This is how I survived my Ph.D.

“Doctor” – a word that is linked not only to knowledge and respect but also to agony, frustration, and perseverance. If you have just started your Ph.D. programme or are planning to enroll yourself into one then this post is for you.

To understand what to expect from your journey as a Ph.D. student you must have read a lot of blogs and most articles have similar suggestions – be persistent, sincere, and consistent.  I can also say the same things because it is true that only a sincere student can obtain a Ph.D. with his/her honour and sanity intact – latter may not always be true. However, I have some additional suggestions; few things that I learned from my experience.

A common pitfall is to think that Ph.D. is nothing but a longer master’s degree. I know a person who thought the same and is now struggling. A master’s degree typically takes 2 to 3 years, which means that the research project is not exhaustive, has clear-cut goals, and you can actually see the end of the degree programme even before you start your research project. On the other hand, a Ph.D. project demands extreme level of commitment and is not for the light-hearted. Even though the Ph.D. research project may have well-defined objectives, very often the ways to address the objectives are open-ended and require creative methods and techniques to arrive at conclusions that are based on robust reasoning. Since a doctoral work has to be novel, most students work in uncharted territories; trying their hands on new techniques and developing novel and creative methods. And any Ph.D. student can tell you this that trying a new methodology begins with a very common problem – the crucial machine that you were going to use is out of order and the supervisor doesn’t have enough grant money to get it fixed immediately. Next problem – the methods that you read in a research paper and thought were easy do not work. As a result, you end up spending a lot of time just standardizing the experimental protocols which extend your timeline and the end of the tunnel is almost never in sight. Eventually, a Ph.D. turns out being not only about your domain knowledge but also about the test of your creativity – how you use a neglected syringe and a piece of PVC tubing to filter culture media when the vacuum pump was blown out. The toughest part of Ph.D. for me was to wake up every morning to work in the lab without the end of the degree in sight. My Ph.D. could have taken anywhere from 3 to 8 years, or maybe I would have never ended getting a Ph.D. if my hypothesis and reasoning were faulty. So how do you keep yourself functional without knowing if your efforts will bear fruit?

First thing – understand and accept that Ph.D. is a life in itself and needs strong commitment. Most marital relationships don’t even last as long as a Ph.D. degree programme. So, keep everything else secondary and commit yourself to your Ph.D. research for at least 5 years. But like every relationship, your matrimony with your research can develop strains and spicing it up may help. So develop a hobby. Teach yourself a new art. Get involved in a social activity that does not require serious time commitment because research is still your legally wedded wife and adultery is a sin in the eyes of the Ph.D. Gods. I could not get into a romantic relationship because of my research but I used to talk to my parents every day. Also, my best friend was always available to talk to me about random shit. In the 3rd year of my Ph.D. I taught myself photoshop and how to use a DSLR. It was perhaps the best decision of my Ph.D. life. I chose street photography. I am an introvert and going out on streets and taking pictures of random people was challenging for me. I forced myself out in the streets and overcame my hesitation with people. It has helped me even in my professional career – I am better at approaching people and as a result, I have collaborated with quite a few of them which has resulted in co-authored publications. Every time I would get overwhelmed with my research I would take pictures and make some creative changes to it in photoshop. I have a curated Instagram page (@jamwalankur) where I post my best work and words of appreciation from my followers or random visitors to my page have kept my spirits buoyed. I also look at how I have progressed with my photography skills over the time which makes me appreciate myself.

Apart from photography, I learned to read music sheets and play a bit of classical guitar. Music is a great way to overcome the worst of the days. Learning an instrument is not easy but your little progress can pull you out of your misery. I also traveled a lot. Now how can you travel while you are a student? Work hard in the lab, generate a lot of meaningful data and present it at foreign conferences. I always used to take 2 to 3 personal days after conferences. Since the travel to the site of conferences is usually sponsored by the supervisor, university, or the conference organizer, reaching and returning from the travel site is covered. While attending conferences I never stayed in a hotel and instead lived in hostels or rented a place through Airbnb. This allowed me to connect with more travelers and enjoy the secrets of the cities that the people living in fancy hotels do not know about. I was also lucky to travel to the Arctic because of a collaborative project and got some amazing photos (check them out on my Instagram page @jamwalankur).

