One year in the “Real” World

Today marks the completion of one full year in the “real” world for me. I mean since the time i can remember, i was busy with academics… pre-school, school, graduation, post graduation… I was used to my academic life. And its obvious, if we do something for so long then it becomes a habit, a routine, a way of life.

But exactly one year ago, it all came to an end (for now ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). On this day, one year ago, masters convocation was celebrated, graduate degrees were awarded, caps were thrown high in the sky and then suddenly it was time to change… It was not a gradual change. It was a drastic change. Today we were students and tomorrow professionals. It was almost like throwing a fish which had always stayed in the small protective bowl into the huge ocean.ย  It was known long before, that this would happen, but then, knowing and finally experiencing is a lot different!

This change brought a lot of changes in life… From casual/informal clothes to formals, from night-outs to waking up early, from group studies to group meeting, from classroom to boardroom, from meeting friends daily to meeting them after a lot of planning, from daily chit-chat with friends to infrequent messages on Watsapp, from random project groups to random people in office teams, from grades and spi to ratings, from stipend to salary, from profs and deans to bosses and managers, from parties with friends to team lunches and outings, from walks in college to chai breaks in office, from project meetings to office calls, from daily attendance to filling time-sheet, from real classes to classes and trainings online, from reading 1-2 papers in a semester to reading 1 paper every week. Things have changed, yet they have remainedย  same…

Life has changed. It was bound to happen. This one year has been like a roller coaster for me! Full of up and downs. More appropriately, downs and ups (in the correct sequence). Faced worse times.. Understood the importance of the area and type of work which i wanted to do, the hard way. Worked hard to bring the change… I am happy, atleast later on, things changed for good for me. In this one year, i have met so many people.. Colleagues and friends. Learnt to handle difficult people and then met some of the the most humble and down to earth people.ย  Learnt many new cool things! Discovered myself in ways, i myself didnโ€™t know. Understood things i like, things i value. Discovered and worked in areas which i find interesting. Met people, whom i can look up to. “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” ~P.B. Shelly I am happy that for me, spring came when i could wait no more ๐Ÿ™‚

I am nostalgic about the previous part of my life. But i am also happy to have experienced the change. It has made me a lot more mature. It has shown me that one needs to put in lots of efforts to fulfil one’s dreams. Also funnily and strangely, its more satisfying to learn life lessons the hard way. I also learnt, that it helps if one knows what one wants. And with what intensity. What things are we ready to give up, in order to get the things we want? Probably, then its easy to take decisions in life. This year has taught me how to prioritize the things that matter the most to me.

Change can be both good and bad,
A person may be both happy and sad.
Its best to learn something new everyday,
Striving ahead, no matter what others say.
Life is not a race, to win or compete,
But to follow one’s dreams, however offbeat.
Creating new music and silencing the din.
Balancing between angels & demons within.

Hoping for happier times ahead, with new lessons and new challenges! ๐Ÿ™‚

Istanbul Travelogue

Collage

Prologue…

I did M.Tech. from IIIT-Bangalore in 2012-2014. In the last semester at IIIT-B i did thesis on the effects of entrenchment on cooperative behaviour. It is based on Multi Agent Systems and Game Theory. Had the best time of my academic life so far doing research in an area which i found very interesting. I successfully defended my thesis and graduated. My dream was to get the paper based on my thesis accepted in a good conference. And as they say, if we try hard enough, our dreams do come true! ๐Ÿ™‚

We submitted our paper in one of the tier 1 conference in the domain of multi-agent systems. And then one day we got the mail informing about the acceptance of the paper ๐Ÿ™‚ I was on cloud nine! It is the best thing that can happen to one’s thesis.

With the acceptance came lots of things and planning to do.. Had to submit the final camera ready paper, create a poster and most importantly look for funding for travel to attend the conference. I would like to thank my employer for funding my trip and giving me the opportunity to present my work and attend the conference. It made things a lot easier. With a tatkal passport, tickets and visa, i was all set to fly to Istanbul, Turkey, the world’s fifth-most-popular tourist destination. ๐Ÿ™‚ My first foreign visit! Luckily the Prof. under whose guidance i had done my thesis was also coming with his family ๐Ÿ™‚

The Trip…

We boarded Boeing 787 Dreamliner of Qatar Airways! One of the most hi-tech planes of today. And for a window seat lover like me, the huge electrochromism-based smart glass windows were the coolest thing! There was a small stopover at Doha and then we headed to our destination, Istanbul. In the first look itself, Istanbul looked beautiful. Clean roads lined with lawns and trees and with an amazing view of sea, fast moving cars and a pleasant weather just like Bangalore.

We checked in at the Zeynep Sultan Hotel. It had been recently renovated. Had a nice, small and cozy room at a reasonable price in the heart of the city. Major landmarks like the Blue mosque were at a walking distance from our hotel.

