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(You might have read about my running the first $\pi$ miles. This is a rather different experience).

(Edit: 6 July, ’12 — If you have fractured a jaw and are looking for a liquid diet, see this post I wrote recently).

Today evening I completed running $\pi$ miles on the Wabash river trail. I have done it more than a hundred times in the last few months. But today was special. Completing the track was a liberating moment. For one, I completed it with less-than-usual oxygen; I breathed only through my nose and not once through the mouth.

As I write this, I feel the steel wires and rubber-bands in my mouth. My teeth are fixed, the jaws are immovable and there are six stitches on the chin. I can feel one molar chipped off and one week after the accident, I feel pain in my wrist.

It was on the evening of 26th May that the four of us set out for biking. We were around 10 miles from Purdue where I had this accident. It was a reckless daredevilry, something that I am not proud of & something I wouldn’t like to recollect¹. After the accident, we called a friend and also 911 (the latter came before) and I was taken to the Emergency room of the hospital². I had the X-ray and CT-scan done but already knew my jaw was fractured. The doctor stitched the chin-injury and discharged me with the desperately-needed painkillers. Three days later, I had a surgery with an oral surgeon who (after knocking me unconscious) implanted steel braces and rubber-bands in my mouth thus completely immobilizing any jaw movement. For six weeks, I shall not be able to open my mouth. No coughing or yawning please! And only liquid diet.

#### Tailpiece:

I realize that the pain-killers have subdued any painful sensation in my jaws. Most of me is perfectly fine, most importantly my brain. And I am doing Mathematics with acetaminophen. Just like Erdös!³ Hope I am able to come up with some theorem in these six weeks!

##### ³ If you are unaware, the legendary mathematician Paul Erdös took amphetamines and said the drug helped him do mathematics. Read his biography here.

Having read about bald eagles being spotted near the Wabash river in the local newspaper, Rodrigo and I decided to go for the bird-hunting bird-watching. The bald eagle also happens to be the national bird of America. Here are a few pictures. (PS: I was happy that they are very similar to the Wiki pics)

The bald eagle near Wabash river

With its sharp eyesight, it spots a fish in the lake

Diving to catch its prey

Caught!

Devouring the prey

Relaxing royally

Outside my window in my Williamsburg apartment, I can see migratory birds coming southward in search of warmer climates. One such bird is the seagull. On a typical winter day, there are around thirty odd seagulls hovering around the lake spotting fish. Its fantastic to watch them – one of them spots a fish and grabs it and some others try to get it from that gull. Here’s one pic.

A seagull catching a fish

Since the focus of the last few posts has shifted from Mathematics to my life in the US, the stats show an increase in number of visitors. But I must add a word of caution, that soon enough, Math posts will be seen more.

A couple of months ago, Moka invited me to his place at Mountain View near San Francisco in California in December. (This is the link to his blog where you can find crazy stuff, although many good posts have been deleted). Winter in the south (southern parts of US) are much warmer unlike that at Purdue so many Americans throughout the country go southwards for Christmas and New Year.

I stayed there for a little more than a week and I could meet Ameya, who returned to India as I left SF, just in time for his birthday back home. At Ameya’s place, I went for “jacuzzi“, which is a bathtub with massaging jets. It was a Godawesome experience and hopefully I will be able to enjoy it again some time. The five of us, Moka, Ameya, Vartak, Lala and me had a great time pulling each others’ legs. The bakra however, was Vartak as usual.

Moka took me for local sightseeing on weekends and although he had seen most of the places, he didn’t mind accompanying me again. I visited the Golden Gate, the fisherman’s wharf, Burns State Park, Stanford University and more. We also went to the elegant Ghirardelli factory where I grabbed as many dark chocolates (only for me) as I could. Then there were the Cheesecake Factory where Penny of The Big Bang Theory works (I had hoped to get a glimpse of her :P) and the Bubba-Gump Shrimp Co of the Forrest Gump fame. Photos have been uploaded here

But the part of California I enjoyed the most was that I could run without heavy winter clothes, in bright sunshine along breathtakingly beautiful trails. I ran almost everyday, taking Ameya too with me when I could.  The last day there, I knew I was going to miss running so frequently in Purdue winter, that I beat my previous running record. Within an hour and a half, I ran along the trail from near Moka’s home to Google HQ at Mountain View and back, covering 8.5 miles! That is over 13 kilometers! You can have a look at the iPhone running app’s page here.

I returned to Purdue today and the snow has shown its true colours, rather colour – White! Roads, grass, treetops all are covered with pure white snow. And I am now gearing up for the cold winter, the vacation at SF has been a great refresher to begin the new semester with.