In the end, when I look back at my journey towards earning a doctorate, I see my path dotted with beautiful experiences that always overpowered the trap of negativity that a Ph.D. project may bring with it sometimes. Oh yes, one more advice – avoid negative people. All Ph.D. students are under a lot of stress and I am more than happy to sit with another miserable student and make jokes about our miseries. However, I am not willing to let another student tell me about his/her miserable life and make me feel bad about my choice of doing a Ph.D. Be selfish and stay away from negative people. They need a therapist and it is not your responsibility to make them feel better. I had one such friend who would call me at random hours and tell me how Ph.D. sucks. At first, I thought that as a friend and a fellow Ph.D. student I should lend my ears to this poor chap but then I began realizing that he was making me sad and depressed. So I stopped taking his calls. I have heard that he is still miserable, rolled back from Ph.D. to a masters degree, had serious issues with his supervisor, has not finished his master’s degree even after 3.5 years, and continues to drive people out of his life. So I think it is better to leave such people in the hands of professional therapists. Rather enjoy your life towards earning a doctorate with pride and learn few more fun skills so that when you finally defend your thesis you know how to impress people with not just the powerpoint presentation of your data.


India’s banking system is failing the common you and me

India lost the finals of ICC Champion’s trophy; a cricket tournament that many believe is a mini World Cup. I don’t care much about India losing this tournament anymore. I loved cricket once. I loved it to such an extent that I would rather watch Sachin, Ganguly, and Dravid bat than study for my exams. However, later in my life I fell in love with fisheries sciences and began spending more time reading books, and gave less importance to sports that others played. The same education took me from shore-to-shore and I got to see a whole new world with my own eyes. In the year 2012, I received an international scholarship from Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for a Ph.D. programme in Canada. I was excited. However, there was a catch – to obtain the scholarship I had to furnish a bank guarantee of U.S. $10,000 in favour of ICAR. This meant that I was required to deposit U.S. $10,000 in a bank, and sign a legal bond saying that if I failed to finish my Ph.D. the entire sum would be transferred from my account to ICAR. My father had just switched his business from electronics repair to selling bags, and we did not have that much money. I also needed money to obtain passport, VISA, study permit, English language proficiency certificate, warm clothes, and even more money to pay for my room rent and tuition fees because I would be receiving money from ICAR only after one month after reaching Canada (I also had to eat, so needed money to buy groceries). I was worried about losing the opportunity but my parents felt guilty of not being able to provide me enough for my education. I could have probably lived without a foreign degree but my father would have never. I decided to go from bank to bank and ask them for loan against whatever we had. My mother was ready to sell her gold but we did not even have enough of that either. We owned a house on a large patch of land that was clearly worth more than ten times the money we needed.

I took all the documents to show to the banks that we owned the house and we were willing to obtain a loan of only $10,000 against it. Every bank refused. It was the month of June – peak summers – and I walked, to every bank, far and near, begging for money. Even though we owned the house, I was made to feel as if I was begging like a peasant from a Premchand’s novel. Most banks thought it was too risky to put our house against the loan and they did not want the hassle of auctioning it in the event of my failure to meet the necessary requirements of the bond. Every bank wanted a 100% cash deposit that I did not have. A bank officer even said that there is no guarantee that I would finish my PhD degree, and that I might just fail one of the exams. I showed him all the gold medals I had received for being University topper in my bachelor’s and master’s degree to which he said, “what if happens to you (he meant I died), and not finish the degree”. I cried within. I really did not want my parents to be thrown out of their home. That would be too much for them to tolerate if I were to die.

After being turned away by all the banks, my father did what he would have never done – he asked his elder brother to loan us the money. My father knew that by doing this his brother would never miss an opportunity to make us realise that he ‘owned’ us and we were worthless. But he was ready to do that for my sake. Within a day the money was transferred to my account by my uncle. Now, all the banks were more than happy to prepare a bank guarantee for me. Some banks even wanted me to open a foreign currency account with them. I receive calls from such bank even now but I still have a plain savings bank account. I save a lot from my scholarship and when I look back I realise that had the banks allowed us a loan, I would have paid it back to them with interest in 18 months. But, the banks would have not wanted that. They want, in all the cases, to earn money. Pure bloodsuckers. Today I hate to even look at the banks.

