April 15, 2018

There is no free lunch in life

Lately, I’ve chanced upon a Facebook post addressed to PM from our young overseas workers in Japan. The letter mainly sheds light on their struggles and aspirations of the so-called developed country. And also remarks on the challenges of having to keep up with the exorbitant living standard, monthly bills, daily expenses and fees, and reimbursement that's due back home.

There is no denying whatever has been detailed in the piece is unfeigned. After all, it is the reality check that must be conveyed to everyone willing to work here and suffer the same fate. I suppose it must be consistent in every economically stable country that life in a fast lane is more than the everyday photos we see on Facebook. Many off-screen stories remain buried.

Lets get straight to the core that this article doesn't take umbrage in the opinions shared by our compatriots. 

I am a second year postgraduate student in Japan. I don't moonlight as my time is mostly consumed in the lab. But, I have some friends who had come here through overseas employment agency, a scheme deemed parallel to earn and learn program. Whenever time allows, we catch up on weekends to talk a blue streak about our own experiences here. Of working, studying and living in a place that is so different form ours. All of us agree to one thing- "there is no time to stand and stare". Yet, we take pride in the fact that no matter how busy life keeps moving, there is always a moment to freeze and create a little Bhutan to remain firm with our roots.

While I find it realistic that our young people had broached up (Facebook post) several points, concomitantly it’s also a high time we give in our second thoughts and go hell-bent. How far are we going to stretch in life lodging complains. How far should we cocoon in our comfort zone.  Isn’t it time we accept our own choices, keep embracing the challenges, sharpen our grit and be the game changer?

Honestly, It would not be too much to say we are plain sailing folks. We take things for granted, wait for the ball to drop, look for a chance event to become affluent overnight and get lost in fairy tales trance. This is why it breeds inextricable complacency in us.

Here, be it schools, universities or any other work place, there are absolutely no grounds for complacency. They have toughed up to take on every impediments and attuned to what we often relish to quote- "life is unfair"

On the more, their success story was not conceived overnight. Not even a year or two. Neither its because of few man’s quest to transform this great nation. Centuries of ceaseless hard-works coalesced with seamless recipes like commitment, positive attitude, diligence, planning goals and so on, had gone into placing them on their present pedestal. Their indomitable disposition is the testament to rest of us that we can as well stand tall and basks in the glory of our labour.

Well, now what leaves us behind the race despite not being any lesser?

It seems plausible the dearth of aforesaid recipes leave us quite laid-back in our pursuit somehow. Whatsoever, our pace has begun to pick up double fold. We are writing our own success stories progressively. So, at this juncture the one and only thing we must devote vigorously is the will to brave with all our might. Otherwise, we are already too good to join the biggies.

I have been a witness to my lab members who at times breaks down regardless of fighting with their champion spirits. Should they feel like crying, they do so. But it doesn't finish there. They give a lethal comeback. That is where I have discovered the Japanese secret come in handy. The line seems to be very distinct at this point of time.

My early days were not fairy tales either. I have had my incessant rounds of frustrations, complains and grievances. On several occasions, it had me questioned seriously if coming to Japan, as a postgraduate student, was really my calling. Even now, I admit it candidly that I tussle a lot. But today I have learned to tussle with Japanese recipes, and since I know it’s there to wrought me into any finest forms, the way ahead looks clear of odds.

One of my professors shuttles between lab and her apartment for about 90 miles every weekdays on a bullet train. This is daunting especially when one has family obligations and huge duties to perform in the university. I find it astounding she does it with so much grace that there is a perfect harmony. So, every time it exhausts me to travel 10-15 minutes by bicycle from home to lab, I become guilt ridden thinking of my Prof, who even with vast arrays of responsibilities manages to make smooth transitions between professional and personal life. I find myself little embarrassing on my part to play truant. 

My hexagenerian house owner, for example, is always up by the break of dawn for her day’s chore. I can see the couples are sufficiently well established with substantial income coming from the monthly rent and post retirement benefits. And by her age, back home, it would be a good respite in her life. But she is unstoppable in her works. Ever lively, she just can’t be underrated because of her old age. Here again, what a clean and neat way of ridding excessive feeling of smugness. Recall the Japanese recipes scribbled somewhere.

