The Unfairness of Everything

There was this boy once, someone who everyone liked. He used to laugh for anything and everything and he had this knack for being in any group. Of course, he did not speak our language, he was from a different part of the country. The first things that he learned from the local fare was all the curse words in our mother tongue which he used to repeat at the funniest of moments. He was a never a mere acquaintance to me but nevertheless not as close as what you can call a friend. Then he went away as he had come to some far corner of the country.  I did not hear about him for sometime. It was a time when Facebook did not exist and Orkut was something that I was just starting to discover.

One day someone said, the boy is suffering from cancer. Yes, cancer, when all of us was laughing out loud, playing about and enjoying some prime days of our lives, this boy was battling cancer. It was sad to hear that, you know the twitch that you get on your heart when something that is buried deep inside of you is scratched out.

"Why him?" the question had run through my head then.

Then one day a post appeared on Facebook. I do not remember the exact words but the matter was along the following lines  "After battling cancer for such a long time, I have emerged as the victor". It was a happy moment for me. And it would have been for anyone who wasn't all dead inside. He was good now. He could be just like any other kid again.  The boy could go back to playing some of the games that he really loved and we remembered him for, or so I had thought.

Again he faded out from my mind, as I said he wasn't as close a friend.
I was in India when the news came again, the boy had relapsed. That dreaded disease had poked its head up.

"Why him?" the thought ran through my head once more.

I agree it was not the prime thing on my mind for the days that followed. Although there was a constant reminder as the pictures kept coming in. And almost in all of them he appeared cheerful. Even in the last pic that was uploaded he had managed a smile. How he had done that, I have no idea? He was a true fighter I will give him that.

Yesterday the news came again. The boy had passed away at the age of 23 or so.

"Why him?" the thought ran through my head again.

The Dark Unknown

It just sat there in earnest smiling the smile that it so earned.
The smile turned to a smirk and the smirk turned to a much more abysmal emptiness.

But it still sat there leaning its weight on the man gripping him tightly so as not to falter.

 It sat there for all eternity hindering the man, more at times but nevertheless a little most often.

It sat there feeding off him, absorbing all that he was but giving nothing back, his sweat, his toils and his everything mixed with his food, his blood. It sat there all that was and that will be being chewed up in its mouth as a glob replacing the unworldly smirk for once with something more unopposed.

It sat there the cycle still unmistakably unrolling in its countenance rotating as if the spokes of a wheel turning unto an unknown destiny.

It sat there until the man rotted away or went up in flames or became fodder to vultures and worms.

It stood up for once leaving the man behind continuing to another soul  to repeat its ghastly but necessary responsibilities.

The Path to MS

I had started this blog with the strong notion of maintaining posts that are very philosophically valuable (:D, for me) and not to dilute it with rather unnecessary mundane activities. Anyways I believe this post is highly valuable although not of a rather thought provoking nature(In the hope that some of my earlier ones were).
I have wanted to put down my experiences about the long and painful process of making it to an MS program, somewhere. These are information that I collected over a long period of time.  Let me be clear about one thing, for people who wants to know about experiences during an MS degree, you can stop reading. I probably might post something useful in this direction in the near future. In the meantime, this post will give you a great deal of knowledge or hopefully some knowledge about the process of getting to a US University from India.

Not long ago, I was an engineering student like many of you who are reading this. I was wandering without an aim in life until a friend convinced me into getting an MS. One of my main motivation was the fact that I wanted to learn a great deal more. I was thinking about some unrestricted learning where you do not need to worry about grades, assignments or stupid internal marks (Not all of this is true about MS, though). Another important factor was to do something that no one else was doing. Also I had received a lot of ridicule in my first year about my college too, not one that enjoyed a great status as you can imagine. I wanted to show all those miscreants that I can do a lot better if I had tried.
Anyways, the first process of a US education is the GRE.  And this is not an easy task either.
Barron's GRE was the book that I used as recommended again by my friend, Mithun.
GRE, I believe has undergone a version change in the last year  or so. But when I was doing it, it had an 800 marks Quant section, 800 marks Verbal section and a 4.0 score writing part. The verbal section focuses on a variety of English language tasks including analogies, antonyms etc, Quant section focused on a lot of Math involving trigonometry, algebra etc and the writing section was essay writing, although I dont' remember how many. Anyways manage to get something above 1200 and you are in a safe zone and above 1300 and your in a very good zone. Don't forget that GRE constitutes to a lot of effort, intellect, your luck on that day and above all God's grace like any other task.

