alternate day. The oldest pen pal is 35 and the youngest is 13.

Initially, I got carried away and sent out 42 letters, but I realised soon enough that there was no way I could handle 42 simultaneous conversations. I am glad many did not respond. I am currently in the process of bringing it down to 21, cutting it down by half. I currently have 27 active pen pals.

🇦🇺 Australia beat New Zealand 🇳🇿

Day 10635
Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Today is the 149th birth anniversary of the Mahatma. It is also the birthday of the amazing Val-E. I went to another German language institute today, but they are more expensive than the previous one. I guess the question to which institute I would be enrolling for just answered itself.

Alright, story time! So I was born in Yellapur, which is a town in Karnataka, but prior to independence it belonged to the Bombay province. The southern and central divisions of Bombay had a deadly spread of plague between 1930 and 1945, the same time period famine hit Bengal and the World War II hit Europe and subsequently, the world. The period of 1930-1934 was especially bad in Yellapur, and the plague wiped out entire families. (Source: Spread of plague in the Southern and Central Divisions of Bombay Province and Plague Epidemic Centres in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent, 1949, manuscript published in the World Health Organisation’s journal in 1951. Here is the link to the research publication)

The story goes that the spirit of a vigilant watchman roamed the streets at nights during these dark times, knocking his stick, to encourage the sick people that he was there to drive the evil away. I’m guessing it was mass hallucination, but whatever. So the people who did survive the plague decided to build a temple in the memory of ‘Jatka‘, the guardian spirit. Cut to 1989. My dad is posted in Yellapur. My adorable but pregnant mum prayed every day to Jatka for the safe delivery of her baby. Her prayers were answered, for I am alive to type this right now.

I have another anecdote to share. Some years ago, I had applied for graduate studies at IIT Bombay, and they invited me for interviews. I travelled by train, reached in the morning, had the interview. My train back was the next morning, so I had the rest of the day (and night) to spend. I was told there was no vacancy in the student hostel, and I didn’t know where to go, so I just went to the terrace of Hostel One, where the mess workers slept. I met these two guys who had also come for the interview and were in the same situation as I. We decided to spend the night on the terrace.

Since we weren’t students (yet), technically no hostel rules (if any) applied to us. One of them was from the north east, the other I cannot remember anymore, except that his dad was a professor at another IIT or NIT (but in another part of the country). They went out and got booze for themselves (I don’t drink). So here we were, three strangers who just met, drinking and talking the night away, on the terrace of the Queen of the Campus, in one of the most prestigious engineering institutes in the country. There were mosquitoes and they were drunk (I was high on Mountain Dew), so nobody slept that night. Before we parted, I remember us wishing how cool it would be if all three of us got admits and we came back as students. Well, I did. I eventually lived the next three years of my life in that hostel. But I never saw them again. I have no idea what happened of them, or if they even remember that night. So, there. I don’t know if that counts as the “biggest impact”, but it certainly was random, haha.

I realise this is the first time I have reminisced of anything remotely related to my time at IIT Bombay. I am not proud of those years of my life, my struggles with anxiety and depression, et al. But this did not feel forced at all. I guess I am finally starting to get a move on after years of stagnation, and that is good. Right?

So, what random stranger has had the biggest impact on your life?

Continue to Day 10636.


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