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Life has Come a Full Circle.

March 2010. NTU Open House.

I am a Freshman in NTU. And it’s my first Open House. I tour the entire campus and see all the places that NTU has thrown open to impress parents and visitors and maybe, Freshmen like me. I come across the Venture Solar Car in the Innovation Lab and decide that one day, I too will go on this amazing journey to build a solar car and then across Australia.

March 2013. NTU Open House.

I am a Final Year Student in NTU. I am now talking to parents and other students from NTU  and various Polytechnics and Junior Colleges about my life in NTU. I am standing in the Quad  proudly showcasing the Venture 5 car built and raced across Australia in the World Solar Challenge 2011.

Life has come a full circle.

Nanyang Venture 5

Nanyang Venture 5

March 2010. Nanyang Auditorium.

I am an invited guest at the Nanyang Awards Ceremony – the highest award the University bestows in recognition and celebration of the outstanding achievements and contributions of faculty and students. I applaud every recipient and wonder how much effort and time they’ll have put in to win the prestigious award.

March 2013. Nanyang Auditorium.

I am at the Nanyang Award Ceremony once again. Only this time, I am not a guest. I am one of the members of the team that is winning the Nanyang Award for Teamwork. TEDxNTU is receiving the award for creating for NTU its own TEDx and doing it so well that it is recognized all over Singapore and has brought much recognition to the University. I now know how much effort and hard work goes into receiving the award.

Life has come a full circle.

Nanyang Award

Nanyang Award

There are so many times when one looks at certain things and a tiny tug inside says “I want to do that.”

There are so many times when one looks at certain people and a tiny tug inside says “I want to be that person.”

There is a different kind of happiness- a deep sense of satisfaction and amazement – when those times no longer remain as whisps of hopes and dreams but become reality.  There is unmatched joy in counting and remembering those times.

Here’s to the times that those tugs in my life became reality.

 

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Australian Travels

I was asked to write an article for the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering magazine about my trip to Australia as part of the Nanyang Venture 5 solar car team. It was quite a crazy time with lots of other things happening (but then when are thing not happening in NTU?) and my first thought was “Really?! A 10 day trip in 2 pages?!”. It was not helped by the fact that one prof walked up to me and said he wanted all the “juicy gossip” that happened on the trip! Right. ‘Cz that’s easy in Singapore! So well, I sat down to write and it was then that i realised that I would always remember the time we started the race, the way we pampered the car along the way and the time we crossed the finish line and had the city cheering for us (or so it felt). What would be lost with time would be small things that kept us laughing the whole night or made an another wise normal and routine day bright and memorable and all those things that kept us going through some really difficult times. So here’s what I finally wrote:

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE OUTBACK, STAYS IN THE OUTBACK… 

No way! It gets special coverage in the MAE Yearbook. *evil grin. Nanyang Venture V – the solar car of NTU stood 12th among 38 Universities in the World Solar Challenge 2011 at Australia. As the team responsible for the car, we learnt a lot of engineering practices and concepts. But we also learnt the following:

Eight Hours is a long Time

Spending 8 hours at Perth Airport isn’t easy. For one thing, it’s a cold 80C outside and the chill hits you in the face like a million pinpricks. So after acting brave for 5 minutes in the chill, you run back into the relative comfort of the airport. All plans to visit the city are dashed to pieces by this one single notice and the fear of missing the connecting flight. A meal at the airport is really expensive so you deicide to settle for a Coke – till you realise that even a Coke can costs AUD 4. That’s when the formerly royal sounding daily food allowance you were getting starts sounding meager. That’s when you realise your journey across the Australian Outback has already begun.

The kind tip on the notice

The kind tip on the notice

Appreciate what your mom cooks – starting with the menu.

Twelve people. Eight days. Tight budget. We took half a day to work out what to eat once we start our journey across the outback. It has to be healthy,filling, non-perishable, long lasting, easy to cook (preferably not need any cooking at all) and easy to store. And it should be tasty. And oh! Do keep in mind the Australian no-fruit fly zone and other limitations! Sitting under the hot Australian sun with a pen and a thermocole sheet (for some reason no one could locate any paper), we listed out recipes we thought we could make, took a general vote and drove to the nearest Coles.When we walked out, I honestly thought we had bought enough food for the population of some mini-city but turns out twelve people can eat a lot. Mid way through the trip, we were left hunting for another super market to stock up more food.

