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Stockholm.. As I know it..

When my husband came home from work one day ,and asked me whether I could accompany him to Sweden on an official trip in the month of April/May, I answered ,”Well, Maybe..” But who am I fooling? There was no way I would miss that opportunity . So, from that very moment, I started planning our trip. After many hurdles and uncertainities, we embarked on our journey on the 6th of June,2019 (yeah.. not in April/May 🙂 )

This was our ,then 4 year old daughter’s ,first international trip but luckily she happily slept through the whole journey of 15+ hours of plane travel. When we landed in Arlanda Airport, Stockholm on a bright sunny afternoon, I had already fallen in love with the place. The thought that this is where I would spend the next 3 weeks was enough for me to forget how tired and sleep deprived I was, with days/weeks of preparation and overnight travel. June is one of the best months to visit Sweden, as summer formally sets in and the weather is rather pleasant, with occasional rains. (Swedes tell me that June is unpredictable and I just got lucky)

Flemingsberg

The first week of our stay was in Flemingsberg, one of Stockholm’s neighbouring counties, about 17 kms from city center. It was far away from the hussle and bustle of the city . We would go on long strolls at night, through the wonderfully landscaped campus of Karolinska Institutet, which was just across the road from our hotel (Attendo Park Hotel). A good part of being in Sweden is their liberal nature which allows anyone to pass through any property. It all feels like one single land and its tough to define physical boundaries. Our days in Flemigsberg were pleasant, with a lot of time to spend with my daughter and to take her around ,while my husband went to work. It felt very safe and welcoming. Visit to Flemigsberg Centrum was a daily routine , to buy groceries and we struggled each day with all items labelled in Swedish. Bottled drinking water was the toughest to find. Most of the racks were filled with “Sparkling water”, or soda (as we call it) and finding plain drinking water was like searching for a needle in a haystack (of course a big needle in a small haystack 🙂 )

The first difference we noticed in Stockholm was the length of the days. From where I come (India), the sun follows a strick time-table of rising between 5:30 to 6:30 am and setting by 6:30pm,throughout the year . In Stockholm, the sun would set much late ,on most days after 9 or 10pm. Even 3 weeks were not enough for us to adjust to this schedule. So, our night strolls felt like day strolls and early mornings felt like mid-days.

That’s almost 10pm in Stockholm

Public transport in Stockholm is exceptional. A single communter card of 335 SEK has a validity for 7 days and gives the luxury to travel in any mode of transport (Bus, Metro, Commuter Train, Light Rail, Tram and even Ferry). And all the counties surrounding Stockholm are well connected to the city center through commuter rail, so are some of the suburban towns like Sigtuna and Upsala.

Stockholm City Sightseeing

Stockholm city is spread across 14 islands (you barely notice this when you are there), where Lake Malaren flows into the Baltic Sea. As any tourist would do,the first place we visited in Stockholm city is Gamla Stan or Old Town. A walk through the cobbled streets and narrow allies of Gamla Stan took us to the Nobel Museum and then to the Royal Palace Museum. We visited most of Stockholm’s attractions using Stockholm Pass, which made it easy for us to walk in and out of the museums without having to wait in a line. Every place in Stockholm looked like a page out of a fairy tale book. It was neat, colourful and unique. We even witnessed a royal parade while on our stroll near the Royal Palace. Most of Stockholm’s attarctions are at walkable distance from each other. To exprience the various modes of transport available, we went to Djurgarden in the Tram (which runs between Central Station and Djurgarden) , panorama tour in a double decker bus, the canals and bridges in a boat and all other places in Metro rail.