So, when India was playing the ICC Champion’s trophy I was still not watching the game; however, I was intrigued by the presence of Vijay Mallya in the cricket stadium in England. Vijay had taken millions of dollars as loan from banks, defaulted on all of them, and fled India to escape being incarcerated. On one hand I am amused to see how people admire Vijay Mallya for fooling the banks, on the other hand I am angered to see that banks trusted a businessman, and lent him millions but each of those banks refused to loan me just $10,000 against a collateral that was far more valuable. As I said before, I am not interested in cricket but I have still not forgotten the humiliation I received from the banks.

Why the March for Science?

Sketch22616543.pngMarch for science is a way for the scientists to make themselves heard and perhaps, to make the general public realise that the independence of science is under threat. But, what has happened recently that is so wrong that the scientists had to leave their laboratories and field work to protest on the streets. Why is it that the general public is talking about issues such as terrorism, feminism, LGBTQ rights, freedom of expression but not the independence of science? The reason is that the scientific community has failed to create a face of its own to promote its achievements. Let me explain this further. We all eat food and thank the local grower, farmer, and even acknowledge the agro-companies for nature’s bounty. However, how many times do we, even the scientists, think about the efforts of grad students, science technicians, and principal investigators? I am writing this article on a laptop that has a beautiful 4K touchscreen and is running hundreds of processes in the background, and you are reading this on some kind of an electronic gadget that is equally awesome and far more capable than a typewriter. However, the manufacturers such as Apple, Dell, Samsung have become the face of this technology, and very little thought is given to the engineers working day-and-night to bring to us the technologies that are making our life easier. In fact, everything around us and beyond our sight, from a nano-bead in your face wash to a giant spaceship, has been made possible by the scientific community. I even know some scientists who model the properties of ceramic so that our coffee mugs have better design and strength. When everything around us is a gift of scientific research, then what has happened that scientists are on streets demanding the right to conduct better science without political interference? Probably we all have taken things for granted, and unless the scientists come up with something such as the discovery of gravitational waves, it does not make news headlines. Although, a common person may not even appreciate the importance of the discovery of gravitational waves.

March for science is not in response to the latest developments only, but it is an outburst of scientists who have been tolerating wrong science policies since a long time. For a large part, the scientific fraternity is responsible for the current situation. Scientists, for some reason, have lived with the belief that the only way to serve science is by working tirelessly. They have distanced themselves from the political and corporate labels which are the most effective vehicles of public outreach. Strangely, the scientists are also expected to be non-believers or atheists. This is probably because scientific discoveries have usually contradicted the orthodox religious beliefs and the orthodox, religious society has felt threatened by the logical thinking. Since the political system and working of the political class of the western hemisphere have been influenced by the religious movements, the mistrust between politicians and scientists has continued to exist even today. Moreover, most scientists believe that getting into politics is dirty and requires losing moral values. The scriptures from ancient India tell us that scientific research was a big part of their civilization. However, only the famous scientific philosophers (sages/rishis), or the philosophers inducted in the royal advisory group received funding from the ruling emperor; rest of the rishis had to send their students to ask for donations (bheeksha) from the citizens. Fortunately, the philosophers and their students were revered in ancient India and donating to them was considered a pious job. In return, the ancient philosophers kept themselves detached from worldly pleasures so that the public did not blame them for enjoying on the public donations. Unfortunately, the public still expects the scientists to remain detached from the pleasures of the world, politics, and religion. In many countries, the professors are not well paid, and all they receive from the society is respect. Even the scientists have complied to this public notion and have remained detached from interfering in political decisions and governance. This means that the scientists lack the lobby to influence our lawmakers. For example, a company that manufactures nuclear reactors will have a lobby to influence the lawmakers; whereas, the nuclear scientists are expected to wear white coats and work tirelessly in the R&D facility. If the nuclear scientists need a pay hike, they will have to request the business heads, who will then find out a way to influence the government to loosen their purses. Universities and educational institutes are the largest employers of scientists and science teachers. Who lobbies for them? If a province or a state’s budget is in the red, the university budget is the first to be reduced. The administrators of the universities then pass on the budget cuts to the departments conducting engineering and basic science research. Consequently, we are in a situation where a scientist is expected to wait for the breadcrumbs that the corporates and politicians throw at them. The society does not care much because scientists do not strap bombs on their chests or shoot people to attract attention to their cause. Instead, the scientists work day and night in silence to make everybody’s life better. Also, the scientists will never take up violent means to get themselves heard because their analytical skills are better and they understand that violence brings no good. However, the time has come when the scientists will need to walk on the streets and make the public aware of the importance of scientific research and that it needs money. Scientists will also have to do a better job of communicating the importance of research in basic science. The public usually does not have access to science magazines and journals; they read blogs, newspapers and tabloids. Social networking websites will have to be used in a much better way to reach the masses. The scientific community will have to stop pleasing the politicians and corporates and will have to come to the streets to justify the cost of expensive instruments and facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider. Above all, the scientists will have to come forward to join politics because they know things better. A march for science is a step forward in that direction but the scientists will have to be more aggressive in putting forward their agenda and letting people know that scientific system has a rigorous system of peer review to weed off pseudoscience, and therefore they can be trusted.

