Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don't ask me what I think about it

I have been blogging on my Marathi Blog for the past month or so. That is one of the reasons why I am missing in action here. The other is the gradually creeping fear that has finally got me of turning into a news analyst. As a result of my highly unproductive PhD life, I end up reading a lot of (unnecessary) news on the Internet. Owing to the fact that my own life is as dry as the vacuum dried pulp I make, the writer in me is forced to express opinions on things that are no way related to my life. I tried giving unsolicited advice to my close friends and as a result I have very few left now but making comments about news is very easy. There is always a vast majority that agrees with you if you manage to sit on the fence without poking yourself on the wrong spot. Eventually the majority that agrees with you ends up fighting with almost an equal number that doesn't and you do not have to involve yourself anymore. Soon, you are known as a person who opines in every plastic bag available everywhere in the world. Old men throw your name into the conversation when they want to raise the volume of the group loud enough not to let anyone hear the nasty one they are letting go under the table. Young men look up to you because they think that you have acquired all this knowledge through years of experience. All of this only when you are of the formidable kinds. With the way I am going I would end up being just a benign one. So I kind of realized there is no point.
I am turning twenty six this month. I have kind of decided to spend the next quarter of my life not having an opinion about anything. I am going to slowly deopionionate myself. This year I was going to decaffeinate myself but then I realized that an opinion is much more lethal than a coffee. So I guess coffee would have to wait to get out of my life. However, I might show much severe withdrawal symptoms from not having an opinion than I would from not having a coffee. In the long run however it will all be good. :)
In my supervisor's opinion I have not by any stretch of imagination done enough work to appease the Gods of PhD. So I guess not expressing unwanted opinion is more of a necessity than an effort. :D

Monday, June 08, 2009

How not to get attacked in Australia-an insider's view. :)