Getting Lost in very Easy

The first day, we missed our very own solar car as it zoomed by on the highway. Our job was to locate the car as it passed on the highway and follow it from there. We waited for nearly four hours before deciding that the car had definitely gone by and we had to track it down. That day we drove for nearly seven hours at a speed of 110kmph. We drove past a dozen or more solar cars feeling good about the fact that our  car was ahead of all those cars. By evening however, we were dying to see our car. We didn’t care how many cars were behind it, we just wanted to see our car and know we were not lost.

What?! No Sun?!

Of the six days of the race, we had sun for only two days- the first and last. Day two saw huge bush fires running wild across the Northern Territory. So, as a control stop of the race burned down and smoke engulfed the highway, the police closed it down and we were made to wait while the fire died down. The results: we spent half a day sprinkling water on the cells to cool them just because we had nothing else to do, spent the next night walking and sleeping over a thick layer of ash which coloured our feet black and designed our own sun dance to ‘please the sun god’ and make it peek through the heavy blanket of smoke clouds.

Raging Bush Fires

Raging Bush Fires

Never Take things for Granted.

So, the car broke down. Not the solar car but one of the support vehicles. We had to stop by at an inn, wait for the whole day while the company sent a replacement car. Having nothing to do, we spent the day Australian style – chilling out with a mug of beer, talking about everything and nothing. At night, we set out to find our team mates driving under the brilliant southern night sky at 140kmph with the windows down and music blasting. We did have the time of our lives.

Meanwhile, our team mates were left without their sleeping bags and tents and huddled up in the car or on the trailer under jackets trying to get some sleep in the chilly night. Life isnt fair, is it ?

Late Night Photography while searching for lost team mates

Late Night Photography while searching for lost team mates

It doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you are fine.

Every night, we had to cook under the singular beam of an LED. Unfortunately, our LED had the knack of attracting all the wildlife around which would buzz and hum around our food and in our plates. We spent one night trying to drive all of them out of the cars and broke a car port on another night while running away from a praying mantis. Then we resigned ourselves to eating with them and maybe, a few of them.

Make Shift Kitchen

Make Shift Kitchen

Flying Pillows isn’t a good thing.

You’d think after days of tying and untying luggage on the overhead carrier of the car, one would become a pro. Then comes this one day when you see pillows flying from the overhead carrier and landing plop in the middle of the highway. You turn back to collect them and make a mental note not to put your precious bag in the carrier but to cram it on your lap – even for a ten hour drive.

An Emu is more scared of you than you are of it.

It’s something to see a kangaroo hop across the road. You slow down the car, stop and frantically try to capture it on your camera. It is something entirely different to bang into one. This frantic emu ran out of the bush and across the road  before we even had a chance to slow down. Result: The poor bird’s head went boink! on the side of the car and it panicked and dashed away even faster. There was pin drop silence in the car for a minute. Then the hilarity of the boink! replays in your head and you burst out laughing. But no, that’s not a nice thing to happen and you really don’t want to end up killing one on the road.

A car cannot outrun a rain Cloud.

So you are in the middle of the desert and you see this huge black mass in the sky. After much discussion, you start wondering if they are rain clouds. But come on! In the middle of the desert with sunny weather forecasts?! Nah! That’s when huge drops of water fall on your wind shield and leave you speechless. You push the accelerator till the no more drops are falling on your wind shield, realise you are driving over the speed limit, slow down and see the damn rain drops again and cursing, throw caution to the speed limit. But well, you eventually end up in the downpour and start missing the hot scalding Sun.

Eleven People isn’t a Crowd.

Our tents were rendered useless as it poured outside and we set out to find rooms for eleven people. The only one we found was one queen size room meant for 5 people. We took it and eleven people had their most luxurious sleep that night. The ‘room’ comprised of two rooms with a separate pantry. After sleeping on rock and ash for a week, that was luxury and paying no heed to ‘evacuation rules’ and all, the team of eleven spent the night in a room for five, had a rare shower and the best sleep in days.

