Wednesday, September 20, 2006


So, the classes began today. I am taking two courses this term. One is a applied mathematics course and the other one is science of solid state materials. Two courses in about 12 weeks plus the research assignment. That is about it.

Guess what! we MS guys have our own carrels which means we have been assigned some office space and a desk with computer to ourselves. According to my advisor that is going to be my 'personal space'. This is too good. When I visited the libraries today, I was having a hard time keeping myself from gasping. They are just so well organized and designed keeping even the smallest detail in mind. The search and scan system is state of the art. After all, Dartmouth is not an Ivy Leaguer for nothing.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Today was my first day of orientation. During today and tomorrow and this whole week I have to attend lots of sessions and seminars and presentations which provide 'resources' for every single thing about your life at Thayer and Dartmouth. These sessions cover areas like those specific to International students. Then there are sessions about your graduate life and studies here. So its kinda informative but very overwhelming. I mean for somebody like me who is new in US; its difficult to remember American names.Hell, I forget Indian names just as well.

One thing which I always complained of in SGSITS was the difficulty of finding information and locating where exactly do you want to go for help. just for the record, Dartmouth is a completely wireless campus and the wireless signal strength, even in the basement is 'excellent'. On top of it, the college has its own e-mail program, the Blitz mail, like Microsoft outlook. But its lot more advanced and has a feature called blitz bulletins (literally). You could monitor them for all the activities that go on around the campus. I'll give some examples: career services bulletin, hockey bulletin, Dartmouth outing club bulletin, cricket club bulletin, graduate office bulletin, international office bulletin Thayer school bulletin and even a free-food bulletin!

Here at Dartmouth they place a lot of importance on academic honesty and integrity. They do not tolerate plagiarism or cheating in any form. A student if found violating the code of conduct may even be expelled from the institute and he may not even get a second chance. Consider this in terms of what it implies for international students. Once they are expelled, they lose their immigration status and they can be asked to leave US in a single day.

There were two (or three??) sessions dealing exclusively with the academic honor principle and there will be quite a few more this term. Initially I didn't understand why are they over stressing the point, if at all they were. I mean the issue is pretty black and white for me. In these cases I always follow my gut feeling. But there have been times during my graduation where 'academic honesty' was violated.

But I soon found out that there are many gray areas where it is not easy to judge between right and wrong. The failure to identify loose ends in the beginning of your research program can lead to severe consequences for all individuals involved. This includes your professor-in charge, your colleagues and of course you.

I feel fairly strongly about these issues. It is going to be very exciting and responsible to be in a questioning role and keeping an eye open for everything that goes on in your lab. Isn't that what science is all about?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reaching Dartmouth 2

Completely lost, I came out of the Delta terminal where jasdip singh was waiting for me. The taxi meter was running all the time too. Having lost out on this, I went to the Port Authority which is on 42nd street in Manhattan. It is a big bus terminal from where you can get buses all over the US. My way was through Park Avenue and Times Square.

He dropped me there and I paid a huge taxi fare. From the ticketing counter I found out that the earliest bus to Boston and to white river junction was at 12.30 am and if I wanted to travel I would have to wait for about 5 hrs on the terminal. After considering my options (like I had any) I bought the ticket. I cannot explain the difficulty I was facing all the time lugging my heavy bags. After two more trips to and fro I checked in my baggage with excess baggage fare. Shortly after I went downstairs to gate no. 84 from where the bus was to depart.

That waiting period was very frightening. Sitting with two heavily packed bags with strangers all around, for a few moments, I lost hope. I was sitting in between two African-Americans who were smelling heavily. You have to be in the place to experience the emotions. I eased a little only after talking to an Indian when I found her sitting next to me.

Thereafter it was usual waiting. I was prepared now and the worst was over. I boarded the bus at 12.30 and reached Boston at 5.00 am. I found that the ticket which I had would take me directly to Dartmouth, if I went by the 10.00 am bus that is. So, again I decided to wait for 5 long hours at the Boston bus Terminal. I'll write about that sometime.

After that I boarded the 10.00 am Bus and reached Dartmouth and my apartment at about 2.00 pm. Thank God!

I was 'home' after about 42 hrs of traveling, very little sleep, almost no meals and lots of experience.

Right now, I am at Thayer, my engineering school. I've got lots of things to do during the next week and hopefully everything will work out fine.

Reaching Dartmouth

After a 14 hr non-stop journey from Kuwait to New york I thought the major traveling was over. I just had to travel to Boston by a plane and from there Dartmouth coach would take me to the college. I even hoped to catch the last coach at 9.00 pm from the Boston airport. I had landed at JFK airport at about 3.30 pm local time.

Well, the immigration and customs was a breeze and I was out in about 20 mins! I was expecting to get my bags opened at the airport but nothing significant happened. After coming out I bought a ticket to Boston by Delta airlines for 330 dollars. The flight departs from La-Guardia airport at 7.30 pm and I had about 2.30 hours before the flight. I came out and took a taxi to the Guardia and that was were all the fun began.

My cabby was an Indian and obviously I started chatting with him. Very soon I discovered that I had bought a very expensive ticket for Boston. I was cursing myself for spending so much money on the ticket. The situation was like: I would reach Boston at around 9.00 pm and by then the last bus to Dartmouth would have left already, so I had to spend the night at Boston airport and there were no chances of me reaching college at night.

Jasdip Singh, the cabby told me I could get to Boston and even New Hampshire directly in a Bus from New york for as low as 70 dollars and I was in a soup now. I was consoling myself for spending such a huge amount on the Boston ticket.

