May 27, 2010

Blogadda Contest: Travel Photos

For once, there is a contest in the cyber space that I can participate in. Blogadda announced a contest for travel photos. Travel Photos! I am like a kid on Diwali or Holi or Id or Christmas or whatever festival you celebrate. Which one should I put, which one should I discard? I have at least 20 photos that I want to put here and yet, I can only put 5 of them. Decisions, decisions! Anyway, here goes my list:

TulipPAris_203 The spring of 2008 I went for a Euro trip with friends. This is one of the shot from my first view of Eiffel tower in Paris during a Seine river cruise. We all (tourists) were clicking profusely, after all it’s Eiffel tower. Stepping back from my vantage point, I realized that there is no human factor in numerous picture of Eiffel tower I had just clicked. So this presented as a perfect opportunity: a friend clicking the picture of Eiffel tower. This remains my best shot of Eiffel tower that I took on that trip, even though the Eiffel tower is blurred and is in the background.  The fascination of man with the monuments.

Disney_041-1  The summer of 2008 I did an internship in Southern California. In two months I was there, I went to Disneyland 5 times (it was 2 hours drive from my place), although every time with a different set of friends. This statue of Mickey and Walt Disney caught my eyes the first time I was there but I simply couldn’t get the right angle or right way to click the picture. And then there were so many other exciting things to take picture of, so I let it go. In all the subsequent visits, I stole moments from my friends and tried again. However I didn’t click a single picture of this statue till my last visit, when finally I found exactly right angle to click this picture: Disney palace behind the statue of Walt Disney holding hand of Mickey Mouse and showing/dreaming a world. It summarizes the world of Disney, doesn’t it?

By the time I clicked this picture, I knew Disneyland like back of my hand now: all the rides, the different princesses, Disney characters and where they will appear, their “houses”, the parades….oh well, let me summarize by saying: it was a fun summer.   Kern_211-1 Yet another shot from my fun summer in Southern California. This is Lake Isabella in Sierra mountains, again 2 hours drive from the place I was staying, though in completely different direction than Disneyland. I published this picture on my photoblog titled: “Welcome to Paradise: Speed limit is 15 mph”. Honestly, doesn’t this look like paradise? IMG_1841-1 This is a shot from Lake Tahoe in  Northern California. The water is so clear that you can literally see the bottom of the lake. Can you see the shadow of the duck and the shadow of the ripples it created at the bottom of the lake? Yep, it’s that clear!

Even though you can’t tell this by the photograph, it was freezing cold when I was there (I  was on a ski trip organized by the department: No, I can’t ski and yes, I hate skiing- two things I realized on that trip). And as I sat there on the ramp that went in the lake, I wondered how do the ducks survive in that cold water. I knew if I accidentally fell in that lake, I will have hypothermia, and there that duck was, happily swimming in the lake. Have you ever felt insignificant while admiring the nature? Then you know how I felt, sitting there, observing that duck swimming in that ice cold lake.

Keradu temple-1 Okay, the last one is from the time I was in India and was working. I had to travel to Rajasthan for the field work quite often. This photo is from one of those field trips. It is a shot of the Keradu temples in Rajasthan. Unlike, Khajuraho temples, these are not very well known. When I visited them for the first time in 2004, we were the only tourist in the place. The watchman was out on the lunch break, so we had to open the bolt of gates ourselves and let ourselves in. It didn’t feel like any toursity place I have been in India, where its hard to escape the crowd and take any picture.

Although these temples form an archaeological site and are supposed to be well conserved, I just wish that Indian government/Rajasthan government took a better care of these artifacts than they were doing in 2004 (am not sure about the present condition of the temples). They were build in 1000 AD and later, approximately the same time as Khajuraho temples. They are beautiful.  If you ever visit West Rajasthan (may be while visiting Jaislmer or Jodhpur), do drop in at this place. It’s in Barmer district.