Always Have back up, Then back up your Back Up.

On the last day, all the cars get to drive in at the finish line in style- with the team around the car and people cheering you on. For this special ending, we bought two champagne bottles. We drank none. Our first bottle broke at the feet of a photographer trying to get a better angle for his pictures. The second bottle popped open in the shuttle bus spraying everyone with celebratory champagne a bit too early.

v

The Champagne

To describe the trip in short: It was legen..wait for it.. dary! *wink!

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Determinations.

It is surprising how difficult it is to be regular, to keep at something no matter how much one loves it. But then, it should come as no surprise. Every New Years’, determinations as countless as snowflakes on a wintry day fly around only to melt away as fast as icicles on a leaf exposed to summer rays. Many a solid determinations of mine have melted away too. (Like regularly writing for this blog. But then the summer vacation breeze blew by and all was forgotten.) Which got me thinking:

What is it about determinations that they never fail to fail ?!

Is it a person thing – that some people just walk through and reach the end while others need sign posts and reminders (and occasional yellings) to pull them through? Is it about how passionate you are – so if you wish the stack of work in front of you would vanish when you blink, you are not doing what you love? Or is it just that every once a while, we all need a break – a break to let our minds wander but we let it wander and laze too much ?

I am still searching for an answer to my question. But I do realise one thing. There is no joy, no happiness and no victory in succumbing to this unknown. The word Determination by itself signifies something that is not going to be easy to achieve. If it were, we wouldn’t grant it a word as strong and bold as Determination. Determination stands for a decision made, a strength found to challenge what life throws at us, a dedication to change it to what we want and a will to experience life – complete with its ups and downs.

Which is why, I guess, I am feeling joy and pride as I write this, as I get back to doing something I love. The struggle of giving words to thoughts feels so much more satisying and fulfilling than sitting by and thinking about an abandoned blog. The secret of those beautiful snowflakes is then to redetermine every time like they feel they are melting away.

It’s not winter here but it’s sure snowing where I am!

Resolutions are not for me!

Resolutions are not for me!

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A Happy End to TEDxNTU – The Pursuit of Happiness!

TEDxNTU was a resounding success!

8 amazing speakers. 420 attendees. A day of discovering Happiness.

We knew when we picked the topic that it was a slight risk. Either the event would be a hit or a flop. There was nothing in between these two extremes. The speakers we had picked were renowned and knowledgeable in their respective fields. The success of the event then depended on the way the speakers presented their material. They could either enthrall and educate the audience or put them all to sleep.

Amazingly, the risk paid off! Judging from the response of the audience, during and after the show, each speaker did an amazing job with his/her topic. They were all impressed with the content and presentation of the talks.

Further more, they were impressed that a group of students could organize such an event on such a grand scale in the university in spite of the fact that they do not form a Club or Organization (which usually have more support from the University Administration). We are just a bunch of students doing what we do because we like what we do – and we do it well!

Kicking off TEDxNTU - The Pursuit of Happiness

Kicking off TEDxNTU - The Pursuit of Happiness at Lee Kong Chian Lecture Theater, NTU

Channel News Asia covered the event and I must say, explained the gist of all the talks really well in their article here and video here. Twitter went berserk with people tweeting about the talks and their opinions. People walked up to us repeatedly telling us how much they were enjoying and liking the talks. Yay!

It’s just the third event we have organised and it’s been a blast – for us, the organizers and the attendees. Photos and videos should up soon. Meanwhile, for those who missed the event (tsk tsk!) but do not want to miss what the speakers shared, here’s s a nice write-up for you!

It’s amazing to organize an event which people enjoy and when they can really take back something from it. It brings a kind of happiness – the happiness that one gets from spreading happiness! (also one of the tips that the speakers at the event gave to stay happy).

Looking forward to the next TEDxNTU event scheduled for October!

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Monsoon Nostalgia

It’s been raining a lot here. I left work yesterday evening and it was pouring. I leave for work today morning and it’s pouring. Now, I don’t have an umbrella. (I always promise myself  I’ll buy one when I get wet but then I don’t see the point when it’s bright and sunny – yeah, the grasshopper in ‘The Ant and The Grasshopper’.) Anyway, this means I have been getting a bit wet every time and also, a bit nostalgic.