If at the prime of our lives, we take refuge in dodging away from the bitter truth of modern times, where’s the sense in that?

And if there is one great take away lesson I’ve learned the hard way, it must be this- there is no free lunch in life.

January 12, 2018

Revisiting 2017

Just another action-packed year has gone by. Grateful that I mustered all my courage and braved every odds that came along the way. All thanks to the almighty god for bestowing his top notch blessings. And not to be oblivious of my loved ones for keeping in their unremitting prayers and good wishes. 

2017 was grand in many ways.

In a series of flashbacks today, I have learned that the hard earned lessons of past year did pleasantly heighten my enthusiasm for this brand new start with an extra industrial strength. Like the beautiful Charice had hummed, even earthquake can’t shake me. Altogether, it has redoubled my grit for the love of learning.  

In particular, last September was a remarkable one.

I am happy the world cup of reproductive science titled ‘World Congress of Reproductive Biology’ came about at a time before my exit from Japan. I acknowledge all my professors for letting me rub shoulders with scientists from all across the globe. It was truly a powerful experience tuning into the experts of reproductive neuroendocrinology talk on their lifelong research. Or in any Tom, Dick or Harry’s parlance, the Gurus of reproductive biology. The conference also corralled many young scientists and scholars alike to present their research works.

The flood of knowledge let loose in the conference left quite an indelible mark. As I ferret out my own research on how the brain interplays to time the puberty in mammals, I look back to it and realize I have just begun to see the tip of iceberg. It had left me nonplussed. Yet the nerve to keep thrusting ahead was set on fire.

Of course, my excitement of listening to them would have been tantamount to yours, had you speculated reproduction is but a hedonic biological thrill. Haha.

The five days program came to a halt sharing some light moments with the giants. I seized the chance to pose a question or two and tossed beer. I have read in many books scientists relish it.  Sated with pleasure it was simply a world class. The get together was awe inspiring, conversation lifting and first of its kind in my many years of learning.

Besides, Okinawa was veritably a queen of beauty. Her picturesque setting of the tireless sea in the gloaming made everyone come over a pressing call to shed million dollar ideas, discuss and argue constructively for a healthy procreation. Because science is a concerted venture, one man army in quest of cracking codes until that eureka moment is something of an obsolete approach. The Okinawa based conference triumphed in amassing them together. The next mega event will sprout to live sometimes in 2019, Beijing, China.

All in all, the year ended in an extraordinary ways with hopes and aspirations afresh as I take on another promising journey. As usual, I give in to beaver away on whatever sets me in challenge. Explore, dream and discover. 

I could not have asked for any better. Wishing everyone good health and happiness.

August 13, 2017

The tree, building, Okazaki fragments and the laureates

Every morning, as I cycle towards my school, I stop by an apple tree in-front of graduate school of science and rejoice that I have the rare opportunity of sighting it every day. Likewise, passing daily by this apple tree has afforded a tremendous feeling that of Newtonian era, during which the mystery of gravitational forces began to unravel. The tree is a descendant of Newton’s apple tree.

Descendant of Newton's apple tree
The story of gravitational physics originated from the predecessors of this very tree when a piece of apple struck Newton’s head eons ago. Later, it went on to become one of the most important breakthroughs and forefront of the scientific world.

History has it that the tree was sent to Japan long time back and nursed somewhere. To commemorate the remarkable achievement of Professor Maskawa and Kobayashi, 2008 Nobel laureates in physics, it was planted at Nagoya University by those who sparked off the light of particle physics. Much to my disbelief, both the Nobel Prize recipients were the then students of Nagoya University.

Noyori Materials Science building. Courtesy; google.
Just as I park my cycle and walk through the basement of a classy glassy ‘Noyori Materials Science building, I freeze for yet another couple of minutes and marvel at the massive triumph. This time, it’s the Professor Ryōji Noyori, Nobel laureate in chemistry 2001, for his study of chirally catalyzed hydrogenations.