Then, an idea struck me. What if I could cancel my ticket if it was possible. I called Delta from Jasdip's phone and they said I would get a complete refund if I canceled my ticket. So I made up my mind to cancel and after reaching La Guradia I asked around the Delta counters where I could have the job done. They directed me to the Delta shuttle counter and when finally I felt that I would get my money back, the ticketing lad started issuing a check and suddenly she says she cannot issue me the check from there. I would have to send my ticket to the Atalanta office to get a refund. Desperate now, I asked whether I could still travel on the flight, she said NO, My ticket was canceled.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

In Kuwait- The Women

Any writing about Kuwait or other mid-eastern country would be incomplete without a description of women and their lives here. There are many misgivings about the condition of women in this region I have seen Kuwaiti women primarily in the souks where my father has a shop too.

In terms of physical appearance they are second to none. Big beautiful eyes and an unblemished skin (mostly achieved by excessive make-up) are the most discernible features. Many of them wear stylish dresses- stylish by Arabic standards. This means their tops are knee length and you can spot the jeans beneath their abayas. Pink is the color of choice when it comes to tops, headscarves and even shoes.

The good thing amid all this modernization is that they haven’t forgotten their Islamic values. The scarves cover the head and hair fully. I know a person who has made a fortune selling hijabs or headscarves. I am heartened by the fact that women here haven’t forgotten their roots. After all, Islam is not just a religion; it is a way of life. Glocalization is the word.

Recently, Kuwaiti women were granted the right to vote and even contest in parliamentary elections. Kuwait is the first country in the region to grant equal voting rights to women. Obviously, this is a step forward and will answer those who are always looking to stereotype women here. I mean, look at women in Saudi-arabia, they are not even allowed to drive.

In Kuwait- The Locals

In this series of posts I am going to write about my impression of Kuwait, the country that has been home to my father and many others for the last 26 years.

"The State of Kuwait (Arabic: الكويت‎) is a small oil-rich constitutional monarchy on the coast of the Persian Gulf, enclosed by Saudi Arabia in the south and Iraq in the north. The name is a diminutive of an Arabic word meaning "fortress built near water." (From

As might be already clear, Kuwait is a very rich country, rich from the petrodollars. Even while other countries in the gulf like U.A.E. and Bahrain are trying to drastically reduce their dependence on oil exports, Kuwait apparently doesn't care. The government is assured by the fact that Kuwait has 10% of the world's proven oil reserves. Petrol here sells at about ten Indian rupees a liter!

You could expect to find all major attributes associated with a developed country: world-class transportation and telecommunication systems, efficient administration. But you better not ask about freedom of expression and independence and equality and secular ideas. Indians and westerners have come to associate such high values to these that I am sometimes amused. What would a hungry man value more: freedom to worship his God or a good meal?

Yes, despite all its shortcomings (many prefer to call it that) Kuwait has been the Promised Land for thousands of expatriates from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Srilanka and most importantly Bangladesh. Bengalis are the most visible community here after the locals. I will write about the expats and their lives here in a second post. Here I will concentrate on the locals.

It seems to me that Kuwaiti citizens here are living in some land that is vastly different from the Kuwait I know. Most of them wear dishdhashas (the traditional arabic gown worn by men in the gulf). My dad tells me it is an ideal dress in the very hot and dry weather in Kuwait. The summer temperatures here go up to 55 degrees Celsius. Though many younger Kuwaitis wear western clothes too but they are in a minority.

Due to their excessive fondness for a kind of arabic tea called ghava, which is cloyingly sweet, many Kuwaitis suffer from diabetes. Only the other day my dad's sponsor lost his eyesight temporarily because of diabetes. The other disease very common here is a syndrome that causes the birth of deformed babies. This is because Kuwaitis are known to marry very closely in their families.

Inspite of all their wealth, elder citizens value and respect money and foreigners. (Though that cannot be said of all citizens these days). Islamic culture places a lot of importance on food, it is called rizq in arabic. Kuwaitis never eats alone (men and women eat separately); so whenever food is brought, they invite those in sight to eat with them. My dad has had such experiences with complete strangers!

The government here provides huge interest free loans to citizens for whatever purposes they may require. As a result, the salaries of many Kuwaitis go completely towards repaying these loans. In order to maintain a high and lavish standard of living they have to look for other avenues of earning money.


Friday, September 8, 2006


My last post was on 28th August and that was when I was in Mandsaur. I left Mandsaur and much more on 1st September. From Bombay, I reached Kuwait on 3rd morning and it is where I am right now.

Farewells are always tough and all this time I am having a feeling that this time when I go, it will be for good. Things left behind will be left behind. When away from home, they talk about missing your loved ones and longing for them. But I have never felt such things. I have always accepted going as a part of life. After all, when you look at it, our life is just a journey; a passage. This is what Islam says.

But rhetoric aside, I am sometimes dismayed by my own hard-hearted-ness. I don't know how much my mother misses me but I rarely take the trouble of calling her. It is my dad who does the calling. I talk to her with my eyes glued on the computer screen. This is what I have become.

And going to the states has its own flip side too.I could as well stay here and work with my father. That, according to many well-wishers would be the right thing to do. At one level, I too realize that staying on would do a lot of good. Let me face this: I am going to US for my own selfish reasons and this would potentially distance me from my family forever.

Oh God! Please help me pass through this moment. Guide me to the right way and help me travel on it.