I enjoyed the best of Stockholm from the waters. Hailing from Alleppey, code named the Venice of the East, I am familiar with boat tours and the serenity of sightseeing from the waters, and floating through the canals. But what I experienced in Stockholm was beyond my imagination. On our first visit to the city, we booked the Under the Bridges tour , which lasts for 2 hours and 15 minutes. The boat passes under 12 of the bridges in Stockholm and all through the way, explains the history of the city, as we pass along the various attractions in the city. Stockholm is most beautiful when seen from its waters. The lock which connects the Baltic sea to Lake Malaren is one of the novelties I enjoyed. Here you get to experience how to move between two water bodies which do not maintain the same water levels. The second time, we took the Canal Tour, which was good too.

Stockholmers are famous for their love of being outdoors. And this love is enhanced by the presence of large expanses of greenery and parks , so much so that the whole of Djurgarden Island is a park. You pass through the famous blue gate into the Royal gardens of Djurgarden. We visited the Vasa Museum, Skansen open air museum, Grona Lund (the theme park in Stockholm), and the Nordic Museum, all on this beautiful island. Even though we visited this island twice during our stay, we could not cover all the attractions and ABBA museum being one of them 😦 . Vasa museum was what we enjoyed the most and what bored us was the Nordic museum, which became interesting only in the gallery dedicated to the indegenious people of Sweden, the Saami.

Alvsjo and time at home

Stockholm was fully booked, due to the peak of tourist season, when we visited there. Hence we had to split our trip and stay in 2 different apartments/hotels. But I guess it was more fun this way, and we got to explore two very different counties near the city, After about 10 days in Flemigsberg, we shifted to ApartDirect serviced apartments ,which is just a stone-throw away from the Alvsjo railway station and Stockholmsmassan, and just 2 stations away from Stockholm Central. The building was one of the tallest in the vicinity and we stayed on the top-most floor (16th floor),making the view from the apartment something worth all the money we paid. It was more like “living” in Alvsjo, than visiting the place 🙂 . Everyday, as soon as my husband went to work, I would finish cooking and explore all nearby places with my daughter. We would take long walks through the woods and explore the numerous childrens’ parks and shops in the area. We even gave a shot at exploring the library , but couldn’t find books in English. We got lost a couple of times, walked in circles, and had our very own li’l adventures. Kiddo celebrated her 5th birthday in Alvsjo and I hope it stays as a bright and happy memory when she grows up.

Midsummer’s Eve

We were still in Stockholm when Sweden celebrated the Midsummer’s festival on June 22nd. Its a festival which is celebrated in conjuncture with the Summer solstice. We wanted to experience the celebrations and thus decided to visit the Skansen open-air museum for the same. We had time till evening, before the celebrations started, and we used it to visit Grona Lund , an amusement park right across the road from Skansen and adjacent to the famous ABBA museum. As responsible parents ,we only visited the children’s section of the theme park . I assure you,it was not because we are scared of the gigantic roller coasters which were towering over the sea ;).

We had not seen long queues in Sweden, but the entry to Skansen on Midsummer’s eve gave us that experience too. It was painfully slow , but we understood that we were at the right place to celebrate the festival, as whole of Stockholm had assembled there. Midummer’s eve festivities majorly involve, raising the Maypole and dancing and singing around the Maypole. There were special dance-drama performances which were delightful . Making and wearing a floral crown is also part of the day’s specialties. We self-learnt how to do it ,after many unsuccessful attempts. Overall it was a fun filled day of culture and celebrations.

Sigtuna and Mariefred

Sigtuna is the oldest town in Sweden and is about 48kms from Stockholm. It is a must-visit when visiting Stockholm. You just need about 3 to 4 hours to spend in Sigtuna. Its medieval architecture gives it a uniquely picturesque view. There are some churches and ruins too. The bus journey from Marsta station to Sigtuna was like a trip through fairy-land. Rich Scandinavian vegetation and farmlands form the sidelines of the road. But when we reached Sigtuna,it was raining and the weather had suddenly turned chilly. This town, like many others near Stokholm, is built on the shores on Lake Malaren, the primary source of drinking water in Stockholm and adjacent areas. The walk along the shores was soothing and relaxing. We could see many Indian families having their weekly picnics in this peaceful town. Finding a restaurant according to our culinary requirements was tough and we ended up just eating omelets. You would find very less option on the menu in Sweden if you do not eat bacon or pork/ham. Chicken dishes (Kyckling in Swedish), is a rare sight on the menu.