I was told the building was erected with a grant conferred by Japan government for attaining the most coveted scientific award and propagating the Japanese fame worldwide. Like one of the professors shared in his lectures, there is also a personal laboratory and a residence contained in the building. Above all, it’s a testament of grit and trust in one’s struggle.

This sexy, towering and glossy structure since then has become a symbol of motivation.

And in times of mental exhaustion, frustrations and other dire straits, a glimpse at it helps me rejuvenate and drives my endeavor ever stronger.

Molecular Biologist, Dr. Tsuneko Okazaki. Courtesy: google.
I don’t remember when I first became aware of Okazaki fragments. But, it was during those days in college that I started considering about it seriously. In nutshell, these are temporary DNA fragments synthesized in the process of DNA replication, a concerted brainchild of Dr. Reiji Okazaki and Dr. Tsuneko Okazaki.

Lately as I was poring over my university website, I chanced upon a special interview that featured the renowned Japanese molecular biologist, Dr. Tsuneko Okazaki. You can read the full story here. Alas! The global sensation in molecular biology is also a professor at Nagoya University.

I had never conceived the thought that one day I will come this close to someone like the pioneer of Okazaki fragments. Not even in my dreams. Perhaps, fate might have hand in it. Now it’s my wish, at least for once, to see the champion before I graduate from here. I am optimistic that genie will grant my aspiration. 

Nobel prize exhibition hall, Nagoya university.
In total, Nagoya University has churned out six or seven noble laureates so far in the field of science.

For the greatest benefit to mankind Japan has been instrumental in producing some of the finest minds.  

March 15, 2017

Learning to burn and shine like the Japanese

In schools, what had singled out our Indian friends from us was their tireless pursuit of being studious. Obvious it was, that they topped every exams and spared not even a tiny test. So from early on, noticing in my Indian friends the industrious trait, I grew up with a belief that they were the most hardworking people.  

Even as I went to a college in India, the trend never failed to amaze me. I rather stumbled upon many Indian friends who would commit diligently in study matters.

Not until I came as a student in Japan did the very belief I have held firmly for last many years begin to falter gradually. Simply put, I almost went mad at the first sight. Then it had me ponder heavily on my resilience as a post graduate student and mused if my “its ok” mentality could fare strong in the survival of fittest. Not before long the confidence slowly dwindled away in the face of overly workaholic milieu.

It has been quite some time now in the lab. Ever since the start, I have been in attendance for not less than nearly eight hours every weekdays. However, mine deserves no mention (comes nowhere near comparison) as some of our Japanese lab members work as late as 2 or 3 in the morning.

Their indefatigable stamina and patience to work for any stretch of time defines how robust they could be in chasing their dreams.

In a country where people work day in and day out, I have seen, felt and heard, they endeavor to achieve perfection in everything they do. And the best of all- people take work, whether white or blue collar, personal or public, as their own and grumble less. Thus, hardly is there any compromise in the quality of the work.

Needless to say, this is why even at the mention of the name Japan, many relate to it as ‘near perfect’. They have stood the test of time, created annals of history and achieved immensely in diverse area within a short span. It is thus only natural that many developing countries look up to Japan as the big brother.

And to myself it as an infallible proof that anything that calls for sacrifice is worth the reward.

On the contrary, I come from a 9am to 5pm working culture. Because my circadian rhythm was fine-tuned with working fixed amount of time back home, it took quite a long to cope up with the engaging schedule and move a little harder beyond. Now that I am able to get rid of the complacent attitude, it feels wonderful to have an aura of willingness to work at any point of time. Conceivably, without even my realizing of it, the Japanese formula has really helped the social circle around expand with a stronger network.

Moreover, now I have come to deeply empathize the connotation- the land of rising sun. And I will fain accept that the making of this great nation was like the sun itself- burn and shine.

Every day, every morning witnessing the rush hour of cars in the streets and people in the subways, and as the busy nation teems to life.... I wonder if the sun could ever set in the hearts of Japanese people.