Maths, Science and Choices After Graduation — Personal Experience

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The article ‘Maths, Science and Choices After Graduation’ was originally written in June 2010

It was not easy for me to go back to my home after completing graduation. I had always been waiting for this day when I shall finish my college and start pursuing my career goals. More or less, engineering had been a hindrance in my path although it has given me a lot in the last four years – friends, an engineering degree and a motivation to choose what I really want to do. But the end is not so cool – I am left alone and confused.

Rawatbhata is a small town on the banks of the river Chambal. Rawatbhata proudly boasts of its six nuclear reactors. When I was a child, I used to hear people referring to Rawatbhata as mini-India.  A community of educated people from all over India must be grateful for the facilities provided by the Central Government. Good education, good medical facilities and a small peaceful town in the middle of the Aravali range of mountains. Outside the colony, the education, medical and hygienic conditions are deplorable, thanks to the corruption from the grassroots to the centre. Really, we are glad to live in the colony.

The Flawed Beginning

But every good place has a dark side too. From the beginning, children here are sent for tuitions in mathematics and science because of the cut-throat competition and the negligence of school teachers. Sometimes, teachers themselves force students to join their tuition or the students have to pay with their marks. Unfortunately, parents are equally responsible for the situation. They want their child to score the highest marks. The schools here burden students with excess homework, assignments and tests. My cousin told me that the extra-curricular activities which develop the overall personality of a child and rarely encouraged.

I was also once a student in a school in Rawatbhata. I also faced the same competition and the same parental pressure. The lack of knowledge of the real world would make any child dreamless. I am fortunate to become a dreamer, thanks to Discovery and National Geographic Channel. I learned about Antarctica, Galapagos Islands, marriage rituals of Arabs and the blinding lights of New York and Las Vegas. I was not unaware of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the poverty in Sierra Leone. I wanted to witness the latest technology they used to show in The Human Edge and Tomorrow’s World. I was more than amazed – concerned for the greenery of the Amazons and the silence of the Sahara desert. I learned to dream.

Later I also became a part of the competition. I loved to study biology and I scored ninety-two percent in social science. But I took mathematics – I had to crack IIT-JEE even though I was average at mathematics. I went for a yearlong coaching after completing my school education to Kota – the city from where the highest numbers of students are selected each year in the highest level engineering entrance exams. At the end of the year, I was not selected for the Bachelor’s program at the Indian Institute of Technology. I somehow managed to get admission in a private engineering college in Jaipur. No one better knows the pain of studying in a private engineering college in North India then the one who has been a part of it. Four years of the so-called college education would have been the most difficult period of my life if there were no good friends. Like me, my friends were also dreamers.

Living Dreams

I love to read about almost everything. For a year and half, I was with ISKCON’s Krishna consciousness movement. This was my first experience with spirituality. I play guitar because I love music. Me and my best friend even tried to make a rock band but with little success. I was also in a robotics group and we participated in a few robotics competitions and ended up being finalists or winners. It was fun but the lack of support from our college was enough to fade our enthusiasm in robotics.

After struggling for three years within myself, I realised what I wanted to do finally – to do what concerns me, to do what matters me and to do what I love doing. I loved to travel, to see new places and to feel different cultures. I loved the cultural and geographical diversity of the people around the world. I was affected by the way the monsoons in my village were so uncertain that they turned the efforts of farmers useless almost every year. I was fed up of the uncertainties in the India-Pakistan relationships and the distrust and hate the people of the two countries have developed against each other. I was moved by the political struggle in Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. I disliked the way colonialism destroyed many civilizations, local cultures and invaluable traditions. I wanted to study about the causes and effects of such incidents on the life of the people. I wanted to present a solution to these problems.

I had known that this is the thing I can understand and make my career in. All I had to do was to know more. For this I decided to pursue Masters in International Relations from a reputed university. For my relief, it was not always necessary to have a relevant academic background. All I had to do was a couple of internships in the relevant areas, presenting a research paper on my findings and to give TOEFL and GRE. My path was uncertain and the goal was long-term. But I have decided.

The Future

Today, I am here at my home writing this article. The problems still exists and the dreams still alive. What I lacked is the guidance which I found in the Internet. I am nowadays searching for internships. I will have to get the support of my parents. They want me to apply for a government job so that I will settle and start earning. They want me to live comfortable and happy. But I hope that they will understand that happiness is not in comfort and money but it’s in doing what you want to do.

I am not the only one who is a part of this new wave to become independent and pursue dreams. I have many friends who are now choosing alternative careers, becoming entrepreneurs, going for social work and the most important – doing what they like to do with sincerity and seriousness. The competition and parental pressure will surely stay for sometime in a small place like Rawatbhata but the things are changing and so is the mindset of the people. May be someday all parents will realise that the best way fight competition is to be out of competition.

Relax in a Hot Water Bath

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Recently I was in Chennai for an official tour. I reached my hotel in the morning and since the classes were going to start the next day, I was quite free for the whole day. Then it became really busy. So I decided to use my free time to try something I had never done before.

