June 22, 2004

Dabbling as an Indian Mallrat

Today I decided that I could stay on campus no longer -- after spending two weeks shuttling back and forth between the Visitor's Hostel and the lab, it was time to break from the familiarity of a path well-trodden and venture outside the walls of IITK.

So I decided to go to the mall.

I emailed the people in my lab to see if they wanted to get off campus as well, but they were busy, so they recommended that I get a taxi to take me to Rave-3, the shopping center in Kanpur. I wondered if I would be able to find a taxi to take me home later, but that didn't turn out to be a problem because apparently the taxi drivers just wait around for you until you're done with whatever place they take you to.

At first, I thought this was great since it would save me the ordeal of finding another taxi later. Unfortunately, it turned out to be really annoying because my two drivers just followed me around the mall. The feeling of liberation that I had acquired from leaving campus was dwarfed by the feeling of being chaperoned, and I found this impossible to communicate this to my new sidekicks.

Though the mall looked really big from the outside, it only had about ten stores inside (I think that most of the volume of the place was taken up by movie theaters.) So when I thought that I had run out of stores to explore, I asked what else there was, and the driver with the broken English (who was actually the same person who drove me from Lucknow to Kanpur) pointed upstairs and said "bar." Since it had been over two weeks since I had had a drop of alcohol, and since I was really curious to see what Indian beer tasted like, I decided to check it out.

The place turned out to be more of a restaurant than a bar, so I sat down at a table and ordered a bottle of Kingfisher, as it was the only beer they had (there was also a list of Cocktails as well as virgin "Mocktails," in which I had no interest). I assumed that my drivers would wander off somewhere when I entered the restaurant, but nope, they didn't. They just sat down at the table with me and watched me drink my beer.

This was too much for me, so again I tried to explain to them that they should just go and explore the mall and that I would meet them at the car at 10pm as planned. Again, this failed, but then a waiter (or maybe he was the maitre d') was kind enough to come over and translate for me, so I was finally able to dine alone.

The beer itself looked like it could have come from DAD's garage. By that, I mean that it had some unfamiliar label on it that was sliding off, as the bottle had probably been sitting in an ice chest for 5-6 months. Also, the beer tasted like bark.

Nevertheless, it was refreshing.

Posted by Michael at 01:22 PM | Comments (2)

June 19, 2004


So the bug situation in my room is getting intolerable. I imagine that it wouldn't be so bad were someone to have designed a door to my balcony that didn't have a one inch gap beneath it. Unfortunately, no one was kind enough to do that, so there is really no boundary where nature ends and my room begins. Yes, I have tried to create my own boundary several times, but all of my efforts have been in vain.

Some of you would probably like to know what I mean by intolerable. Well, lucky for you we live in the 21st century, so I can show you what my wall and pillow looked like after I came back from dinner tonight:

My wall full of mosquitoes

My pillow, also full of mosquitoes

Honestly, I have half a mind to leave this place. There is really no reason why I couldn't do this job in the states. In fact, if I didn't have to spend so much time killing bugs and walking back and forth between my lab and the hostel just to use the toilet, I could be much more productive.

It's only 8:45 here, but I pretty much have to go to bed now because having a light or the computer screen on just makes things worse.

Posted by Michael at 12:05 PM | Comments (9)

June 17, 2004

I Leave Fake India

So today was by far and away my most exciting day yet in India for the following three reasons:

(1) I left campus for the first time today. After spending two days getting my IITK id card (which required the help of 4 IITK students to communicate between the administrative staff and me -- thanks guys!), I found out that I needed to get an id photo taken for my id for the gym. Apparently I could get my picture taken someplace just outside the gates of IITK, so I figured that I would just walk over there, get the photo, and come back.

However all of my senses were set to DEFCON 1 once I hit the streets of Kanpur. Seriously, I it was like I was Judy Garland and I had just stepped into Technicolor for the first time (except it didn't go nearly as well with The Dark Side of the Moon). Cows, carts -- just craziness everywhere! I only had to travel about 50 meters from the gate to get to the photo place, but those 50 meters were something else, let me tell you. I wanted to explore more, but it was raining and I was in my gym clothes, so I decided to defer the full exploration until this weekend. So if you want details of Kanpur, stay tuned.

(2) I went to the gym for the first time today. The guy who I was supposed to give all of the paperwork to wasn't there, but that also meant that there was no one to stop me from going in and using the equipment, either. As expected, the gym wasn't very fancy (the benches are mostly wooden without any padding), but I'm not a hardcore gym guy, so it's more than enough for me. But the exciting parts of the gym were:

(2a) After a semester of some dedicated imbibing, I'm back down to my normal weight (at least according to the scale at the gym, which is the only scale I've got here). Looking in the mirror, I didn't think that I looked much thinner, but then I remembered that even at my normal weight, I'm not really what you'd call "slim." (FYI, you can convert from kilograms to pounds by googling "N kg to pounds" where N is the number of kilos you want to convert.)

(2b) I found two indoor badminton courts with people playing on them! Everyone seemed pretty into his game, so I didn't have a chance to jump in, but I'm going to ask around and see if I can find a group of people who will let me play with them. Since the rain and the traffic around here don't make running the safest form of aerobic exercise, I'm really excited about playing badminton. The people I saw playing were pretty good, but I'm pretty sure that I could hold my own with them after playing for a week or so -- I'm sure my high school phys ed teacher Mrs. Florek would be proud!

(3) When I got back from the gym to take a shower, I swear a cricket jumped out of my bellybutton. (Come on, you knew that at least one of the three things would have to do with crickets. Or bellybuttons.)

Posted by Michael at 11:18 AM | Comments (9)

June 13, 2004


Yesterday I met Stanley. Stanley is special as he is the first and only person who I've met here so far who isn't Indian -- he's Chinese. Actually, Stanley goes to school in Singapore and his PhD thesis has two advisers: one in Singapore and one here at IITK. Clearly, Stanley is quite the traveller. Or so I thought.

Stanley has been here since March, but he has only left campus once for sightseeing at the Taj Mahal. This leaves me to wonder how much there is to see outside of campus around here. "Maybe Stanley is just lame," you're thinking, but I'm not so sure -- he showed me all of the videos that he's taken while he's here and he seems to enjoy sightseeing quite a bit.

Stanely also told me that if I drink the filtered water here, I'll go crazy. "Maybe for one or two days if it's an emergency," he said. Hmm...the IITK students told me that the water on campus is purified and it's okay. Who to trust? Since a one liter bottle of water (made by Coca-Cola!) only costs about a quarter, I think I'm going to go with Stanley for the time being.

Posted by Michael at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2004


On my first day of work here, I stayed up until 3:30 in the morning working with another student, whittling the 13,000 compilation errors in the codebase down to 0. Meanwhile, the other graduate student in the office lined up three chairs to make a bed for himself, on which he was still sleeping when I went home. I guess the life of an engineering student isn't any different here on the subcontinent.

Posted by Michael at 01:39 AM | Comments (1)