To everyone who is worried about me, I am absolutely fine. I had stopped myself from writing anything about the recent 'attacks on Indians in Australia' only because I did not want to make a controversial post all over again and hurt nationalist and patriotic sentiments. 
However, the hype that Indian media created over all of this was extremely annoying. It is funny when newspaper people are ready with editorials like "Australia-paradise lost?" in less than twenty four hours after the reports. More hilarious are the opinions expressed under them!
I read one such reply to an edit page in some newspaper where the commentator called himself an "ex-Indian" and criticised the 'disgusting' behaviour of Indian immigrants in Australia.
Why are Indians being attacked in Australia? 
This question has a lot of words missing. Let me put it in all its perspectives.
Why are Indian males being attacked in Australia?
Why are North Indian males being attacked in Australia?
Why are North Indian males being attacked in Melbourne?
Why are North Indian males travelling late at night being attacked?
Why are North Indian males travelling late being attacked on train stations in Australia?
Let me answer these questions in the reverse order now.
Train stations are not the safest places in Australia. Or anywhere in any big city in the world. Even Australians do not travel late at night. The average Aussie who depends on public transport gets home well before six in the evening. They follow a European work routine from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Women do not travel at night at all. The only people you find on the train after six is students working part time or just gallivanting around the place!
The most recent attack happened at 1:20 AM on a Sunday night. Australia is a weekend to weekend culture. Most of the nocturnal attackers on weekends belong to the group that believes in drinking themselves to oblivion starting Friday night and then going on until Monday morning. Unlike in India where the younger generation does not give in to these kind of temptations in their teens, it is very common in Australia. So on weekends, especially late at nights the trains are full of people who have no money and want more alcohol. So anyone who gets off the train and looks like they might have money is an easy target irrespective of where they come from. 
Although Melbourne is a one of the most culturally diverse cities of Australia it is also known for its hippie and junkie population. To an average Indian sitting in India watching "Aaj Tak" this detail is almost never conveyed. Trying to expect cultural compassion from someone who is just looking for his next joint of Marijuana is going a bit far ahead in my opinion. So the easiest way of not getting attacked is not travel at two in the morning when you know you do not live in a safe neighbourhood.
I do not know what it is with North Indians and fearlessness but here whenever I am stuck in the lab late and returning home, it is like travelling on a train in Punjab. My own Punjabi neighbours often return home at 2 in the morning (with their cellphones singing loud Punjabi songs much to our annoyance). Maybe it is safe to travel at night in North India (which I still doubt considering that no one travels after eight at night in Delhi) but anywhere in the world be it New York, Mumbai, Delhi, Sydney, London or Melbourne, travelling at that hour is making yourself vulnerable.
The last question has a simple answer. Women (of any nationality) seldom travel that late or alone. Even before all this hype began, I resheduled all my experiments in a way that I can be out of the lab while it is still light outside. As winter set it, I changed my summer schedule from 8 AM-7PM  to  7 AM through 5 PM and this was not because I am an Indian living in Australia!
I do not deny that racism could be a part of these attacks but it is not fair to take that one point and advertise it all over a nation of 1 billion people. There are a lot of other factors that contribute to these kind of attacks and mostly it is being at the wrong place at a wrong time. Moreover, when someone is beating you up at two in the morning for not having money they could steal, you cannot control what kind of (racist) foul language they use. I am pretty sure they have special swear words for white people too!
It has caused a lot of anxiety to people who have their children studying in Australia and it also gives a wrong message to the world. 
Throughout my stay in Australia I have met a lot of full-blooded Australians who not only accept Indian people but also appreciate Indian culture. I have met Australians who have spent years learning Yogasanas in Pune and know the Bhagwat Geeta much better than I do. I have met strangers on trains who have made it a point to stay in the same compartment as me just to protect me from other 'suspicious' looking people. I have met Australian bus drivers who got out of the bus just to check if I am getting down on the right stop because it was late in the evening. 
Just a couple of days ago, in the wake of these attacks as my flatmate Riju went to get a takeaway dinner, an Australian came up to her and apologised for the problem and even offered to buy her dinner as a gesture!
In a steak loving nation, "vegetarian" Aussies may be in the minority, but so are the thugs! 
If  I ever fall prey to racism myself, in a situation that can have no other intention, I will fight it with all my strength. However, labelling something that could have a lot of other motivations as Racism is just creating more of it. 

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Incurable Nerd

I recently installed a website traffic tracking widget on two of  my blogs. It was amusing to see how many "flags" I got in a day. More than that, I actually knew who it was! So thrilled I was to see this happening that I started hitting my own page every half an hour. When I left I used to leave the "Australian" flag on my site confirming that I am the geek who goes back to her own website again and again. I tried the traditional way first. I used to immerse myself in lab work and forget that I even have a blog. Then at the end of a long, well-utilized day, I would check the "traffic" on my website. However, as everyone knows you can only have (at the most) three well utilized days a week. Anymore utilization beyond that and my head starts buzzing and I feel that the whole Universe is closing in on me. 
I confided about this recent anomaly in my behaviour to a very good friend and he said that he could give me any flag I wished to have on my website that very moment. My first demand was Paris and I got it in two minutes. Then I made up my mind about Colombo. I got it before I could remember what the Srilankan flag looked like! 
My friend stopped pretending to be a magician and told me that I could change my own location by using the "options" on the widget. That was enough.
In the past two hours I have been to Switzerland, Zambia and Kazakhstan!! So whenever I have nothing better to do, I change the country on my traffic widget and visit my own blog. So if anyone of you notices weird countries on my page you know who that is!! :)
I don't know what the point of this post is. I think it vaguely expresses the joy I feel in having this new nothing to do. Or maybe I am really ashamed of the sheer childishness of my actions and want to make up by owning up. Or maybe I am just losing it as a writer (if I ever had it that is) and using this space to write things that do not make sense. 
In any case, as all of you get busy writing me off as a blogger, I would like to go to Mozambique. 

PS: Please do not change your locations. That would really make my widget useless :(