It’s been pouring here like it pours in Mumbai during monsoons. A white curtain of rain. The  energetic rhythm of the raindrops. The happy dance of the leaves on trees as they have a bath. Colourful umbrellas dotting the roads. Umbrella-less people (I am not the only one) running from shelter to shelter. Nostalgia.

But this isn’t Mumbai so a lot of things are different. I do not have to guess the depth of little ponds that form everywhere. Nor do I have to find little islands here and there and play some weird ‘land and water’ game every time I want to cross the roads. I do not have to worry about trains coming to a halt as the tracks flood. I do not miss any of that.

But I do miss this.

Sitting by the window with a hot mug of coffee and watching the dark clouds loom over the sea. Waking up snuggled up in your blanket and falling asleep to the music of the rain.

Rain Clouds loom over Worli Sea Face, Mumbai

Rain Clouds loom over Worli Sea Face, Mumbai

The sea spray in your face. The wind whipping your wet hair around. Getting drenched with your friends. Jumping into one of those ponds that form everywhere and spraying everyone with water. Throwing caution to every health rule in the book and having chaat and gola by the road. Sneezing the rest of the day thanks to your wet hair but miraculously not falling ill (or sometimes falling ill).

Sea Waves during Monsoon at Marine Drive

Sea Waves during Monsoon at Marine Drive

Mumbai turns magical in monsoon. It’s the breath of life after the burning hot summer. It’s the joy of children playing in the rain. It’s the child inside you as you sometimes close your umbrella just to get drenched wet. It’s that one thing the city loves and hates equally but just can’t live without (literally). It’s the romance that was portrayed in ‘Wake Up Sid’.

Worli Sea Face- The Best Place to enjoy Monsoon in Mumbai

Worli Sea Face- The Best Place to enjoy Monsoon in Mumbai (Photo Credit: Vishal Hanmattekar)

You hate it, you love it. It fills you with joy, it depresses you. But every year, you count down to that day in June when dark clouds will loom over the sea.

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Project Gratitude

Project Gratitude – the one chance for students to Thank their professors and all the teaching and support staff.

We had been working on this event since January. Juggling meetings and IA and crazy time lines, I had designed a banner and posters for the publicity. The others had arranged for beautiful bookmarks as gifts and cards with waterpaintings and all the logistics for the three day event in the midst of their lectures and assignments.

The event was an amazing success! We got nearly 400 responses from students thanking their professors, the admin staff and even the laboratory assistants! We ended up clipping coloured papers in the card so everyone could fit their wishes in!

After the three day event started the work of segregating the cards and handing them over to each person! And all of that has been done within few days of the event! Must say, I had a dynamic team!


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A Touch of Glamour

Building a solar powered car and racing it at the World Solar Challenge in Australia has been the best thing I have done as yet in my University life. At the risk of sounding geeky, it taught a lot about engineering and how theory is never practical. Secondly, it is the craziest most adventurous thing I have done – including hiking in the Himalyas. Six days on the road, roughing it out like some Nat Geo reporter – now that is the fun side of engineering! Thirdly, all the photo shoots and dinners in celebration of our achievement!

The latest photo shoot was for the University brochure. I thought it would be a quick affair – you come, they tell you to smile with your awesome car, snap you and say good bye. After all, engineers are far flung from glamour. Damn, I can be stupid.

A professional make-up artist spent at least 20 minutes on my face and hair giving me a what I can only say was a Singaporean-style make up. I swear I could not recognize myself in the mirror – all my Indian features had been hidden under foundation and eye shadow. But I loved what she did to my hair! She poked a few pins here and there and let them flow – soft and wavy. And to think I take ages to comb my hair.

And then we posed. One for the solar car team – me in the car poking around testing some electrical parts. Another two as a student model – showing happy students around campus going to class, discussing their courses or just hanging around.

It was one hell of a day! Every now and then, the lady would run up touching up our hair or eye liner. And then the cameras would click! I won’t deny it. I loved being the star that day!

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