Get your GRE done on the first try itself and you are on your way. The next task is TOEFL. TOEFL is rather very easy if you have a relatively good grasp of English. I am not boasting here but I did not even study for the test (:D again). I read through some parts of Princeton Review the previous night of the exam and I passed with a 112/120. But I believe this varies from person to person. But Mithun, my friend also got great marks by studying in almost the same off handed manner.
A note on the order of taking the two exams, some people finishes off with TOEFL first the easy exam and then goes on to GRE. But for me the other way around seemed way better. So I did the GRE first and then took a potshot at TOEFL.
Then comes the task of admissions. This requires a lot of research on your part. Unless you are from a rather really good research background with super awesome marks, dont even think about the top 10.It will be a lot better if you know what specialization you are going into. And choose a University that is very good in that specialization.  Edulix and College Confidential can help you to this end although do not go completely  by their word. Also you can approach a consultancy. I did use one, since I was completely at sea about the whole application process.
You basically need the following stuff for admission:
i) Statement of Purpose - write all the stuff that you can think about, your background(research, academics, leadership skills etc),  about your aspirations and plans during your MS and essentially that you are a hard worker and blah blah blah. Be honest here, as the people on the admission committee are highly trained folks.
 ii) Letter of Recommendations - Most Universities accept electronic recommendations these days if your professors are up to it that is. I had send hard copies though.
iii) Consolidated Mark lists - For MGU students don't even bother. It is a really painful process of procuring it from the University. I had made the mistake of doing that. Instead it is good enough if you could record all your marks in tabular form,  take printouts and get your Principal's signature and the college seal.
I cant at the moment think of anything else. Will update the list if required.

The next stage is the admission. This will take about 3-5 months after the application deadline. Once you receive the admission, there are a few routine faxes and emails to exchange with the University regarding your funding and other stuff.  At the end of this, they will mail you a form called the I-20.
With the I-20 you may apply for a visa appointment.
Visa appointments can be made online, there are detailed descriptions online. And the visa fee is paid in an HDFC bank. For me it was in Ernakulam near MG Road. You will also need photographs made specifically for the US visa process. Just make sure that you let the studio know this beforehand and they will do the rest.

Visa Interview will be in your corresponding consulate and for me it was in Chennai. Make sure you find the place sometime before the interview. If you have a good GRE score, some good grades with no backpapers, admission and if possible funding from a respectable University, affidavit of support and papers that corroborates your financial ability to manage the living expenses and the tuition, you have done 90% of the hard work already. Accumulating all these documents are also a tough ask.

For me the interview lasted only a few minutes. The lady asked me
i) why I chose US?
ii) the specialization that I wanted to do in Computer Science and
iii)where my dad worked?
 And she smiled and said that she will mail my passport stamped with the visa in a few days.

It is a long and arduous journey and it will not be easy even after getting to the US. You will be competing with some of the best. There will be a lot of focus on your GPA as it will be required to maintain your funding. There will be times when you miss your family and friends like hell.

But on the plus side you will be getting a world class education from some amazing Professors. Unless and until Science hasn't discovered it, you can uncover any answers here. Also, some very big monetary rewards as well. So before you embark down this path think for a minute, weigh your options and then do it.

The Long GoodByes

I havent been able to write anything for sometime. Partly it was because of my busy schedule during my masters and partly because of my ever growing laziness. And then I came back to the safest place in the world, Cochin where my mom, sisters, dad and my close friends makes it more than what you can call home. But that is not what this blog is about.
Its always sad to depart, say goodbye.
This should be taken into consideration at the airport gates too. The departure gate should be accompanied with a sad smiley and the arrival with a a happy smiley, although this is not the case always.
But however you dislike good byes, situations arise in life where they become indispensable.
A father who works abroad, sisters who get married, a son who studies abroad, these are some of the scenarios that I can be associated with and people in the middle like my mom are the ones who suffer the most.
The good byes, I dunno why, is hardest for me when I say it to my mom. You really want to stop saying it, but that never happens, does it?? Life drags you places that are really out of your control, although it seems like you are always on the driver's seat at all times. You think you can stop whatever you are doing whenever you want to and come back to the place where it does it for you. But in reality you are really incapable of doing that. Either you would be at a huge disadvantage if you do that or you would have a huge hole of dissatisfaction pinned on your soul. Either way if you even consider a path that is not close to your destiny it never happens. Fate, it only lets something happen if it is really meant to happen.
Like the day you die. Unless and until you are ailing from a terminal disease, you would be rising to a day just like any other and you would be riding a bike just like any other day and you would following a very familiar route as well. But if it is your time, it will happen.
There are somethings beyond us in this world and it is better to have the impression that you are the master of yourself rather than to fight against your natural instinct and be discontent.