That’s all from my corner. Hope you like them. For more photographs visit my photoblog, Aperture.

The contest is sponsored by and Blogadda.

May 26, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Ducky

Title: Perched on the top
Location: Mountain View, CA
Date: May 25, 2010

May 21, 2010

How to begin the thesis

Well, usually people start their thesis with a quote. So as I was procrastinating today, I decided it’s time to start thinking about such mundane details. So I searched and searched for a suitable quote, that wasn’t used by one of my colleague in near past.

I came across a forum at, called: “Thesis Quote”. It’s not active any more (last post was in 2007). Anyways, I went through the forum and found some absolutely brilliant and hilarious quotes people have mentioned. Obviously, I can’t use them to begin my thesis, but it was great to laugh out while reading these. Here are few examples:

“I've put my heart and soul into this work....and lost my mind in the process.” --Van Gogh

"Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last."

"Only through suffering comes wisdom." -- Zeus

“This thesis will not solve the problem of world hunger ... but it will for me at least.”

"In the beginning the Universe was created. This made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move." -- Douglas Adams

"The definition of madness is to do the same thing you've always done it in the same way and expect a different result." --Anon
"The definition of research is to do the same thing you've always done it in the same way and get a different result every time."  --The Author

“One could of-course say that any thesis should carry a health warning to the reader, but it's rarely insisted upon.”

And the best one was:

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

Yes, to be written in the beginning of the thesis.

P.S.: BTW, I am still looking for a nice quote to begin the thesis. Any help will be appreciated. Just FYI, most of the Einstein’s quotes are already taken (he is so popular among the science geeks like us), so I need to find someone else..

May 19, 2010

May 14, 2010

The Other Sex

WARNING: Long post (but worth reading :) ).

Recently I discovered French writer, existentialist philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir and her book “The second sex (Le deuxième sexe)” published in 1949. I was stunned how relevant those words still are even though 60 years have passed. A lot have changed but the philosophy of the second sex still remains. In the introduction Simone writes:

Many American women particularly are prepared to think that there is no longer any place for woman as such; if a backward individual still takes herself for a woman, her friends advise her to be psychoanalysed and thus get rid of this obsession. In regard to a work, Modern Woman: The Lost Sex, which in other respects has its irritating features, Dorothy Parker has written: ‘I cannot be just to books which treat of woman as woman ... My idea is that all of us, men as well as women, should be regarded as human beings.’ But nominalism is a rather inadequate doctrine, and the antifeminists have had no trouble in showing that women simply are not men. Surely woman is, like man, a human being; but such a declaration is abstract. The fact is that every human being is always a singular, separate individual. To decline to accept such notions as the eternal feminine, the black soul, the Jewish character, is to deny that Jews, Negroes, women exist today – this denial does not represent a liberation for those concerned, but rather a flight from reality. […] In truth humanity is divided into two classes of individuals whose clothes, faces, bodies, smiles, gaits, interests, and occupations are manifestly different. Perhaps these differences are superficial, perhaps they are destined to disappear. What is certain is that they do most obviously exist.

My field is fairly male-dominated. Ever since I joined this field, there have been many incidents of discriminations, taunting etc. Whenever I share any such incident with my peer group, the usual response I get is that I should have stayed and proved them wrong. And I have often wondered, should I have? Yes, may be. But all those incidents would have involved me somehow trying to prove that I am not a woman. I am not sure how to do that? If some one asks me to prove that I am capable, intelligent, hard working enough for a certain job, I will take up that challenge. But no matter how I hard I work, no matter how much I struggle, I can never prove that I am not a woman.