N.B. the comments and thoughts are welcome. I am a student of science and believe that this article can only be improved through a peer review process.

To that second reviewer: please tone down your harsh comments 😛

Rambling thoughts on Darwin’s birthday

I live in Saskatoon (somewhere in Canada) where I have experienced temperatures as low as -450C and I am convinced that this is not the place where nature wanted humans to live: we are invaders from tropics. I am also convinced, from the stories that my parents tell me of my sickness as a child, that I am also not the nature’s favoured one to have seen last 29 winters. A lot of us are surviving today not because of our physical or genetic fitness, but because of mental capabilities of millions of scientists who have been developing medicine, heating/cooling systems, water filters and what not. Clearly, “survival of the fittest” does not apply only to an individual, but to a population that is ready to fight, physically and mentally, the challenges thrown by nature. I am stretching my thoughts and after enough elasticity I ask myself if mental advancement is the real means to long term survival of a race of biological species? Cockroaches have survived more than 300 million years with just about 1,000,000 brain cells in comparison to humans with about 1,000,000,000,000 cells who have been inhabiting this planet for only a fraction of that time.1 (Not to mention Katsaridaphobiafear of cockroaches in humans).

A normal population curve of naturally fit people (fig. 1) would tell us that the proportion of a population that is naturally fit to survive is very small. A large proportion of population falls under the mediocre category; such individuals may survive but are not the favoured ones as they may lack some characteristics that would eventually be their Achilles heel on the day of judgment. The same curve would also tell us that only a very small proportion of our population is smart enough to contribute to our collective wisdom that helps us to develop technologies for human survival. Therefore, we can say that while a very small proportion of population is fit enough to survive on its own, the rest of the humanity is simply riding on the wisdom of very few geniuses. In other harsher words, our human population primarily consists of weaker people like me who would have not survived had it not been for those very few smart guys.

While I was waiting to join my current lab as a PhD student I tried my hand with growing vegetables. What I figured out was that to make Earth produce food is a tough job and my arms were too weak for that. This simply translates to the fact that some of us would have died of hunger had it not been for some unknown farmers who are sweating it out for people like me. Now, I am not a believer of those apocalypse prophesies but I do believe that there will be a time when the fitness of our population will be tested. On that day humans will be pitched against many other species. Competition will be severe. But, I believe that human race will clip_image002survive because of those few fit people. I am already proud of them.




Fig. 1: The bell curve showing normal population frequency (Handmade!!!)

Biologists are usually good cooks


Few weeks back in my department we organised an event called “The Great Curry Cook Off”. For this people had to sign up to prepare curries that others paid to eat and at the end of the event people who had paid to eat would vote for the top 2 preparations. I decided to make chick peas. About a year and a half ago I didn’t even know how to boil rice and here I was cooking for a competition. Though I did not win, I knew that my curry was great. One big lesson was that biologists working in lab can be great cooks.


Let me explain.

If you are a biologist and work in a research lab then you definitely follow protocols that require long lists of ingredients. Some ingredients have to be prepared fresh while you are working on some other step of the protocol –  multitasking is important here. Few chemicals have to be protected from light and shock, and a lot of them have strict thermal requirements. Your time management skills are very important so that you add each ingredient at the perfect time to continue your reactions in a way that you want. I cannot emphasise the importance of your patience which a lot of us run out of. In short, as a biologist, you deal with a very complex cooking recipe which has to be served to a large number of audience in the form of peer reviewed journals and you better be good else the reviewers are always trying their best to kick your bu** hard.