Mariefred is another beautiful town outside Stockholm. Unlike all other places we visited, Marifred could not be reached using the Stockholm Travel card. We had to go to Flemigsberg station and buy a ticket for Läggesta station ,from the ticket kiosk. This got us the experience of long-distance train journey in Sweden. The way from Laggesta station to Mariefred was nothing spectacular, but the town of Marifred was a feast to the eyes. Again, another town in the banks of Lake Malaren, it had numerous marinas and pathways lining the banks of serene water. We felt Malaren was most beautiful when viewed from Mariefred. This town is built around the magnificient Gripsholm Castle, which served as a fortress in the 14th century. It was different from the other castles which we had seen, in its architecture. This was our first time seeing a domed castle. Our daughter was mesmerized and couldn’t help but wonder why the royal family needed so many rooms after all. We witnessed a wedding while on the castle grounds. It felt so simple and cost-effective , unlike great Indian wedding extraveagenza. The best food we ate was in Mariefred, and cost us the least too. We had a few cirpy birds accompany us .

Those 17 days in Stockholm were some of the best, in terms of scenic beauty, calm and fulfilment. Also it was a dream come true to visit this mignificient city with family , during the best time of the year.

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Non-Technical

How I lost you…

Looks like I have lost you… Today, can be counted as one of those dark days in my life.. The day when the world seems upside down.. Words fail me, in explaining what I am being put through…

You have been my true companion all these years.. You gave a meaning to my life. You helped me enjoy the beauty of the world through a different angle. You helped me distinguish, the good from the bad. You made me whole. I knew I would lose you some day. But not so soon. This has hit me out of the blue..

I remember the multiple times you have saved my life. Once from a domestic gas explosion. Another time from the dangerous fumes of ammonia and methane. Whenever someone tried to poison me through food , you came to my aid. I owe you my life..

You always gave me an edge over others. I would be the first one to know when mom was in a good mood. My garden has no meaning without you. In fact, it was all for you. The lovely vanilla plantation at home.. How will I ever get those childhood memories back, now that you are gone..

And our other friends.. Oh. how they would miss you!! Many of them have no existence without you. They have already started to tread their path to doom. When the first mishap hit you 10 months back, we all fought together to get you back. And you did come back..though it left you permanently damaged. We tried hard to keep you from a subsequent attack,which would impair you further. But sorry my dear.. I failed you..

I think I have really lost you this time.. Oh my dear.. “sense of smell”!!!!

Non-Technical

Reflections of my Mind – A Tribute!!

Its been 5 years.. 5 long years since I wrote anything here.. Have terribly missed it. After all these years , it still feels special to be back. To pen down what clogs my mind.

Today.. a drizzly Friday evening.. this is the day I choose. And I choose it for a reason.. My mind is full and brimming.. As I travel back home, after a week of work.. the work that I enjoy.. the work with the people I enjoy being with.. , I feel the urge to finally write J

This is about a part of me.. This is about that something, I hold close to my heart. This is about .. Friendship.. All those friendships I have experienced. This is a tribute to everyone who have accompanied me in my journey so far in life. From the first friends as a toddler to the ones who accompany me for a tea outside office. This is an ode to each one of you.

When I see my lil daughter play with her friend, it’s a reminder of the good times I had with the first friend that I remember of. Never did I realize until many many years later that he was older than me by 5 years. I still remember having bossed over him and always got my way in everything. A successful doctor today, and an even better human being, I am happy that I we are still in contact.