Things a new desi in Amreeka will find amusing:
• Everything is topsy-turvy – from light switches to car directions.
• Everything is huge. Corridors, classrooms, vehicles, roads, footpaths – they are so massive! If you have difficulty walking, then Walmart offers you a little car to move around for shopping. (Such huge is Walmart, and other supermarkets!)
• Its all so clean – Trust me, no Indian in the America has ever or is likely to pee or spit (sh*t) on these roads, or similar actions they wouldn’t hesitate in India.
• Taps are like joysticks, as in the latest Batman movie. For the mechies, they have two degrees of freedom; for others, you can control the temperature and water flow with a single knob.
• There are machines for everything. I saw two trucks in the campus, one crushed twigs into fine wood powder and spew it into the other. I even saw a machine for sweeping roads!
• My house doesn’t have a ceiling fan, but there is an AC and a heater.
• Buses have seat belts but no clutches. The bus I went in had an automatic load lifter, the driver just put the luggage on the cart and it automatically lifted and placed it in the bus! They also have strange abstract things like hand-sanitizers and route maps.
• Buses also have inbuilt GPS so you can track their location from your cellphone. This technology is actually useful when during hasty mornings, every minute counts. Also during winter so you don’t need to wait out there freezing yourself.
• Speaking of tech-freakiness, weather apps on your cellphones (unlike the Met department in India) are reasonably accurate, so you need to carry your umbrella only when it says high probability of rains.
• All notes from 1$to 100$ have the same dimensions! A dime (10 cent coin) is smaller than a cent and a quarter (25 cent) is bigger than a dime!
• No one breaks rules, a biker will halt on an empty road in the dead of the night waiting for the red signal to go green. So do pedestrians!
• Its the rule of the (Indiana) state that vehicles should yield to pedestrians. That makes it possible (and fun) to cross the road when a speedy car is approaching us and we can continue walking without the fear of being run over.
• Its impolite not to hold the door open for the person walking behind you.
• Squirrels here have no stripes on them, guess they haven’t been blessed by bhagwaan Shree Ram!

Overall, things might appear exciting and “cool” for a newbie (fresh-off-the-boat is the term) but soon, you realize life is totally predictable. I miss the uncertainty of Mumbai – those sporadic torrential rains which have served an excuse for the delays of millions of office-goers, the traffic-jams which teach you what patience is, and the crowd in the morning local trains that teach you what life is all about – Survival!

Its been more than a month since I have been in the US and things are pretty much falling in place. I happened to experience a fantastic thing that occurs every semester in the American universities, which I am going to describe in this post. Its called the “job fare”. Companies – big and small – come on predetermined days to universities where they are given places to set up their stalls.Graduate students in search of jobs or internships submit their resumes and the better ones are called for interviews and stuff.

Simple as this may sound, you may wonder what my role here might be, since I am a research student and not really looking for a job. The previous day, I went to Walmart with Aditya. I looked up at an insulated cup and exclaimed, “I’d buy this but its too expensive.” He asked me to wait until tomorrow, the day of the job-fare.

Inside a huge lush green garden in the campus, there were about a hundred colorful companies’ stalls and thousands of job-seekers all formally dressed up. On the tables were kept fancy stuff, which you were free to collect. Those interested in jobs / internships had to stand in huge queues and one-by-one reach the stalls, submit their resume and convince the company representatives to recommend their CVs up above the pay-line. Well, I wasn’t interested! And that gave me all the time in the world to collect the freebies. They ranged from pens and pencils to iPhone covers and mousepads.

I was brutal in garnering this free stuff. What could I do, had to prove my Indian-ness out there! Plus, my roomies were standing in those long queues hoping for jobs, so I further had the onus of “dhaap”ing stuff for them too!

After a while, my pockets were full of pens and paper clips and sanitizers so I started filling out my bag with heavier items like insulated mugs and water-bottles and more bags. When my bag too gave way, I went to my office and emptied the bags and pockets and went anew! Later, I got bored (sick, actually) of collecting pens and mint and got a little embarrassed too. But soon enough, I saw a 2x2x2 rubik’s cube (my favorite in the entire loot) and a yo-yo and suddenly my embarrassment disappeared. In fact, I was embarrassed about having gotten embarrassed and started “dhaaping” with a new vigor.

When I went to the Amazon counter, the lady eyed me suspiciously when I tried to grab a torchlight. Hesitatingly, I asked her if I could pick up the torch. She asked my major, I replied Mathematics. Both of us knew Amazon doesn’t hire mathematicians so finally, she was dejected and said, “Go ahead, and take the box too, it contains the batteries”. Well, it was awesome!

At another counter, there were cute little computer mice kept and I couldn’t resist saying, “Oh, a mouse!” The girl there replied, “No, its mint (packet) in the shape of a computer mouse” and I, dejected that it wasn’t a mouse, replied back, “Ohh, its a decoy!” Man, I can’t forget the annoyed look she gave me! Must be really proud of the company she belongs to.

The guy from Michelin tyres was cool. He asked my major and I replied back saying I really wasn’t out there looking for a job but going around, taking pics and.. “… and collecting freebies”, he completed the sentence. “Well, now your publicity is not restricted just to Formula-1 cars”, I said and he agreed wholeheartedly.