Now, just like cooking a dish, where does a biologist get the recipe for experiments? They probably get it from senior lab mates or researchers (mothers and grandmothers in case of cooking). Lot of biologists take protocols from peer reviewed research papers (cookery books in case of cooking). In an ideal world, which a PhD student wished (s)he lived in, all these protocols and cooking recipe should work in the very first shot and give the desired results with no error bars; after all these protocols have worked for the rest of the world. However, we all are hit hard by the reality – protocols suck. Another reason why a biologist could be a better cook is that when they follow a protocol in lab they make sure that the function and importance of each step and ingredient is known – what if an external examiner decides to ask you a question on the importance of annealing temperature in a PCR reaction. Similarly, when a biologist is in kitchen (s)he knows the function and effect of each spice, ingredient and cooking conditions such as heat and stirring which leads to a better cooked dish.  Hence, it’s the intuition, time management skills, and most importantly patience that makes biologist a master chef. A biologist also knows that every time an experiment is repeated the error bars tighten up (Error α  1/n) and the same wisdom is applied in kitchen. Therefore, the skills that  biologists learns in lab helps them to make tastier food provided they are left with enough energy at the end of the day to cook and they supervisor pays them enough to buy proper monthly groceries.

Creating Indian flavours in Canada

You are what you eat is what they say and I am an Indian. Born and brought up in India I was fed only on Indian food or Indianised version of any other food. So, my veins pretty much carry Indian curries and I smell like a spice garden. On September 3, 2013 I left India for Canada. Before this I had never entered a kitchen with an intention to cook or to even attempt to learn to cook. Mothers always worry when their children leave them and my mother’s biggest worry was my food. She would tell people, “this boy cannot even make chai properly.” So, when I landed in Canada I needed two things very badly: a good sleep, and food. Sleep was the easy part and for food, initially I managed to survive on whatever I could buy from cafeteria and food court in my University. But, the concentration of Indian spices in my blood was declining sharply and I was craving for Indian food exactly in a manner a drug addict craves for a shot. Only solution was to cook.

On my first weekend I decided to go for groceries. At this juncture the biggest problem was to decide what to cook. I have eaten hundreds of India food items and I didn’t know to prepare even one. So standing on the aisle of Indian food at the Superstore I was like a thirsty man caught in the middle of an ocean: water everywhere but not a single drop to drink. I perhaps could boil rice, I bought it. I might need condiments and salt, I thought, so I bought them. But, the real craving was for some curry, dal or sabzi. This is where I was stuck. A boy who had never entered kitchen would never know how raw lentils look like. I didn’t even know what they were called. After few minutes of deliberation with myself I picked chicken thighs, and two random lentils.

It was Saturday night and I was about to cook for the first time. When I was at Superstore, I had only one major question-what to cook. Now, when I was about to cook I had an ocean of questions. I had to boil rice. First question, how much rice is required for one person. Second question, how much water is to be added. Third question, for how long does it stay on heat. Finally, when the rice was boiled, last question- who the hell is going to eat it. I had added extra water, overcooked it and had it even remotely looked edible, probably 10 people could have eaten it . That night again I was found at the Subway eating a 6inch. I had not given up though. Laptop is one of my best friends and it came to rescue again.Next day I looked up on YouTube how to prepare lentils that I had bought and I had a decent meal prepared. That was perhaps the most satisfying meal I have ever had in my life. That day I was convinced that internet is the best invention of mankind after wheel and YouTube is a life saver. It has been over a year since then and I have often found myself creating Indian flavours in Canada. Now, I don’t even have to look up recipes on YouTube; I can recall taste and texture of the food I had eaten and can prepare the same thing in my kitchen. I am proud of myself and Indian food. Here are some of the things that I have prepared over the last year. There are lots of videos available on YouTube but I will share the ones that, I found, would give the best results with less effort.

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Tandoori chicken. I had bought boneless chicken and this was the first chicken item I looked up on YouTube. This tandoori chicken does not look the way you may find in restaurants but it tastes far better. Had spices to the heart of the piece. This video uses some kind of a Gas tandoor but I baked it in a normal oven.



