January 2011


Finally I have some good news – make that great news – on the job front. But as often seems to be the case with me, things have been moving rapidly and in the last month, I’ve interviewed twice (via Skype – Hurray for modern technology) and received unofficial and now mostly official confirmation, again via the net, of the offer. And (drumroll please) the new job is in…

A place called Yonsei University. In Seoul, S. Korea! And it’s a tenure track position in the history of science to boot. Am I thrilled or what?

Talk about out of nowhere, I swear, Korea wasn’t even on the horizon of considerations even as a tourist destination but then a job ad floated my way in late October (Thanks to my fellow post-doc and scientific thinking colleague Brandon for first bringing it to my attention) and I added it to the growing list of applications. An interview in December led to a Christmas present (bright and early when I powered on the computer in Doha at Yasir and Suf’s place) in the guise of an email from the search committee chair that I was the chosen candidate, and while vacationing in India I had a second interview, also on Skype, with the higher-ups, which was followed a few days later with an unofficial offer. Its been a whirlwind naturally, but for the most part in a good way (the not-so-good is the prospect of good-byes to dear friends here in Cairo) and over the next few weeks I’ll be packing up and leaving for the school year and new semester in Korea begins in March! Meanwhile another interview, at MIT .. THE MIT in Boston .. went reasonably well also and more importantly went a long long way in bolstering my greatly flagging morale. Results for that search won’t be out till later, and besides, its a WAC (writing across the curriculum for the uninitiated) position not History of Science, but hey! I get to say that I interviewed at MIT. It’s a cool feeling.

But enough bragging. I’m delighted, thrilled, ecstatic and all those other words, besides being grateful for this opportunity, to travel yet again and learn about an entirely new world and culture. And the job seems fantastic for me as well. And as more than one friend has mentioned, the foodie in me is going to have a very interesting life indeed.

So watch out for changes soon, as the pyramids will recede to give way to Kim-Chee or some other Korean icon (or Hello Kitty whom I understand is immensely popular in Japan & Korea). Until I learn some Korean words then, its Sayanora everyone. And good night.

Does it bring another tear?

No not really, although 2010 was a tough year on my morale on the professional front. I can’t think of a month when I wasn’t filling out some application, or interviewing for a job that I didn’t get and worst of all, getting that dreaded reject letter. How I hate those things. I do so hope 2011 will be better on that score…

Meanwhile, I’m in India with family and friends. Rang in the New Year in a reprise of 2008 with Prathima and Rad at the Bangalore club with dancing and music and fun, having just the previous week celebrated Christmas-eve in high and ultra-decadent style with my ‘engulfed’ former Cairo-maniacs Sufia & Yasir. And this morning did a lovely nature walk in Lal Bagh, one of Bangalore’s hidden treasures, at least in terms of the wealth of information I received about it from our walking guide. The gardens which were formally established in the 18th century under the reign(s) or Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan – the latter being quite an avid, even fervid collector of plants – sits around an outcropping of rock (granitic gneiss) that is 3 billion years old. Talk about being half as old of time! And hey what a coincidence, there is a red connection here as well (the other one being the rose-red city i.e. Petra)

As usual I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Backing up… I’ve been hearing about the early morning botanical walks at Lal Bagh led by Vijay Thiruvady for my past couple of visits to India but circumstances surrounding the last two trips (mainly that they were too short!) prevented me from taking the tour before this. In one of those odd coincidences that happens to me so often, it was around the same time, that sitting next to an interesting guy on an airplane (we got talking because of my Kindle) I heard about Bangalore Walks for the first time, again something I never even investigated further because of the lack of time. Having experienced various London Walks earlier this year (God knows I wrote a lot about them!) I went online yesterday to find out more and possibly sign up for one for later in the week, when I found out that the nature walk I’d signed up for was part and parcel of the same. Go figure!

Anyhow as I found out today, Lal Bagh is what is called an exotic botanical garden in the truest sense of the word because it houses various plants and trees from pretty much all the five continents and a variety of ecosystems and habitats. Somehow despite having vastly different native habitats these various plants have managed to survive and even flourish (flowerish to make an atrociously bad pun out of some hapless Kannadiga’s poor pronunciation) here for upwards of 200 years in some cases. I’ve taken pictures of course not many but some great ones, but they’ll have to wait until I’m back in Cairo to appear on this page. In addition to plants it also has other transplants that have not only survived but outlived the original, for example the replica of London’s Crystal Palace from the 19th century where they now host horticultural shows. I also found out that tamarind, the name for which comes from tamr-el-hindi the Arabic phrase meaning Indian date, is neither Indian nor a date, (well I knew the latter, but was not aware that the plant was not native to India but came here from Senegal!). Meanwhile,  fu’ul sudanee or Sudanese beans as peanuts are called in Egypt, hail from the Americas.

This and many other fascinating bits of information were planted into my receptive ears (and into those of my at-the-outset-slightly sleepy comrade in walks, Krithika)  and some 2 dozen others for nearly 3 fascinating hours of a ramble through the red garden during which time we also munched on some derivatives of the botanical examples we had viewed like figs (we saw many different species of Ficus trees though none of the edible variety) and peanut-brittle with palm sugar (Indian brittle come in marble-sized urundai’s rather than sheets) and spiced buttermilk (my choice) to wash it down. But these nibbles were just a teaser. At the end of the tour we were marched off to MTR, Bangalore’s historic Mavalli Tiffin Room for a well deserved and by then much desired breakfast of piping hot rava idlis (invented there during a famine that caused a shortage of rice), and then equally hot dosais both accompanied with chutney and potatoes, some crisp pastry-like confection in an almond milk, all topped off with coffee served in pairs of sterling silver tumblers; you have to have a pair to pour it back and froth (deliberate spelling error that!) to dissolve what sugar you might add and make the temperature manageable. Not my usual cup of tea, granted, but a great treat once in a way.

I meant to reprise my year, but the post as usual took a life of its own and became a ramble about a ramble. Oh well, at least I got in a blog post bright and early in the year. Apparently, according to the message I received from WordPress (the host site for this blog) I’ve had a reasonably good blogging year. You’re doing awesome is what they said actually. Happy New Year everyone. More from me when I can.