My body is structured in a certain way. If at some point, my future life partner and I decide to have a baby, my body will be the one who will carry the baby. And it doesn’t stop at physical differences. Socially, I will be expected to shoulder far more responsibilities and duties than my life-partner. Socially, I need more protection and security than my male counterparts. Socially (at least in India), I couldn’t have shared room with guys in my class (I was the only girl in my class). And all these facts will remain true as long as I am a woman. So if they taunt me or discriminate against me due to these reasons, I don’t get the point of staying and proving. They want me to prove that I am not a woman, which I can’t. I have no means, or desire, of proving that. And why should I have to? Isn’t being good in your field or at your job, good enough? What does my being a woman has anything to do with my capabilities?

Here, I have to quote Apu’s post on “what if women’s stuff was the norm” that deals with how our society still treat the biological requirements of women as ‘special treatment’ and frown upon it. Apu writes:

Why “special” leave if you claim to be equal, is a question often thrown at women. This question assumes one important thing : that the norm is ‘no-maternity leave’ and therefore asking for maternity leave is a ‘deviation’, a call for ’special treatment.’ But, here’s the thing; assuming a norm of ‘no-maternity leave needed’ is a fundamentally biased one. It is a norm based on a situation where the workplace is entirely comprised of biological males who do not need maternity leave.

But, here’s the thing too : 50% of this planet’s citizens are women. What if we and our bodies were the norm? Looking at it this way, suddenly, maternity leave doesn’t seem like an aberration. Women’s bodies carry children, and those bodies need a period of rest before/after delivery, plus time off until the baby is weaned. That’s a biological fact. Workplaces have never been built taking into account the fact of women’s bodies or their lives. For e.g. transfer policies in most government departments in our country were laid down for a prototype male worker, whose non-working wife and children would simply move when he had to.

How is this thinking different from the 1940s when women were struggling for voting rights, education and such. As Simone writes:

Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being. Michelet writes: ‘Woman, the relative being ...’ And Benda is most positive in his Rapport d’Uriel: ‘The body of man makes sense in itself quite apart from that of woman, whereas the latter seems wanting significance by itself ... Man can think of himself without woman.  […] She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other.’


Woman has ovaries, a uterus: these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity, circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature. It is often said that she thinks with her glands. Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands, such as the testicles, and that they secrete hormones. He thinks of his body as a direct and normal connection with the world, which he believes he apprehends objectively, whereas he regards the body of woman as a hindrance, a prison, weighed down by everything peculiar to it. ‘The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities,’ said Aristotle; ‘we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.’ And St Thomas for his part pronounced woman to be an ‘imperfect man’, an ‘incidental’ being. This is symbolised in Genesis where Eve is depicted as made from what Bossuet called ‘a supernumerary bone’ of Adam.

Why else do we still refer the humans as man-kind? Again to quote Simone:

In actuality the relation of the two sexes is not quite like that of two electrical poles, for man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity.

It depresses me to observe how little the thinking of society has changed in past 60 years even though we have come far in a lot of aspects regarding feminist movement. It also depresses me to see how half of the world is still living in that era or worse, trying to return to that era. The concept of feminism is considered “western”, “corrupting” etc. while it actually is:

What they [feminist] demand today is to be recognized as [an] existent with the same right as men, and not as subordinate existence to life, [like] the human being [master] to its animality [slave].

Sixty years later, we are still fighting for that equality. Husbands and in-laws still hold the power to grant freedom to wives and DILs. What a woman is allowed or not allowed to wear depends on everyone else but her. Her career decisions are made by others. She is given duties and responsibilities, and yet no rights or liberties.

Yes, on larger scale we have achieved some major goals: woman have a right to vote, education, work without discrimination by law almost all around the world. We are horrified when these rights are revoked. But on micro level, these rights haven’t really reached to woman (at least in India). The social thinking still considers woman as liability. We are still frowned upon if we want maternity leave. Companies don’t want to employ woman of certain age-group as they might want maternity leave or might get married and leave the company.  We no longer have open discriminations and yet, at every step of the way we face a discrimination.

In a lot of ways, we are still where we were 60 years ago.  We are still the second sex, the other sex. Don’t you agree?