We were mainly busy at the conference. It is the first tier 1 conference i have attended. And the difference was obvious. Met people from all over the world. Had interesting discussions during breaks. Our presentation was good. Also attended many other talks and presentations. Saw many posters and demos. So many tracks went on parallelly that sometimes i wished i could be in multiple places at the same time! It was a great learning experience. It was cool to meet so many people from around the world who are all excited about a particular subject (MAS). Also got to see the amazing high quality work that gets accepted in a top conference. I hope i will do more such quality work and present in similar conferences in future ๐Ÿ™‚

We also visited the SoSLab of the Boagazici CS department. The university is beautifully located with a wonderful view of the strait. It has a lush green campus situated uphill. Had interesting conversation with the Prof. and students of the lab. Talked about topics like topic modelling, annotations, social semantics, sentiment analysis etc.

Did some sight-seeing in the evenings and over the weekend. Istanbul is a huge city with so many places to see that even a week willย be less. The two major highlights of our tour were – the Bosphorus cruise, a two hour cruise with a breathtaking view! We saw wild dolphins! It was awesome ๐Ÿ™‚ There were a lot of jellyfishes in the strait. The view on both sides was beautiful with lots of mosques, high end houses with there own yachts, huge suspension bridges and deep blue water and sky! The second highlight was our visit to the Galata tower, one of the oldest towers of the world! Its like the Eiffel tower of Istanbul. The view from up the tower just cannot be described in words! I could stand there forever. The blue strait, houses on slopes with orange slanted roofs, the European and the Asian side and the cool breeze! Enjoyed snacks in the cafe at the top of the tower ๐Ÿ™‚ We descended via stairs and saw the tower’s built from the inside with the stony walls and small openings for natural light. We travelled by the world’s second oldest tram which was literally pulled uphill using huge automatic pulleys! Also went to the blue mosque and the gulhane park which were close to our hotel. I promise i will wake up early morning everyday and go for a walk if i have a park like gulhane park close to my house ๐Ÿ˜‰ Huge trees, blooming flowers, chirping birds, lush green lawns, Turkish tea and an amazing view of the strait!

We thought food might be a problem as we are vegetarian. However we mostly found something good to eat ๐Ÿ™‚ The breakfast at our hotel was good. I have never tasted such juicy strawberries before. One must try figs and olives in Istanbul. Also tried turkish bread and pizza which was yummy. Our plain Indian dal is called lentil soup in Turkey ๐Ÿ˜› which was also good. We found a pure vegetarian restaurant and had delicious falafel! Tried so many new dishes. For food connoisseurs like us it was fun ๐Ÿ™‚

The grand finale of our trip was the idyllic time we spent at a cafe in the gulhane park overlooking the Bosphorus. It was a calm and peaceful evening. The sky was slowly changing colours and slowly it was getting dark. And then gradually the Asian side lit up! The view was fantastic. Ships and yachts were sailing across theย Bosphorus. We had a yummy HUGE baked stuffed potato (which we craved for since day one :P) and endless cups of turkish tea over interesting discussions. If only time could be paused, i would have paused it then… forever.

Overall, this trip has been an amazing experience. Its a treasured memory for a lifetime ๐Ÿ™‚ Rarely things turn out to be better that what we imagine (atleast for me) however this Istanbul trip is an exception, it turned out to be much much more awesome than what i had dreamt ๐Ÿ™‚

Bag of words…

Blue. Water. Fishing rods. Selfie Sticks. Reflections. Huge bridges. Speeding cars. Trams. Dolphins! Jelly fishes. Sea Gulls. Birthday. Cruise. Chilly winds. Galata tower. Sloping orange roofed houses. 2 and 4 engine jets leaving streaks in sky. Long walks. Useful pre-trip advice. Turkish music which sounded same. Blue mosque. Huge grand bazaar. Byzantine ruins. MG Road. Full moon background and mosque minarets. Blue symbol which wards off evil. European windows which open from all sides!ย  Royal shoe polishers. Cats. Lots of cats. Extroverts. Sufi round-round dance ๐Ÿ˜› Pide. Strawberries. Olives. Natural Jams. Honey. Huge bread loafs. Vegetable salad. Hot chocolate. Cakes. Different varieties of cheese. Copper tea pots. Mini rice cooker. 3 course rice meal. Fast trams on road. Ice cream vendors. Turkish delights. Baklava. Dry fruits. Spices. Saffron. Sumac. Aryan (buttermilk). Kurus fasulye (white beans cooked in tomato gravy).ย  Geeky jokes ๐Ÿ™‚ Asterix and Obelix. Morse code. แ—…แ—บแ—ทแ—…. Big Bang Theory. Skype Watsapp Viber.ย  Greenery. Blooming flowers. LOTS of pics. Memories. HAPPINESS.

