Seasons are four. Or so we are told in school. But, living in the tropics teaches you something different. Furthermore, living in a state that is subject to the vagaries of the retreating (northeast) monsoon means you 'enjoy' a hot and humid summer with precipitation palpable in its absence. For as long as I can remember, a year to me has always been about two seasons - school (time) and summer. Starting from the art camps and dance classes since class 7, summer action has always outweighed school. And, that has continued well into college. School time turned ever more an obscure memory while summers became unsullied experiences of adventure and learning. I have never quite written about summers despite repeated promises to myself about recording them. This post is an attempt to record every non-ephemeral memory worth sharing associated with each summer starting 2009.
2009 - Journo-neering
Journo-neer - Cheesy? Highly but that was my gchat status for the entire time I worked with The Times of India in June-July, 2009. That fledgling interest I had for journalism solidified and took deep root in the basement of the Times House that houses the supplements section where I worked. Turning up at the office of a quizzical interviewee, little did I imagine I would be answering his questions on how reporters keep getting younger by the day. Covering a local school event turned out to be quite some fun with the school staff and teachers calling me 'ma'am' and showering undeserved attention. Eventually, the Editor cut the story to half owing to space constraints. So much for that!
Being The Hindu loyalist I don't have any of the stories I reported on and TOI doesn't archive all its supplements online. So, there is no evidence I worked there save the letter the Editor wrote for me. Three years from then, all I remember today is the people I met and worked with (there were engineers who had defected for a career in media), the need to find some creative outlet and the joy that comes with fulfilling that, the way print media works and of course, the heady high from seeing my name published in the paper. My neighbor, on the other hand, will remember me showing up at her doorstep every Sunday morning to collect her copy of the TOI along with the agony I subjected her to, with my happy gush over how little has been edited.
2010 - Blackholes and the White North
An aimlessly wandering mind pondered over what to do. It slowly unraveled the enchanting powers of the Internet and quickly got reprimanded by a parental voice. It devised a devious ploy and renamed "gchat time" into "internship search time". Well, all didn't go too badly for that charted the way for a splendid summer. Reflecting on that summer, I think what matters today is not turning twenty at Niagara with fiery pyrotechnics in the backdrop (No, the fireworks were not for me. By a brilliant twist of fate, July first happens to be Canada Day and although it looks like the Canadian Government is announcing my birthday to the world, that is far from reality. However, this fact hasn't stopped me from deluding myself or other innocent souls) or club hopping in Montreal (oh, yes, they needed to verify my passport to check I'm old enough and I didn't particularly enjoy this activity) or debate over morality/amorality/immorality or bake cheesecakes and barbeque meat or simply wade through St. John river or gorge on samosas and Pad Thai at the (tax free) Sunday market or the media interviews that happened after. Admittedly, all these are fun things and fantastic memories not to mention enough fodder for "In those days ...." stories to my grand children. But, in hindsight what matters today is the fact that this was my first exposure to research in an academic setting. That is a vital fact simply because it gave me an opportunity to appreciate what I was learning theoretically in classes and to see if I had a flair for doing this in the long run. In the two years that have transpired, I have taken some wrong turns. But, the lessons from that summer were seeds for a new beginning (and that beginning has indeed come!). In that sense alone, I strongly believe that research exposure during undergrad days is almost as important as acing subjects (that you like). And, I am thankful I had that opportunity.
2011 - The Engineer turns Economist (or so I'd like to think!)
The things you hear when you're young are the things that define you when you're old. I grew up hearing the importance of surrounding oneself with different kinds of people as a means to eschew dogma and to be able to challenge oneself once in a while resurrecting oneself and replenish one's confidence. 2011 was all about this. Starting out as a misfit among a bunch of vagabond economists, the survey turned out to be a fulfilling affair on a lot of levels - intellectual, emotional, personal and maybe even spiritual. This experience is almost impossible to describe in a single post let alone paragraph. But, lets see ...
Every day posed a new challenge. Human beings shun differences and bond with others when living in hostile conditions. Even with those who they wouldn't have cast a side glance at if they had first met at a cocktail party. Arguments are healthy for the soul. I'll correct myself - Healthy arguments are healthy for the soul. Rural India is a lot more beautiful than you can imagine. A rectangle of a camera frame does it immense injustice. People are by nature good (Locke was right after all!). Some of the busiest people are also the ones that respond to emails the fastest. Jean Dreze is awesomer than I imagined. I do get tongue tied when I finally meet someone I have so adored. (That tongue tied-ness has finally gone and I can talk to him properly if not eloquently and on a first name basis). High school Social Science teachers are a huge influence and mine is someone I worship to this day. My Hindi sucks more than I'd like to admit. I know where I will build my retirement home - Himachal Pradesh, ftw! Writing petitions to the Collector in Tamil maybe fun for you but to the villagers it is a serious enough thing that they thank you profusely and treat you to fresh lime (from the kitchen garden) juice. Finally, train travel is the best, even when you have to sit on the floor in a brimming compartment.
For more serious and useful information, go here and for a lighter but informative read, go here.
2012 - Fiction becomes Fact
This summer (June-July) I will be interning at McLeod Ganj, home of HH the Dalai Lama. I hope to post more of that experience here and I am definitely looking forward to the good tea and chow mein that part of India is famous for. I also have other plans after I get back. But, they are like I said, just plans for now. At the moment though, I am enjoying what's left of the year in Bangalore - a city where dreamers come and learn (or even master) the art of compromise amidst leading chaotically dire lives based on meretricious rewards.
The true adventure begins now. I am looking forward to the journey and thankful for the year that will help me brace myself when the next bump comes!