Edit: The Bechdel rule for movies is yet another example of how woman are regarded as the other sex in our world. IHM wrote a post about the topic.

May 12, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Stanford Goat

So apparently, Wednesdays are wordless! Who knew? Jokes aside, I have been debating posting anything under this category for some time now. It’s no secret I am no good at keeping up a series on my blog. Moreover, I have a photoblog for posting my pictures. But then, I do post some of the pictures on this blog as well, though I am not too fond of the way they look in this blog design.

Well you see, the to and fro arguments. Anyway, I thought I will at least start it with no promises of continuing and let’s see where it goes (it almost sounds like I have commitment issues, doesn’t it?).

Anyway, that’s a lot of words for a post with ‘wordless’ in its title. So here we go with the first installment of the Wordless Wednesday.


Occasion: Pet the goat by Stanford Goat Project.

Location: White Plaza, Stanford Campus.

Date: May 11, 2010.

P.S.: No, I don’t know this guy. Yes, I am the creepy girl who takes pictures of strangers. Just so you know, all the photographers do that. And unless you are in UK or India, where they explicitly tell you not to, you can take picture of anyone in a public place (except, of course, in restrooms). Moreover, these pictures were meant for Stanford Alumni photoblog, White Plaza Watch. Unfortunately, the other blogger beat me to it. You can see his pictures here.

May 9, 2010

Commercial Vice

So my mom texted me yesterday complaining that I didn’t call her on Mother’s day. I was shocked: My mom knows about the Mother’s day. I called her and asked the same question. As it turns out, it’s a big hype in India now! I was speechless. I simply didn’t know what to say. After more than three decades of my life, I simply don’t know how to tell her what having her as my mom means. She is my mom. Period. I really don’t know how else to express myself. What is one suppose to do on Mother’s day, really?

I always viewed all the hype around Mother’s day in US with contempt: commercial ventures trying to come up with all these days so that they can sell products! And yet, now I am caught in it. And I am completely lost. So if someone, familiar with current Indian trends, can enlighten me with what am I suppose to do on this day? How is it celebrated in India? I will, at least, try to make necessary gestures expected of me. Even though I still disapprove of the whole concept, but if my mom expects it I would rather do it, instead of disappointing her again. Yes, I am giving into this commercial vice for her sake.

P.S.: I was in the same perplexity when my cousin gave my mom a testimony on Orkut. Am I expected to give a testimony to my mom? If yes, then what am I supposed to say? Again, only thing I can say: She is my mom. Doesn’t that explain everything? And if it does, then why am I supposed to write down this very well known fact?

May 3, 2010


…though not of a good kind.

So for years I have been asked this set of questions from married women. Okay, let’s be specific, from desi (Indian) married women. And they have always annoyed me but I haven’t been able to put my finger on what exactly bothers me about them. They seem innocent enough questions. This weekend, however, I realized exactly why they bother me. And I have been simmering inside ever since.

The questions I have been asked so often in past few years, especially as I crossed Indian marrying age, will start from very innocent question: if I have a room-mate. It is a bit of personal question as I have been just introduced to these women. But what are we Indians, if we are not intrusive, rude, interfering and blunt. The rest of questions will revolve around this main question, aka room-mate, as if they are trying to ascertain something. They will vary from questions like if my room-mate is likable/livable to if we cook together. At some point, I do tell them that I don’t have a desi room-mate at which they are horrified. But that’s another story.

As I was saying, this line of questioning have always bothered me and I actually find their horrified expression at discovering that I have a non-desi room-mate, very comforting. Though I don’t have non-desi room-mate for their sake, but because I get along non-desi room-mates better than the desis. But then I digress.

So I haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly what bothered me in this line of questioning till this weekend when yet another desi married woman asked me the same questions. The expression on her face matched pity, sympathy while asking me these questions. That’s when I realized the reason behind these interrogations.