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Chilli chicken. This is one of the most famous Indo-Chinese dishes that you will find in almost all the restaurants in India. It is really simple to cook and tastes amazing. Beware of splattering of oil when you fry chicken.




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The bread that you see in this picture is called lachha parantha which I bought from a local Indian groceries store. But, the curry that you see is a chicken item prepared in the way my mom prepares it. You will not find any recipes for this item on internet because this type of chicken is prepared only in a very small pocket of region to which I belong. The recipe, in short, is as follows. We evenly chop onion. You would need as much onion as the weight of your chicken. Also add chopped ginger, finely chopped garlic, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and some whole dry red chillies along with onion. Fry till onion melts into the oil. Flame has to be medium-high. Add lots of evenly chopped tomatoes and cook until they loose all the moisture and oil begins to separate out from the ingredients. At this juncture add red chilly powder, garam masala, salt, turmeric powder, ground pepper. Cook for 5 mins with constant stirring. Add chicken pieces. Cook properly. The preparation at this moment will look like the one in picture and this can be eaten with roti or bread. But, some people like to eat it with rice so add some water and do not forget to season the final product with chopped cilantro leaves.


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Palak paneer. This is one of the most famous paneer (cottage cheese) items prepared in a thick and rich sauce of palak (spinach). Tastes best with Naan or plain parantha.





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Dum aaloo. This I prepared along with a friend and tastes amazing. The gravy is made from yogurt which gives a mild taste along with the hotness of spices added to prepare it.





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The star of this plate is Karele ki sabzi. This is the greenish item you see on the plate. It is prepared from bitter gourd/melon. I usually hate this vegetable but the way this guy has made it in the link that I am sharing here is amazing. Do try this.





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Sewain ki kheer. My aunt makes this and that is best sewain ki kheer I have ever had.







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Aaloo ka parantha. If you have ever been to North India then it is impossible that you have missed this guy. Aaloo ka parantha is the star of North Indian breakfast items. I did not see any recipes for this. I imagined the ingredients and came up with this delicious parantha (stuffed bread). To make this first we need to prepare stuffing. Boil some potatoes, mash them, add salt, finely chopped green chilies, finely chopped ginger, finely chopped onion, some garam masala, some ground pepper, some red chilly powder, cumin seeds, coriander seed powder and finely chopped mint leaves. Prepare a homogenous mixture. Now, knead wheat flour into a soft dough. Take big ball of dough and slightly flatten it so as to place the filling mixture in it’s centre. Cover the filling from all sides in the same dough so that you get a ball of dough filled with mixture in its centre. Roll it gently. Cook it on high heat over a pan with gentle patting of oil or butter.

Now I can make paneer (cottage cheese) ka parantha, gobhi (Cauliflower) ka parantha and methi (fenugreek leaves) ka parantha as well. (I am sorry if it sounds a bit of self praise, I am happy that I can feed myself some good stuff)


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Kadhai Paneer. Goes great with cocktails.





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Roti. Roti is the most commonly eaten bread in India and I am especially proud of myself that I know how to make it. Ask an Indian and he would tell you how tough it is to make a roti for a novice. The trick starts from preparing wheat dough that is of the right consistency and has been properly kneaded. Then everyone cannot roll this thing into a good round shape. Finally, making the rotis puff is the most tricky part. My rotis puff each time now and this is what makes them soft, healthy and easy to digest. I can not write down the real trick to get soft, puffed rotis because the texture of dough can only be felt. I have taught this to a friend of mine who would jump every time the rotis would puff. Actually even I jump to see my rotis puff. Oh! I am so proud of it.



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Vegetable Biryani. It is Diwali today and this is how I treated myself on this day. Here is the video that you can watch to learn this delicious rice item. I am sorry this video does not have English subtitles but they do mention all the steps in English as she cooks.



Now I realise that it is not easy for a mother to cook food for a family. Just deciding what to cook is frustrating and when each family member demands different taste, the task becomes much more difficult. But then moms are the most efficient beings on Earth we all love them. My mom is happy to know that I am eating well. Since the cooking has been sorted out, I need to figure out one important thing – my PhD.

Should India and Pakistan be proud of Nobel Peace Prize 2014?

