Friday, December 28, 2007

The Miracle

Last Saturday, Nisha and I went to Minneapolis to spend the day with her friends at MOA. We woke up and set off early in order to avoid the predicted snowstorm. About 18 miles into Minnesota, a few miles past Albert Lea on Interstate-35, I began to feel the strong wind and wanted to slow down. I did, and simultaneously moved to the right lane. There was a truck about a hundred feet ahead of me, and a few cars the same distance behind me. As I shifted lanes, I felt the car sway… a little at first, and then suddenly… I lost control. I pressed down on the brake and tried in vain to maneuver the steering wheel as I helplessly watched my front windshield blur as the car swung dangerously back and forth between lanes a few times before suddenly careening off the road and into the median. I think I must have ceased to breathe for what seemed like a very long time before the car suddenly stopped.

A quick look showed me that Nisha was fine, and I felt no pain myself. It did not seem like we had struck anything. How pitiable it is, as I think about it now, that my very next thought was: ”Dear God! How much is this going to cost me?” As the car flew off the road, I remember seeing the truck ahead of me, and a post in the median. I was sure I would hit one of the two, but I hadn’t. It is nothing short of a miracle that there was no damage to anyone or anything. How the car managed to not hit anything God alone knows! I got out of the car… and walked around it, there wasn’t any body damage - we just were stuck in a foot of snow. In the 17F cold, Nisha and I tried digging the car out. But eventually we sobered up and called roadside assistance. I was scared out of my wits the half hour we were in the median that another vehicle would spin off the road and hit our stationary car and that we would not be able to do anything about it. I even made Nisha get out and sit in the back of the car. She tried to protest, but I would have my way! Anyway, no such catastrophe occurred. We went to Minneapolis and returned without any further untoward happening. Thank God!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Sweet Smell of Success

I have finally, finally done it! Two and a half years after I first began it, I have today completed my Master's thesis. I defended this morning. My committee recommended a few minor changes for the thesis and a multitude of suggestions for the proposed journal article. So barring some routine paperwork, I am in possession of my second Master's degree!!!! Today ends my three-week long run of marathon night-and-day manuscript-writing sessions, and is the consummation of a semester's worth of nights working away at statistical analyses. Success comes at last!

Amat victoria curam!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Le Preux Chevalier

Who says chivalry is dead? Yesterday, as I was exiting one of the university buildings, a man opened a door for me. I smiled my acknowledgement to him, and he quietly said, "Thank you, Miss." To my amazement, he wasn't going through those doors at all - he walked down a second flight of stairs a couple of paces ahead of me. "Ah!" I thought, "He is leaving the building, just as I am". Reaching the outer doors before me, he swung them open for me. As I passed him, I paused, smiled, and thanked him. A second time, he smiled and said, "Thank you, Miss." Stepping out into the cold air, I half-turned to nod my goodbye to him, but watched in astonishment as he smiled and turned back into the building. I blushed. He had opened two doors for me though he had to go through neither. In being so chivalrous and calling me "Miss", he had made me feel incredibly young and girly. And all evening, the thought of him made me smile and blush again.

I haven't been doing anything that even borders on fun lately. I have finished reading the Kenneth Williams Diaries, and have been feverishly working on my manuscript. My thesis dominates my life now. But I happened to come across an interesting item that I thought I would like to share here. It is about George de Hevesy who won the 1943 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for developing the tracer method. "When Germany invaded Denmark during the second World War, he dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue and James Franck into aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from stealing them. He placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. It was subsequently ignored by the invading Nazis who thought the jar — one of perhaps hundreds on the shelving — contained common chemicals. After the war, de Hevesy returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid, and returned it to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The Nobel Society then recast the two Nobel Prizes using the original gold."

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Yesterday was the first time this winter season when it snowed all day. No matter how much I try to deny the fact, winter has really begun. I resisted going out all day yesterday, though I had so much to do at school, just because it was snowing and I did not want to be outside. Instead, I spent almost the whole day lazing around, watching the classic mystery videos: Lord Peter Wimsey, Poirot, A Most Mysterious Murder, Campion… I was all bundled up wearing the soft and warm lavender colored socks that my friends Anand and Aarti gave me last Christmas; and wrapped up in a pretty olive-green throw that my sister gave me when I moved this summer. I sat half-sunk in my huge, comfy wing back chair, my feet resting on the hideous but comfortable mustard-colored ottoman that doesn’t really fit the rest of my apartment. Scattered around me in close proximity, so I wouldn’t have to even get up, were the TV and DVD remote controls, a box of tissues, several plush cushions, the phone, and numerous other exemplars of luxurious, indulgent, hedonism. On the piano stool (which became a makeshift table for the day), lay a half-open, half-read volume of the complete works of Conan Doyle. Balanced atop this was a cup of hot drink. I alternated all day between drinking mulled apple cider, and Brooke Bond Red Label. I had lit scented candles all over the apartment and soon my senses swam in the autumnal fragrances of apple, cinnamon, vanilla and hazelnut. All I needed now was a crackling fire, and a warm hearth, but one can’t have everything. I was supremely happy… who wouldn’t be? And I willfully pushed all thoughts about the impending doom (thesis defense) from my mind.

If I had lots and lots of money, I would give up work and relive yesterday all over again, every day. But unfortunately that day is not yet come. Today I had to come to school to get on with research. I was greeted when I got out by the sight of a snowed-in car. There had been a good quantity of sleet yesterday, and the road was icy. I was engaged in de-crusting the ice off my car and digging the wheels out, when my neighbor and his friend (whose giant four-wheel drive truck and come undone in about two seconds, and who persisted in smirking at my neighbor and me like a benevolent father would at the scrapes of silly children) came by and helped me. I always have luck in having wonderful young men help me dig out my cars (re: my post The Sweet Shovelers from last winter). Anyway, we eventually got my car out and onto the icy treads in the middle of the road, and I was able to drive to school. Oh! Would that it were yesterday again!