See according to the most of the married people, if you are single, you have to be miserable and lonely (and hence the presence of room-mate can make it better but only if you have a desi room-mate). They can’t gather the concept that one can be happy being single.

Who will take care of you when you are sick, even if their husband may or may not take care of them when they are sick. Who will cook for you when you are sick, even if the most their husband will do is to order out, which one can do from sick bed (just pick up the phone). Who will take care of all the chores, even though their husband may or may not help them with theirs. Wouldn’t one crave for company, even though their husband may or may not provide companionship, friendship they crave.

The problem lies in the phrase “may or may not”. You see the husbands have a choice. They can opt to help and they can opt out of it. If they helped once, it doesn’t mean they will help every time. If they do help out once, even in the smallest way, most probably you will hear about that one for days to come. Especially desi husbands. No doubt there are exceptions, but general pattern remains the same.

So I don’t get the point of their pity and sympathy towards me? I think I have a better deal. At least, I have to only clean after myself, cook for myself and take care of myself, and not do all this for a thankless person, who not only expect me to do his chores, do his laundry, cook his food and clean after him, but also wants me to consider him superior than me for some reason. Thank you , but no thank you. I am far more happy by myself. I don’t have to seek anyone’s “permission” to make plans for my weekend, to meet my friends, to wear what I want, to cut my hairs, to go to movies of my choice (chick flicks and animations) or to cook what I want and the way I want to. Why would I ever want to give this up? So please, keep your sympathies to yourself. I am happy. As they say: better alone than in a bad company!

May 1, 2010

Loving it

I am, of course, talking about my new iPhone (yes, I have been lured to the dark side). Before I start ranting, I should put the disclaimer that I have been very busy lately and hence didn’t have time to explore all the possible apps or even fully explore the apps I have downloaded.

So let me start with the things I love about my iPhone. It’s obvious isn’t it? The numerous apps. As ‘Words with friends’ apps (online scrabble that you can play with your friends who have iPhone) that I have been hooked to (one of the two games I have downloaded).iPhone_08-1 Did I tell you about the time my friend earned 102 points? (The word was ‘Equid’ with Q on the TL tile and the word ending on TW tile). I am still in shock. Of course, I lost that game. By 50 points.

My recent favorite is ‘Audiobooks’ app (the first app I bought). I call it  ‘Bedtime story’ app as that’s how I use it. It has a function called sleep so that you can set a timer for it to close itself after x minutes. Perfect for my bedtime reading, er I mean listening. I am currently listening to ‘Alice’s adventures in wonderland’. I read that book long ago. It was an abridged version. So were a lot of books I read as a teenager. I never had time to catch on the unabridged versions of the classics I read as a kid. Now I can! Coming back to Alice: I absolutely love her. Like her idea about sending a new pair of boots to her feet every Christmas (as she grew so big that she couldn’t see her feet) and the address to which she planned to send the gifts to was:





Anyway, we were talking about my iPhone. So you see I do love a lot of things in my iPhone but the concept of iPhone scares me. It’s one stop for checking my emails, IMs etc. It automatically signs me in which means if someone picks up my iPhone, he/she will get access to all my personal accounts instantly. Yes, there is a passcode system for locking the phone. But do you really think in this world of hacking, malicious virus, Trojan horse etc, a mere 4 digit passcode is enough?

Does any of you with iPhone faced such paranoia? or am I overreacting? 

P.S.: 1. Yes, that’s my iPhone in the photo.

2. I have named my iPhone ‘Param’, after India’s first supercomputer (built sometime in 90s). Don’t laugh.

3. Before you ask, the second game I have downloaded is Sudoku.

The Balance


Aren’t we all trying to find this?

Shouldn’t we as a society need to work towards this and try to get rid of extremism?

There is a Sanskrit saying: “Ati sarvatra varjayate” meaning extreme should always be avoided. So in a way it tells us to strive for a balance, a moderation.

Life will be so much easier if we achieve it.

…just some thoughts provoked by this photo.