Some key takeaways…

  • A line which makes us happy when we are sad and sad when we are happy – “This too shall pass!”.
  • Buy experiences, not things. It may seem to be counter-intuitive, but its true!
  • Never give up. Even in case of failure, make the corrections and try again!
  • Sometimes things may not seem to be perfect immediately, but in hindsight, they mostly do!
  • All the hard-work, perseverance and tons of effort seems to be worth it and more when we visit places and attend top conferences.
  • A tier 1 conference is actually number 1 in the quality of work and diversity of gathering!
  • Well maintained water bodies and/or historic relics within city can boost tourism.
  • If the people have basic civic sense, even a city of 14.4 million people can be spotlessly clean.
  • Cats looking like statues may actually be real. ๐Ÿ˜› Cats and dogs can happily coexist! Cats actually do not care! ๐Ÿ˜€
  • Traffic woes are the same everywhere!
  • Trip hangovers can last realllllyย long. Even after a week, sometimes i feel i am in Istanbul!

Thanks…

  • Thanks a lot to my Prof. under whose guidance i did my Masters thesis. I look upto him. I have learnt a lot from him, about the interesting courses he taught in college and more importantly about philosophy of life! Thanks a lot for being my guru and mentor!
  • Thanks to my employer for funding my trip and giving me this amazing opportunity of presenting and attending the conference.

Epilogue…

Istanbul is a beautiful city. An amazing conglomeration of people, religions and cultures. Hope i get an opportunity to visit Istanbul again! My first foreign visit is like a cluster of happy memories! I have enjoyed each and every moment of the trip. Hope to haveย many more such experiences in future ๐Ÿ™‚ Life’s good ! ๐Ÿ™‚

Plea of the Girl Child

I have big dreams in my heart,
I just want a push to start.
I will do everything i can,
Just let me go ahead with myย plan.
Don’t pin me down, set me free,
Give me freedom, let me be me.

Give me your guidance and support,
I will be as strong as a huge fort.
Nurture me with love and care,
Even i can be your rightful heir.
Don’t pin me down, set me free,
Give me freedom, let me be me.

I am brave, I am strong,
I can tackle when things go wrong.
I can judge between wrong and right,
So trust me and have faith in my might.
Don’t pin me down, set me free,
Give me freedom, let me be me.

I will be there whenever you need,
With all my love and respect indeed.
Just one chance is all i ask,
To show my competence in my task.
Don’t pin me down, set me free,
Give me freedom, let me be me.

Don’t force me in a cage when i want to fly,
Don’t cut my wings when i want to soar high.
Don’t kill me as i want to live my dreams,
What will be achieved by silencing my screams?
Don’t pin me down, set me free,
Give me freedom, let me be me.

Dream ‘BIG’

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This is our life. We can live it the way we want. No restrictions, no compulsions. So why settle for anything less than the best. We can achieve whatever we want if we work smartly and with a lot of perseverance. As it is rightly said nothing is impossible. Impossible itself contains the word possible.

The first and foremost step towards any achievement is … ‘a dream’. All successful people have achieved success twice, once in their dreams and once in reality. It is said that it is our dreams which manifest into reality.

All of us are free to dream. God has given us beautiful brains using which we can imagine the unseen and the unpredicted. The power is all in our hands. And there is nothing to lose. So why to stop? Why to compromise? Nobody can scold or punish you for your dreams. Its your dreams, your choice. So why to put a barrier on them.

So what i want to say is that dream ‘BIG’. Don’t curb the limit of your dreams. Dream the best you can imagine. Don’t judge whether it would be feasible or not, or how actually it will be achieved. Just dream what you can.

Here by dream i don’t mean day-dreaming. What i mean is actual serious stuff. Decide what you want in life. Think of the best possible way to achieve it and then start dreaming. Try to visualize as if your dreams have been fulfilled. Don’t sleep to start dreaming ๐Ÿ™‚ Stay awake and then dream ๐Ÿ™‚

Dreams are our true strength. Dreams have a lot of hidden potential. Just as a huge tree can grow out of a small seed (if it gets water and sunlight) similarly dreams have the potential to turn into reality (if it is clubbed with hard work and determination). Don’t waste this power. All of us are capable of dreaming and achieving things. It’s only that a few of us actually use it while the rest of people are satisfied with the life as it turns out.

One of the most important thing about dreams is that you should believe in your dreams. You must have full faith in them. A little bit of negative attitude or distrust is enough to bring your dreams crashing down. And i think this is too bad. How can we break something which we were building ourselves. Sometimes our mind may play games with us and force us to believe that what we dream is not possible. It is time to just switch off your mind for some time and listen to your heart. Henry Ford said if you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.

Once you are sure of your dreams start working. Do your best. Give you 100%. It’s beautiful to see our dreams unfolding into reality. It gives the ultimate pleasure. One can’t be more satisfied than this.

As Les Brown said, โ€˜Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you will land among the stars.โ€™ Even stars will be cool i must say ;-). Don’t feel disheartened about not getting exactly what you dreamt of. Be happy with what you get but try harder the next time.

Try it out. Dream ‘BIG’. Enjoy. Have fun ๐Ÿ™‚

PS – Image credits – myFBCovers.com