About Me

My photo
This blog is named after one of my poems. Even thought its not the best of the lot, I just fell in love with those words- The Psyche Unknown...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Life in Netherlands- Part 9 - Met vriendelijke groet...

It was 2 am on a slightly wet Sunday. I was on top of the library dome as I had been on several occassions. I had returned from one of my midnight strolls around the campus. Those familiar routes that I took during the day always seemed so different, so warm and welcoming when the lights had faded.

Like more often than never, the slope was deserted at that hour. I climbed up top and stared at the horizon. The lights from the green houses far east reflected in the sky making it look golden even at that hour of night. Many students of science still ensured that the EWI and 3ME facades shone brighter than the stars. A bunch of clouds heading from the south-west were setting out to blanket the few constellations that were visible from up there. The grass was as soft as ever and the night couldnt  be more silent. I loved it, as always. I laid down on that amazingly well manicured grass. Perfect time and place to let out my thoughts and get some answers from the cosmos.

That one friendly slope..
But as I lay on the green bed of solitude, peace and unspoken acquaintance, I realized that it was probably the last time, in a while atleast, that I was going to be up there. Earlier that week, I defended my thesis and hibernated for two straight days. I had crossed the finish line, something that was just a dream and a doubt for a long time and it hadnt even sunk in yet. It had been a long, incredible journey. A tiresome one, in more than one way. Unlike most, I had a lot more to account myself for than just exams and grades. Just about 45 days short of a 3 year stint in this resplendent country was coming to an end. And what an experience it had been!

Many vivid memories, good, bad and the ugly ones flashed by. Those rebellions, the countless arguments, that unmeasured amounts of blood, sweat and tears that had been shed in the past 4 years were all coming back. And as if to compensate, there was the pure joy when I realized I was finally doing what I wanted to. The brilliant opportunities I got, the fantastic friends that I made, the wonderous sights I saw, the incredible lessons I learnt both in and outside class, those many experiments-some that succeeded and most which failed...Wow! It was in this country that I learned what life was all about.. A place where I felt more like an engineer...A place where I could break from the shackles of blind theism that had only lead me downhill.. Most importantly this is where I made peace with my inner self and I cannot do justice in describing that one feeling here.
That one canal..

As these thoughts gathered, I saw a satellite cross above me. I loved following them as long as my gaze could hold. That globe of dark clouds was engulfing a lot quicker and the satellite prompltly disappeared behind it. My thoughts went back to all the places Id miss around there. Through out my studies, I often heard complaints from people about Delft. Facts like it is very small and uneventful compared to bigger cities of Holland cannot be disgraced. Nevertheless, it remains a beautiful little city especially once you know it well. Some spots of this historic city would always remain with me for the sheer support it lent with its beauty. The Oostport, the library rooftop, the canals that ran throughout the city are all sublime designs to calm a rampant mind. It would be impossible to forget the destressing late night walks and the jogs around these places, especially after hectic lab hours during the last few months.

I was shaken from this riviera by Hollands trademark drizzle. Enough to send your lazy bottom in search of a roof but not enough that youd have to change into warmer clothes! I smiled realizing it had stopped bothering me over the years and in fact, I slightly enjoyed it. I sat up straight and just soaked in that scene for a while longer. I did not want to get down that slope that night. TU Delfts library (by the way, ranked as the 4th coolest library in the world ;)) had been a friend of sorts to me. It had played host to a lot of birthdays, coffees, exam preparations, a few beers, sun-sets, star gazing, philosophical and scientific debates, heart-to-heart conversations, snow-fights, yoga and meditation on warm mornings and so much more! It had seen me blunder, heard my musings, responded to my ruminations in ways I cant describe and at the end always elevated my senses! Id miss that place most of all.

I eventually headed downward letting gravity do most of the work. TU Delft logo caught my eye from across the street and I realized how incredibly lucky I was to have been under that umbrella. I wouldnt choose another place for studying! I wished I had only done my bachelors there as well. Time and again I have envied those who have been able to finish their entire studies in Delft. That night was no different. I remembered the remarkably awe-inspiring minds I met there, things I learnt from them, the ideas I exchanged all of which transformed me into something I wished for when I left home. I had gotten what I asked for- An experience of a lifetime and knowledge transcending mere coursework. And I wished I could have stuck around for longer but then it reminded me of something I read a while ago- If you begin to get too comfortable with a place, you know its time to move. It was better to do so while I still could. As I had learnt in Holland, life is very short and the world is too damn big and exciting for a human to be holding on to one impression.

Holland had shown its varied facets to me over these years. For an oddball that somehow managed to hop out of the well, it had been kind sometimes and not so much the others. But each time, it only made me stronger. And for that I will be ever grateful. And now, even as I type this sitting about a few hours away from the place that had become my second home, I cannot help but feel distant and desolated.

I kept postponing this article because I wanted to give this series a grand ending but nothing seems to harmonize with the spirit inward from a long time. Evincing a myriad of emotions pertaining to this journey has been harder than I thought and I do not want to conclude this series. I shall pause for now.. May be there is another life here... May be there is more, or may be some day I will unearth that psyche unknown who can verbalize better...

For now dear Holland, Tot Ziens!



Saturday, October 13, 2012

Life in Netherlands- Part 8- Dutched...