The first girls gang I had was at the age of 5 . We 3 were nothing less than Power-puff girls (or so is what we thought). We were 1 yr apart in age, with me being the youngest. We even took strong resolves and oaths to be followed for the rest of our lives. One such was to never drink tea until the age of 12. A resolve which was followed to the word. We never met each other after the age of 8, when we relocated to India. After 18 long years, Facebook brought us in contact again. Happy to know how your lives have evolved!

Then there were so many friends in school. Some who stayed. Some who just brushed past.  Some who had deep impacts in my heart. We still stay in touch. These are friendships which passed the test of time. Friends whom I can truly rely on. Friends who accept me as I am. Where I never have to act. Love you all for being there in thick and thin. For bearing with all my annoyances. What you mean to me is inexplicable. To all of you my dears.. To the complete BMV gang.. Cheers!! Its here , that I got my first best friend too. You will remain most special till lights out J

In college, did I meet a lot of wonderful people too. The ones who made the boring lectures very interesting. The ones who came over to my home on weekends.. The ones who invited us over for functions in far-off towns.. Ones who taught me its okay  to be crazy. Ones who made me laugh without limits. Ones who were true pillars of support. Someone who stood up for me whenever I needed. Who helped me do everything I thought I could never achieve. Who taught me to believe, nothing is impossible J My dear Amritians.. we might not be in constant contact but you still live in my heart. Am106cs001 to am106cs066 and am106cs0502, I can never forget the time I spent with you.

CEERI.. you brought a new set of wonderful friends with you. Awesome seniors.. Adorable juniors and my dear dear brothers (read as batchmates). If I have survived with you.. I can survive everywhere. J From bearing with my awful Hindi to my boring philosophies.. you have tolerated me day after day. Never have I felt left out, though I was the sole girl in class. I hope we remain the same crazy people we were, the 2 yrs we spent together. Always in touch and taunting each other.

My dear friends at work.. Thanks for accepting me into the group within a matter of days . For trusting me with secrets. For giving importance in your lives. For making me feel at home. For being a motivation to come back to work each day morning. For all the outing we enjoyed. For all walks together.For the very wonderful girls trip to Andamans! For all the tea-break chats. I am not sure where life would take us, with ever-changing nature of our work, but I would never want to lose what we share with each other.

Its rare to have friends inside our family . Meera.. you have and always will be that one person whom I can never get bored talking to. We both got busy with our lives, but we will always remain those kids who know each and every aspect of each other’s life. The ones who share the special bond of life, just like we shared Amma’s womb. We are so similar in all our differences. Couldn’t have asked for a better friend or sister than you.

Friendship never evaded me even in marriage. Having married my very close friend, I didn’t have to explain the importance of all my friendships to him. Dileep.. we met as friends.. we married as friends. Though the dynamics of the relations have changed.. we still are friends.. and need to remain the same till death does us apart. Today you are our daughter’s best friend too.

In all phases of life .. I did have lot of other special friends too. A chat-friend (whom I never met)who is still a good friend even after 13 long years. Another friend with whom I share all my anxieties and worries and brings me back to normal when my levels of stress go out of bounds. Yet another friend who supported me when I needed the most when I was worried about my kiddo starting school J All of you are unique. All of you are an integral part of me…

 

 

Non-Technical

Songs for Programmers

Today while checking my facebook updates I came across a post by one of my friends which I found hilarious and interesting. So posting it here for all of you to enjoy (Can  be well appreciated by people who have a basic experience in computer programming )

Programming Songs:
1. Local variable
Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan,
Iske siva Jana kaahan.