Being awarded a Nobel Prize is the biggest form of recognition and appreciation for anyone. The cause of humanity is forwarded by many foot soldiers who work hard so that life on this earth could be better. I am a student of science but I believe that no science can progress without a touch of humanities and thus for me Nobel Peace Prize holds a special status. The Nobel Prize for Peace goes to someone who does an outstanding job in making this place better to live for a life without peace cannot contribute anything worthwhile. This year’s Nobel peace prize was jointly awarded to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi. If you are reading this post then chances are that you already know who Malala is and what has she done to be awarded the most honourable prize on this Earth. Mr. Satyarthi, on the other hand, is a person who has worked hard for years for the cause of abolition of child labour but had never been under the radar of media. I am a big news junkie but had never heard or seen his name in any news. After reading about the work Malala and Kailash have done there is no doubt that they deserved such an honour. Their efforts are worth being appreciated at the highest level. But, should Pakistan (country to which Malala belongs) and India (Kailash is an Indian and works in India) be proud of the achievements of their fellow citizens? Yesterday I saw a picture on twitter where Pakistanis were not only boasting of Nobel prize being awarded to a “Pakistani daughter” but they were also bragging about the counts of muslims who have been awarded the honour. India is also not less gloated about the achievement of Mr Kailash. Thankfully though, his achievement has not yet been coloured with the paints of religion.

I come back to the same question again – despite the outstanding work done by Malala and Kailash and being recognised at the highest level should India and Pakistan be proud of this achievement? I asked this question to myself and my answer is No. I don’t think that Indians and Pakistanis should be proud of their citizens being awarded Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, I feel ashamed. Malala had to take bullet in the head for forwarding a noble cause of educating girls and Mr. Kailash has spent his life saving children who had to burn their childhood slaving to earn money for their families. Had India and Pakistan protected the rights of its children these two personalities would never had to do what they did and would have never been awarded Nobel Peace Prize. An Indian and Pakistani being awarded Nobel Prize for peace simply means that these two countries have serious problems that took extraordinary efforts by some human being to tackle. Other Indians and Pakistanis have failed in their duties to protect the right of their children which is why some individual had to do take up the job. Being an Indian I feel that I failed to fulfill my duty and I am indebted to the likes of Mr Kailash for doing the job that I should have done.

If someone from some country wins a Nobel in science it means that the country has good education system and environment that fosters development of research. This is definitely a recognition of good. Everyone should be happy to know that their country has capabilities to shape talent into useful resources for the welfare of everyone. Nobel peace prize on the other hand is a recognition of chaos in this world and the Nobel peace prize of 2014 is a recognition of some serious issues in India and Pakistan. As a kid I knew many households that had children working from Indian states like Bihar and Odisha. They had to work as much as an adult but were paid just a fraction of the sum that an adult would ask. Such kids can never attend schools nor do they ever get time to play. Some are even caned if they are slow with work or cannot not work as per the expectations.

Children don’t steal, they don’t run away, they are afraid to disobey orders, and they don’t rape or murder their masters. Children are easier to enslave and thus the business of child labour thrives well in many parts of the World. But, the condition has improved a lot – at least in India. Stricter laws, media campaigns and surprise checks by Govt has put things under better control though there are more miles to cover. Educating a girl child is still a big issue in many parts of the world. In many Asian and African countries girls are not considered as money earners and are just trained to do household chores. The situation is worse in regions with traditional and extremist Islamic beliefs as traditional Islam proscribes women from going out in public and get education, especially non-religious education. Again, situation has improved a lot but many people like Malala still have to endanger their lives everyday to make the lives of other girls better.

I would say that Malala and Mr Kailash deserve all the recognition for the difference they have made in the society and they should be congratulated. But, India and Pakistan being the workplace of these activists have no reason to cheer and should work tirelessly to eliminate the reasons that forced Malala and Kailash to do what they do.

(The picture of Nobel medallion has bee taken from Wikipedia and I do not own the copyrights: The medal design itself is in the public domain in the United States, because it was published before 1923. It remains under copyright in its country of origin (Sweden) until 2037 (the first full year after 70 years following the death of sculptor/engraver Erik Lindberg (1873—1966)). The design is a registered trademark owned by the Nobel Foundation.)