Relax in a Hot Water Bath

The bath tub in bathroom inspired me to get out of comfort zone and try one of Leo Babauta’s tips which I read on his blog. A mindful hot bath to relax and heal myself is what came to my mind. So,  I filled up the bathtub with hot water,  took off my clothes and tested the waters with my right foot. Well,  it was damn hot. The temperature must have been about 70 degree celcius (just a guess). So,  added more cold water to bring it to a bearable level. After a number of hit and trials,  the temperature came to about 40 – 50 degree celsius. I can guess the temperature because the water was hotter than the body of a fever ridden person and was not as hot as completely unbearable.

So,  the important thing was to be mindful,  to feel how the heat seeps into my body. Slowly and mindfully,  I put my left feet inside,  let is get used to hot water,  then slowly the upper part of my body. When the water reached my neck,  I waited for a while thinking all sorts of ridiculous things like:

1. What if I catch fever when I come out of hot water into the ambient temperature?
2. Should I take a cold shower after I come out of hot water?
3. I was already sick with cold because the train to Chennai was air conditioned and I am not so used to AC travelling that too for as long as 24 hours. What if my sickness increase?
4. Chennai climate is different from that of San Francisco (much colder in US),  did Leo meant this exercise only to be carried out in US or Antarctica.
5. I remembered when I went to Manikaran Sahib near Manali in Himachal Pradesh where we took bath in hot Sulphur geasers and nothing bad happened to me. May be this time also nothing would happen. Just relaxation and healing.
6. I also thought how my body will look resin-like,  after coming out of shower. Leo said it feels good.
7. In ‘My Experiments With Truth’ Mahatma Gandhi talked about hydro therapy. Would it be a similar experience?

So,  when I was having all these thoughts in my head,  my body was getting used to water. I broke my chain of thoughts and fear and tried to immerse my head in the hot water. I closed my ears and took a dip. But,  the water filled part of my nose and it was too hot for my head. But,  its OK. I will try next time with both my ears and nose closed.  I started sweating just as Leo said and it was comforting because it meant that I was doing it right.

Now the temperature of water,  although a bit uncomfortable,  became much bearable and my fears slowly and mindfully started leaving my mind. I could now focus on how I was feeling. Archimedes’ Principle came to my mind beacause this was the first time I was taking a tub bath after learning the principle. I thought I could calculate my volume and weight by measuring the amount of water spilled over and the bouyant force respectively.

A similar moment must have been when Archimedes’ would realised his principle.  The Eureka moment, when he ran around naked shouting like a mad man. A mad scientist. This was my Eureka moment because I was also feeling something completely new.

I mindfully realised that when I take a deep breath my chest and upper body felt more bouyant force then when I release my breath. So,  it drifted upwards and downwards with my breath. Even though it is interesting,  I did not find it amusing,  so I took less deeper breath so the movement is less. Breath,  deep breath is what Leo says will help me relax.

When I was a child,  I used to go for swimming with my father and siblings. The swimming pool water sometimes kept so still. Moving only when our body moves. Not like that of sea. It felt peaceful. The similar stillness I observed in the bath tub water.

Restlessness or Anxiety

I was being mindful. Or say trying to be. Because still many thoughts of past and future were travelling my mind. Worst thing was when I started feeling restless. Anxious. I think being restless is something which is easy to control. A common thing and everbody gets restless. But being anxious sounds more like a medical term. I started worrying about my  blood pressure. I tried to check my pulse rate and it felt higher than normal. Outside my bathroom,  my mobile phone alarm also began to ring — ‘Don’t want be an American Idiot?…  ‘. I wanted to switch it off but did not because my body was struggling,  because even after about ten minutes in hot water, i was not getting used to it. But the song was too long. The restlessness was too high. The water was too hot. I was wondering why it was not coming back to normal temperature? Why my body was not getting used to the hot water? And why was I sweating too much?

Control Dehydration

Sweating,  yes sweating was the reason. I forgot Leo’s one more advice. I was getting dehydrated. Ideally,  Ishould have kept a water bottle along with me to replenish the water lost due to sweating. Oh my god! Why did I not realise it earlier? I came out of the tub,  gulped some water and also utilised this opportunity to ‘dismiss’ the alarm. Relax.

When I was back into the hot water along with a water bottle,  all the feeling of restlessness was gone. Now I didn’t mind sweating because water was in hand. My pulse rate seemed to come to normal and my body seemed to accept the hot water. I relaxed and enjoyed being there for another half an hour or more. I felt good. I even added more hot water when I felt like doing so.

Then,  I came out of hot water,  took a cold shower (15 degree celsius,  again a guess),  rubbed my body with the heavily starched,  white hotel towel. Overall,  it was a good experience. I am thinking of doing it again. Sometime when I feel like. Nothing bad happened to me. I had two feelings when I came out of the shower:

1. Relaxed and proud of my body.
2. Much cleaner and less oily skin.

But,  I felt bad about one thing. I wasted so much water. I don’t know if it was OK to do so at the cost of about a tub full of water. Generally,  I take bath under a tap with a bucket a mug and I bet I use less water than how much I used that day. I will think about it later because anyhow I do not have bath tub at my home and it won’t be so frequent I would take a hot water bath in a tub.