2. Global variable
Musafir hoon yaaron,
na ghar hai na thikana

3. Null pointers
Mera jeevan kora kagaz kora hi reh gaya ..

4. Dangling pointers
Maut bhi aati nahi jaan bhi jati nahin.

5. The debugger
Jab koi baat bigad jaye
Jab koi mushkil pad jaye
Tum dena saath mera hamnawaz

6. From VC++ to VB
Yeh haseen vaadiyan
Yeh khula asmaan
Aa gaye hum kahan

7. Untrackable bug —
aye ajnabi, tu bhi kabhi,
awaaz de kahin se

8. Unexpected bug (esp. during presentation to client)
Ye kya hua, Kaise hua, Kab hua, Kyon hua

9. And then to the client
Jab hua, Tab hua, O chhodo, ye na socho

10. Load Balancing
Saathi haath badhana
ek akela thak jayega
mil kar bojh uthana

11. Modem – talk on a busy connection
suno – kaho,
kaha – suna,
kuch huwa kya?
Abhee to nahin…
kuch bi nahin

12. Windows getting open sourced
Parde mein rahne do
parda na uthao
parda jo uth gaya to bhed khul jayega
allah meri tauba, allah meri tauba

13. Two Recursive functions calling each other

Mujhe kuchh kehna hein
mujhe bhi kuchh kehna hein
pehle tum, pehle tum

14. GOTO
Ajeeb dastan hai yeh
Kahan shuru kahan khatam
Ye manzilen hain kaun si
Na woh samajh sake na hum

15. Hidden or Private scope Variable/value
Jaanejan .. dhoondta phir raha,
Hoon tujhe raat din, main yahan se wahan

Hope you enjoyed the songs 🙂 🙂

Non-Technical

Pilani… PGRPE and one hell of a year….

This post is dedicated to all you wonderful people who made this one year special in Pilani.

Today, the 9th of August, we (read PGRPE) successfully complete one year of our stay in the remotest place any of us had visited-PILANI. Last year in May when I graduated from college as a proud Computer Engineer little did I know that I would have to choose between my 2 loves – Computers and Research. Finally my love for research got the better of me and as a result of an odd chain of events I secured an admission in one of the CSIR(Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) labs under the Post Graduate Research Programme in Engg(PGRPE). The dates for reporting in the campus were from 6th to 9th August,2010. After a lot of worst case scenario simulations my parents decided that it would be best to be in Pilani by 6th August since 7th and 8th were public holidays and we always assume the worst case would come true. So with a lot of apprehensions, anxieties and some hope I boarded the flight for Delhi accompanied by my mom and fiancé. The main reasons for my tension were :
1. I had no background in Electronics and the course for which I was selected was ‘ADVANCED Semiconductor Electronics” (life and its weird ways !!!)
2. I was the only female candidate who made it to the merit list in a class of 10..<sigh..>.

The course coordinator had sent instructions on how to reach Pilani from Delhi. Since we had no acquaintances in Delhi and Pilani was a 5 hour journey from the capital we decided to spend the night in the airport itself. That was a hell of a night without any sleep. The next day morning we reached the famous Kashmiri Gate Interstate Bus Terminal only to be “awed” by the filthy look it had. There was not even a single bus which looked boardable. We finally boarded the 9am bus to Pilani and the travel was tiresome on that hot and humid day. But then I got to see poverty for the first time in my life. Hailing from the state of Kerala which is famous for its uniform development, I had no idea that there were people really living in shacks all over the northern part of my country. I was under the impression that the slums of Mumbai and the like were just a minority. And on that day I realized that there could be advantages too to the socialist attitude that prevailed in my state.

We reached Pilani and got a room allotted in the guest house without much difficulty. The biggest attraction (and maybe the only attraction) here are the peacocks who roam about freely everywhere as if untouched by the human intrusion. Also I was surprised on seeing lots of trees. I was expecting those arid, dry deserts, sand dunes, women with pots of water and all those scenes which come to anyone’s mind when you think of Rajasthan. I was disappointed. I spotted even the first camel only after one or two weeks of stay here. <sigh.>

The weekend passed without much to do. Just roamed about in the BITS campus which is adjacent to our’s. Exchanged rings with my fiancé <blush>. Met my college friend in BITS and most of the time slept in my room. On 9th morning with lots of anxieties and hopes I reached the conference hall of our lab. There I found 10 new faces(none looked friendly or inviting). I still remember the only few people who even had the interest to talk to me. But all that changed as time passed by. We became best pals. But today I thank all the following people (names are not included) who made my day on 9th August 2010 [a] the one who gave me the first smile [b] one who gave me the first handshake [c] the one who lend me a pen when in need(though he did it with the weirdest of all expressions) [d] the ones who made me feel most welcome by saying they were hoping for a girl from Kerala to join to complete their group … and all others who made me feel at home in this far-off land.