Life in the past 3 years in this country has taught a lot...Including adapting to new cultures and places...Being in a completely different cultural setting proved to be scary, exciting, enriching and rewarding. From wondering how I’d live here for 2+ years by just smelling pancakes at the airport to enjoying them in their entirety has been such a revelation on various levels. It is nearly impossible to jot down all experiences here in detail. So here I note, just some random musings, pointers, observations, experiences of nearly 3 years in the country of windmills (which, by the way, is such a cliché!) - all bundled in that little part of the brain that handles memories. Systematic, chronological extraction from source not guaranteed.
(Blogspot is giving me a hard time getting the photo locations right. Will upload some to this barren article as soon as I can fix it.)

  • It is gonna be hard to appreciate any internet speed less than 30 mbps after living in Holland.
  • Love the endless miles of cycle and pedestrian paths in this country.
  • I couldn’t have asked for a better Aerospace faculty anywhere! The facilities, student teams, the opportunities, getting to learn from some of the great minds of today….I bow down…
  • I will forever remember the day I sat in an aircraft cockpit for the first time… and it was a real F-16! J Even though the engine is stripped down for studies, it is the most striking thing on the campus.
  • But the new mementos of scientific innovation across the campus with description are pretty damn cool too!
  • Talking about cool places, the Fellowship is an awesome concept.
  • The structures lab hosting every single part of an aircraft for individual studies- Wow!
  • The magnificent horse drawn carriage carted by a beautiful Dutch woman, which passed in front of the faculty every Sunday morning with rays of summer light penetrating through the long line of trees - The most beautiful scene ever on a very mundane day! Watched this every week from across the street…
  • I first look to the left and then my right before crossing a road as opposed to what I followed for nearly 2 years since I came here. It was a habit that wouldn't die soon given the years of training in school and home to survive Indian roads. “Look to the right, look to the left and then cross the road….” Well, it was a hard change, but I got there.
  • Barbecuing seems like a natural thing to do even if the tiniest bit of sun rays creep in. Yes, despite the fact that I stay away from meat, the concept, the people, the spirit....I love it all...
  • The only response I got for “Which meat goes into a Kroket?” was “I don’t know..I actually don’t wanna know!”… Every single time I asked!
  • A veggie Kroket in between a bun with mustard sauce + milk was my lunch on many afternoons. I made some of my Dutch friends really proud! 
  •  I finally got the Dutch ‘G’ sound right! J
  • My Turkish friends will wince at this but I still thank them for the Falafals. However bad you think the taste has been compromised in this country, the Doner stalls have been my safe haven. I could not have imagined my life without them here!
  • Japanese wok, Vietnamese loempia, German Schnitzel, Italian coffee, Turkish pizzas, Dutch Pancakes and Oliebollen dipped in ground sugar- I have devoured you all time and again and you have pleased me much beyond my expectations. Thank you. 
  • It floors me that a country which sells French fries by the kilos manage to look like atheletes.. Yes, the entire country!
  • After being protected by parents, TU Delft international office for a long time, I did understand the difficulty of finding a house and furnishing it.
  • I do know the existence of a thing called TV… We had one in the “common room”. We switched it on, on the day we got it (for ‘gratis’ by the way) and then again on….… well, that’s about it.
  • Despite the fact that I will forever beat me up around this episode for some memories; I did learn how to fix a flat tyre!
  • Speaking of bikes, I will never forget the day I saw this really old couple cycling hand in hand across the canal with such happy, old, toothless, wrinkly smiles on their faces that definitely glowed brighter than Holland’s sun!
  • And talking about unforgettable strangers, the guy in the train from Arnhem who travelled on my OV discount card, the old lady at Dominos one evening-talking about all the amazing things she had done in her life, the potters in Delftse Hout, the nomadic hippie couple that gave away free tickets, a stroopwaffel and some awesome stories at the dead of night waiting for the trains, the falafel guy who made my dinners at reduced prices on most evenings… You will all be remembered for inspiring me in your own way..
  • Heineken is overrated!
  • Douwe Egberts coffee in the machines sucks!
  • Multivlaai is a must-try!
  • Magnificent French Chardonnay + long walk to the lab + music = A walk I will remember.
  • That one night I couldn’t stop smiling, cycled back in air and guttled paratas+channa like never before in my life- I shall remember. ;)
  • All the amazing food, drinks and company in those tens of potlucks, pub-crawls and shindigs: Strangely, I cannot remember all the details!
  • Amsterdam doesn’t mean “Eurotrip” experience only. It is quite a vibrant, culturally and technologically advanced city otherwise too.
  • And the Dutch are not stoned most of the time contrary to the popularly thought. In fact amongst all the people I knew here, the Dutch were the least number of smokers.
  • Netherlands has the highest population density but visibly lesser number of people at any given point in space and time.
  • Those bridges that go vertical always cracked me up! Don't ask why!
  • A calm country with no potentially harmful idiosyncrasies that threaten its security or image. You will find it to be a technology and research oriented country with a rich set of highly educated/ qualified individuals.
  • One does start feeling the spirit of 'Orange' as time goes by. One will not mind wearing the bright florescent Orange gear out on streets! One has to witness Queen's day-that is when you see how crazy the Dutch can be! It is like one day of the year they are allowed to be who they actually want to be as opposed to who they should be!
  • Constant rain will be the only companion you can trust completely to be there with you irrespective of your desire.
  • Finally, Oh, dear Holland! Thy be Blessed! For I shall cherish the impeccable sculptures that your sons are...Tall, blond, blue-eyed, those torsos and legs born out of constant cycling…Sigh…Many of your sons have sent my friends and me giggling away happily on several occasions. You have raised them well.  Your daughters too, but you would understand if I spoke more about your sons now, wouldn’t you?