Friday, November 22, 2013

Gadget sensibility

A short trip in the Singapore MRT can leave one wondering at how much the 'new gen' depends on gadgets. Most of them are used for listening to songs or watching videos or playing games. There is rarely anyone in conversation with the person sitting next to them. On one hand, it seems very dull and monotonous to me. I quickly jump to what I know best - I think of a similar situation in India and conclude that life in India is filled with much more energy and emotions than in Singapore. Of late, I have been training myself to get rid of the bias and think more objectively. In Chennai, the train atmosphere would be clamorous (mostly the engine noise and the rest from jostling, gossiping and griping) and interesting (to observe the antics of beggars and peddlars).  Hardly anything to be proud of.

Coming back to gadgets - when I prefer loneliness to company, I depend on my Ipod. We now have a stable relationship that can almost always rescue me from any 'soup' mood. Here are some albums and playlists and what they mean to me...

Ilayaraja playlist - It has been growing ever since I created it a couple of years ago. It started out with just 10 songs and now it has 155. I belong more to the ARR gen than to IR's. My appreciation of IR's genius can only stem from the musical sensibility that I've developed over years listening to the likes of ARR, Vidhyasagar and YSR. When I listen to Ilaiyaraja's oldies, I have to put up with a below-average sound-recording quality from the ages. But of course,  it's more than a fair tradeoff for the lovely Tamil lyrics ringing with such clarity in my ears in the purest of tunes - not much ado about them. This playlist is a perfect platter of simple and yet delectable songs. Just what the mind needs when the nerves are wrecked and when digital hullabaloo would be the last thing I would want to hear.

Jogging playlist - all the favourite upbeat songs that can make the legs move faster.

Mariyaan - I was hooked on to this album during my Europe trip. It sounded more divine as it linked me to home from that other world. When I listen to it now, it takes me to Barcelona and my beloved friends there.

ARR's Coke studio Magic : 'Zariyaa' and 'Naan yen pirandhen' - These were on loop when I was resting in the tent or awing at the view from 2700m on Rinjani. ARR weaving together talents from different parts of the world, making new sounds with exotic instruments. I felt on top of the world. When I listen to the 2 songs now, I can almost relive those moments.

Why am I rambling pointlessly now? Well, going back to gadgets - if this is the kind of relationship people develop with whatever gadget they are addicted to, I don't blame them. However, I can work on the most serious experiment/analysis or even reading and writing with the Ipod gently playing in my ears.  It more often pushes me to work than not. The same does not hold true for other gadgets. Addictions to games and videos suck ones time, weaken relationships and are ultimately depressing.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Peehechdee: Acknowledgements

On behalf of many like-minded grad students….

1. Coffee
            For all those times (more often than not) when the feet feel leaden and there isn’t one iota of motivation (not even last-minute panic!) to do an experiment or analyze a data – coffee is the only way to trick the body into motion and the brain cells into thinking. O Magical Concoction, we bow low to thee!

2. Ipod
            To shut out all distractions and concentrate on the most boring experiment/analysis that needs to be repeated for the umpteenth time; to blow all negative thoughts of impending failure out of the tired mind ; to get high on favorite lyrics and music ringing in the head - we need ipod blaring into the ears. Even if it irritates fellow labmates trying to get in a word. Ipod, our love.

3. Youtube
            You help us regain our sanity every time. Often overtaking Pubmed in ‘Most visited website’.  (Special thanks to TR and the ‘Annoying orange’).

4. Facebook
            For being the best way to escape reality. When all that remains to cheer about is attention from fb contacts. To browse the timeline and make misplaced judgements on anybody and everybody.

5. Adobe PDF reader
            For all the pirated versions of gripping novels, which are easy on the pocket; save paper and space; make falling asleep much easier and can be nice lunch/travel buddies.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Growing up with Grandparents

My ayamma and ayappa...

Took a giant,brave leap for all the future generations in our family when they moved from Perapatti(a village near Sattur) to Madurai to set up a business that has prospered - with it, the owners as well as the scores of employees.

Took a big share of my parents from me - but gave me back much more than that.

were another pair of parents - but sans all the expectations and with much more blind love to drench me with. I believe that they will still take care of me now even when they are in another realm so far away - perhaps with supernatural powers. ( Is this how faith is born?)

brought to our home scores of relatives as well as a lot of history and values that would have otherwise drifted away from the family.

lived the full circle of life. Can't thank my mom enough for taking good care of them, at the cost of her own desires and freedom - I have had the luxury of feeling carefree like a kid - till 26 years of age, near my ayamma.

I love them. I feel too small - I can only look up to my grandparents with gratitude for being with us for so long and with admiration for all that they did and have left behind.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


One of the most amazing perks of being a Biologist is to culture cells. It is like keeping a pet animal. The cells need to be passaged every 2 days - I call it washing and feeding them. They would die if I did not passage them. It is like a ritual. Every 2 days, I have to do it for my experiments - but I also feel good when I do it. It is a no-brainer - meditation-like. After meditating through the first few steps of passaging (PBS wash, Trypsinization, Centrifugation, Suspending pellet in medium), I would be focussed and clear in my head to think about how many plates and cells per plate I would need to seed for my experiments.

I love my cells (no pun!). I culture beautiful epithelial cells that grow in colonies and form a monolayer eventually. I remember the days when I first started culturing them - I loved making movies of them moving around - it was fascinating to me. Later, around my quals, I hated them a lot (quite natural,I guess) but now I'm back to loving them again.

One favorite pastime is to compare behaviour of single or collective cells to humans as individuals or society respectively....

Turnover, in Biology, refers to the cycle of depletion of a thing followed by something else replacing it. Turnover is very crucial and has to be happening continuously for most of the biological processes under normal conditions.

                - Though there are several turnover phenomena needed for our body to survive and also for the society as a whole, I love musing upon the emotional subtleties of the humans - it is not only impossible but also detrimental to growth to remain in the same emotional state always. I think it pays off to go through the cycles of emotions - I feel more alive that way.

Contact inhibition - When a cell encounters another cell, its growth gets inhibited. 

               - I leave it to you to figure that one out.

Single cells move faster than collective cells but cells need to remain collective for tissue formation.

              - That's an answer to what you might have ended thinking about in the previous concept. Alone, we can be fast but we need company to remain as a safe and sane society.

Every moving colony of cells has a leader cell. The leader cell is polarized - the front of the cell which explores the environment is distinct from the rear of the cell where it contacts the cells behind it and pulls them forward. 

              - Is that not the same for a leader in any group of humans as well? The leader needs to be sharp, intuitive and adventurous on one side to search for new avenues for the group to grow; on the other side, the leader needs to be down-to-earth, caring and patient with the rest of the group. In the quest for new pastures, the leader can never lose contact with the followers because that can decide the fate of the entire cohort.

These are a few of my idle thoughts while in the lab.