The past one year has been the most eventful and hectic one in my life. Learnt a lot of new stuff– pn junctions, holes, electrons, transistors, optics, photonics, fields, waves, …….now the interesting part.. Cooking, maintaining a room, stay in hostel, roommate survival, “dealing”, surviving with boys all around and no female company,anxieties about the degree..…. Meanwhile I fractured my
leg, got my ATM card blocked for 4 months, bought a cycle which tortured me everyday, endured severe winter and summer , attended a live concert..and did so many more crazy things which I never thought I had the capability to do (thanks to all my dear brothers).. Pilani taught me a lot of lessons and gave a handful of awesome friends. As I complete one year of stay here I just want to tell you guys (classmates, batchmates and seniors(in seniors especially my ‘Di’s)) I love you all really a lot. You are the people who helped me survive through bad times and laughed with me during good times.. You are ones who stood with me through thick and thin.. You made my year soooo SPECIAL….

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Patience….

 

How many times have you lost all control over yourself ? How many times have you blasted out on someone and badly regretted having done so? I am sure there will be a very low minority who don’t experience these situations at least on a weekly basis if not on a daily basis..And I am no exception. But an experience which I had a few days ago got me thinking about patience and the importance a patient listening and patient explanation would have on someone’s life.

Most of us might have heard of the story which signifies how patiently our parents had taught us when we were too young and immature and how we lose our control when they behave like children in their old age.. All of us feel the depth of the story and understand the moral though our behavior never changes. Life would have been so easy if people changed their behavior after being impacted by stories. It I real-life incidents which can change a human being.

After going through the above 2 paragraphs if you are expecting some really emotional and life-changing incident you are sure to be disappointed. J I write this post as a dedication to the patience one of my teachers(or you can read guides) showed towards me. I have always been a very impatient person when it comes to teaching anyone. It is a well-known fact among friends and family that unless you are a very fast learner you will not be able to learn anything from me. I always used to complain how someone could be so illogical and for me any learning would happen only through logically analyzing thing let it be learning how to operate a mobile, connecting a cd player, driving or even cooking. But then I met a very humbling personality who changed the way I perceive things.

When I joined for a PG course in Semiconductor Electronics (and specialized in Photonics) after having a background in Computer Engineering I didn’t have much idea how I would be able to cope with it but thanks to some extremely motivating personalities ,I was able to survive in this whole new world of electronics research. When I took up a self study course in Diffraction Gratings without having any background in electromagnetism that too under a guide who is another part of the country everyone called it a wild-call. Though I was fairly confident that I will be able to pull it through I started losing confidence as time passed by. That’s when my guide made a one week visit to my lab. Each day he would spend time with me teaching me the very basics of electromagnetism and that’s when I realized that learning something which we are totally unfamiliar with is extremely difficult and I remembered how my mom would have felt when I used to try to teach her how to operate a mobile or to drive a car. It was totally new to her and she used to make all kinds of mistakes just like what I was doing with fields and waves. 🙂  I learnt the most important lesson that unless you are fundamentally clear about the subject or activity there is no way you can learn it howmuchever hard work you put in.

Now I am a changed person. I have promised myself that next time I try to teach someone I will definitely be patient and make sure that the I put in my 100% effort to make that person learn. And that itself makes me feel very relaxed and motivated..
Thanks for the patient reading. 🙂 Have a good day!