Time is a Healer and Distance does Nothing

Dont be fooled by the title. This is not actually about distance or time. Dont think that I am about to start with the Newtons laws of motion and derive the equations and take you somewhere to a far off land where physicists dream of being every minute they spend their life.No I am not the person for that because first off I cannot remember a thing in physics and secondly I have been going off the track from the moment I started.
Yeah, time and distance the meaning that I ought to have established a long time ago. I used to live in a small city in Kerala called Cochin.For me one of the most beautiful places in my whole life, although it cant even be compared to Kashmir or Mauritius or some other exotic locations around the world. The beauty of the place lies in the experiences that it has awarded me. Starting with my schooling I have been there. Some would say that college life is the best time you ever had. But for me it was school all the way. College was splattered with some really huge highs and a lot of very high lows. Yes, again going off track.
College came to an end and I felt like running. There was a lot that I wanted to forget. But really did I want to? No not really. But I had to. And I thought distance would help. Just get up and run thats what my mind told me. I had to go, get out of India. It was smothering me now. I wanted to go as far away as possible, or my mind told me that. US thats where I wanted to be. But then I knew how difficult it all was leaving my awesome family(not bragging), some really amazing friends(not bragging again I would have put a :D here if it was allowed) and the place that was home for me for more than a decade.
But then someone turned out to be a traitor. Not the high espionage thriller like traitor. But someone like the ones in the crappy B movies. Yup the internet. No matter where you run it will follow you. Again offtracking, have to find a new word for this.
Yeah distance, distance really does nothing for you. It will just give you false hopes of a marvelous unknown. Time is your only saviour.  It will take away all that was and all that is, away from you. And it does not discriminate either, the same rule applies for both the good times as well as the bad.
Yeah you forget. Remember all those old hindi movies where the hero or heroine is send to some far off place where he or she forgets everything and leads a happy life thereafter. Tragedy strikes eventually but the new scenario seems to change their life for sometime atleast. Tell you what that doesnt happen. The one to blame is the stupid internet again and more specifically the culprits are facebook, gmail and again facebook. What is the big deal with that blue site anyways that keeps on getting on your nerves making you go back again and again. To see some sort of acknowledgement probably but still it is your enemy when you need to get away. Again I am offtracking but I dont care anymore. I think I have said whatever I wanted to, in those very few lines that lies in between the mere nonsense. 

The Business Classers

Recently I traveled from Florida to Cochin. The long layovers and the number of flights added a lot of fodder to my thoughts. One of the things that I have always noticed about the flights are the individuals travelling in the Business class. The very few privileged who has the money or the good fortune to be sponsored by someone to be there, right at the front of the airplane. They seat themselves as if not to look at the underprivileged throng passing them by. It is as if they are part of the flight crew, the stewardess' and probably the pilots come first then a few people seated there in the business class section who acknowledges our presence with snobbish and many a times condescending attitudes. And regardless of our destination or the airline that we choose to fly on, these people find a seat in each one of them. We can go as far as thinking of it as a conspiracy from the part of the government to belittle each one of the economy class travelers, so that they will work harder to achieve success in their lives due to  the embarrassment.
Come to think of it, is it really necessary that they board first. Can they not board last? This will also be exclusive treatment, since there is no such rule as boarding the flight first is the way to go. It is true that they pay much more than us, so it is necessary that they be guaranteed less hassles. Consider the normal scenario where they board first, they seat themselves and look around with a drink in their hand at all those lesser people passing by. What if they did the same waiting in the airport lounge?? Would the time consumed in both cases not be the same, along with the advantage of sparing the embarrassment to the economy classers.
We all know that nothing like this is ever gonna happen, we will again board a flight tomorrow or the next day and again find the scary business classers sitting there. Who knows, probably we will be among them,one day, sipping from our vodka glasses and looking down on all the other passengers and this might happen not because we got a last minute upgrade because some rich snob got too sick to travel to Paris, but because we actually earned the scary seat.