With three (free) bags full, I returned to my office. When I brought “some” of the stuff back home, my roomies were overwhelmed especially after I gifted them a SanDisk pen drive, a Schlumberger water-bottle and a John Deere cap. Tomorrow, I have a new MATLAB shirt to wear before going to the second and last day of the job fare!

The whole flight journey from Mumbai airport to Delhi and then to Chicago was an exciting period of twenty odd hours wherein I kept thinking of all of you in India who would have made my journey much more enjoyable. As I absorbed all the jazz and hype around, I also penned down some thoughts while in the plane and at the airport. It may not be a great fun to read and definitely won’t make into any bestseller like “The inscrutable Americans” but its “my” version and soon will find a place on my blog. (It finally has!) So here I go…

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The aircraft is descending to land, I look out of the window and see one of the fifty United States of America. I had expected to see tall skyscrapers, like the ones I had seen in American TV serials like Prison Break. Instead, I saw greenery everywhere! (Perhaps the sky-scene in the TV was New York, I thought. In retrospect, Anurag tells me that the “other” side than the one I landed is mesmerizing, with the tall buildings and all). There were well-planned buildings giving the whole landmass a geometric shape. The insides of these shapes were painted green, by the immense vegetation. (Back in India, before landing to CSI, one sees Dharavi, supposedly Asia’s second-largest slum). I was impressed.

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The immigration formalities all have been done and I’m here inside Chicago airport waiting for the bus to Purdue. Its scheduled after an hour and will take three more hours to reach Purdue.

I sit here looking all around, dazed by the surroundings wondering whether or not to spend my first couple of dollars at the MacDonalds nearby. I finally decide not to, and start writing this memoir.

As I was figuring a way to call up Shaunak asking him to pick me up and to call aai informing her of my safety, I noticed the nearby phone booth. I was curiously looking at it, since I didn’t have any change coins. Soon enough, a fair guy with dark black Indian hair called me and offered to help. He gave me his cellphone and I called up dabad. He turned out to be an Indian from Indore working here.

He soon left for his bus and I sat there looking around. Everything is spotless clean. Not a spec of dust anywhere. Even then, the gore janitors are driving those little vehicles with mops at their bottom, cleaning up the place. “So what, its equally clean at CSI and Delhi airports”, my patriotic mind defended. (CSI is Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport, for those of you who don’t know). I continue thinking what to write.

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Bikash Shakya from Nepal and his family are waiting for the Purdue bus. He is starting a PhD in Biology at Purdue. And he has a wife and a kid daughter to support. This would have been outrageous in India. A man’s foremost duty there would be to fend for his family; personal interests come later. That is why Mr. Raman (name changed because I forgot) is doing his PhD in Electronics at IIT Bombay now after retiring at 60 from his engineering job. In this respect, America is good. Bikash and his family and I are about to board the bus, and I pause writing.

________________________________________________________________________________________

For some reason, I ain’t feeling like changing the Indian time on my wrist-watch to the local time. I prefer calculating the current local time every time I look at it. “This watch will always show IST”, some patriotic whim in my mind screams. The watch, with the UK flag on it, shows Indian time in the US. Is it globalization? Never mind.

I get into a bus and watch American roads. Its perfect, superb, just ideal! Its a superhighway, all vehicles follow traffic rules. Yet there are cameras installed at tollbooths. I passed a construction site and it was pretty much the same as in India. Except that the workers were all in safety-suits and with their helmets donned on. Some time later, I saw a large flat area with thousands of vehicles and a huge signboard that read – America’s auto auction. Pretty cool, man! A few minutes later, I saw a wind-energy-power-plant that went on like miles in both directions. Yeah, miles, gallons, pounds, Fahrenheit, a new Indian will go crazy with the mensuration units here! Wind, solar power, nuke energy and all.. impressive!

A few hours later, I landed at the Purdue airport and Shaunak’s friend came there to pick me up. He was an American and when I told him its my first visit to the US, replied something like “No sh*tting”. I had a tough time following his accent but it was not that bad. Regretting not watching movies in Avdhut and Mali’s room 🙂

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The above was a part of an email I sent to my near-and-dear ones, my friends in India, who I wished time and again would be with me. It would be an altogether fun to experience this with you guys!

Abhishek Parab

I? An Indian. A mathematics student. A former engineer. A rubik's cube addict. A nature photographer. A Pink Floyd fan. An ardent lover of Chess & Counter-Strike.

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### Quotable Quotes

ABHISHEK PARAB
“Do not think; let the equation think for you”

PAUL HALMOS
”You cannot be perfect, but if you won’t try, you won’t be good enough”

ALBERT EINSTEIN
“Don’t worry about your maths problems; I assure you, mine are greater”

THE BEST MATH JOKE
"A comathematician is a device for turning cotheorems into ffee"

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