Well.. I ve made it so far.. and have managed to avoided disaster - for the most part anyway. I have completed a semester of graduate school... and I havent been arrested, or kicked out of school.. or been detained (due to a goatee I sport) as a terrorist of the dreaded Al Qaeda. I havent been racially abused, or in any other way really... and to tell you the truth, its all been very enjoyable.
As I type these words right now...its 2 in the night and I m lying awake on the second floor of a wooden house in suburban new jersey...to my right is a giant french window and through the glass I can see the distant lights of New York City (note the caps :)) glitter invitingly with the glitter that draw so many to this far away land. A perfect time for reflection.
Firstly let me issue a warning to all you little undergrads out there, dreaming of a nice MS from the US. And I blame all the people I ever talked to this about for, amazingly, never bringing this up. Grad School is hard work. If you have pleasant psychedelic visions of spending your spare time studying crap-easy courses, and the rest of the time discovering America - you are going to be utterly pulverised when you get here - so prepare yourself for a grind.
Not to sound to foreboding, but I cant remember the last weekend I spent not poring over differential equations. Well, now that I think about it - I can remember it actually, but barely.
I ve always loved to travel by train - ubiquitous as it is in India, I have never quite been able to shake off a certain romance I attach to it. Theres a scene in Satyajit Ray's "Pather Panchali" - where Apu and Durga - run to the rail tracks close to their village and look at a train thunder by. Something from that scene has stayed with me - the idea that for a very brief moment you form a part of lives so different from your own, a life that you ll never really know, except from the window of a train.
Thus while my friend and acquaintances zipped their way across the country by ludicrously cheap airlines, I spent the most of today - rather foolishly some would say, cos thats 1 day out of the 10 that I am off work - traveling by train. It was an interesting experience. A brief and sketchy documentary of the countryside of north eastern USA. I regretted not having a camera - I will have one on the train ride back. When the incredibly long goods trains were not blocking my view, there were warehouses at regular intervals with numerous monster trucks stationary in front of them, abandoned stations and warehouses with colourful graffiti all over the dirt walls, picture perfect little villages, and the occasional pond or lake surrounded by trees shorn of their leaves by the winter - all a part of the general scenery - but so different from the ones I am usually used to.
I am officially on holiday, and I haven't a scrap of paper related to mechanics on me - so it should be pretty enjoyable :). I feel buoyant - positively.
Theres something I have noticed that is unrelated - but definitely worth a comment so... I digress -
Me and an Ethiopian friend of mine, with whom I ve struggled through thermodynamics - decide to go out for dinner. Thermo exam is just over - so brief chatter about that as we near the restaurant - but memories are painful and the thermo conversation dies off. There is this awkward lull in the conversation - when... the radio comes to the rescue - theres a report on the Iraq war - I nod and smile at him - he turns and says with a pronounced accent that is somewhere near spanish- "These guys are crazy man!!".
Another time I am walking back home with a Kenyan classmate, well conversation dwindles as it tends to- and I make an asinine comment about the weather. A tirade follows about how the guy's American roommate keeps the heat low in their house, because she actually enjoys(!!!!!) the cold - and there comes the judgment again (The exclamation marks are of my companion, I like the cold too actually - a traitor to the tropics :)) .
Even at the barber's, perfect silence while he shears me of my four month long hair - just the whirring of the shearing machine and the the panting of the overweight dog - when "The Jerry Springer Show" springs forth with one of its usual episodes - about a man with two wives and a lovelife and a love child trail so complex that he himself cannot keep track of the sowing and the reaping - and the barber, a Puerto Rican, nods, guffaws toothlessly and screams "Kick him Bitch!!", looks at me a bit more somberly and says - "Only in America".
I smile back.