June 28, 2019

Back to the mountains

It’s been over two month and fortnight’s time since I set foot on my own soil after what it seems like ages. I can’t believe my close to 3 year stay in foreign land would come by this quick that it appears like a blink of an eye. Notwithstanding its swift passage, I believe I had some of the finest moments- meeting people from different walks of life, getting mentored by experts, making memories with like-minded ones and walking the extra mile to discover myself more. So, in the truest sense I have abundantly lived my version of Japanese dream.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
(By Robert Frost)
Now that I am back, there is nothing better than calling a place hearth and home. In saying so, my narrating here- the Japanese experience and Bhutanese one- solely shuns the which-is-the-better-of-two question. By all odds, both are unique in their own ways unconditionally deserving of the highest admirations.  Thus, the account here solely orbits around my thrill of coming back to the land of happiness after having been out in the land of rising sun relentlessly chasing my academic aspirations.
Otherwise, in spending a lengthy time outside, I am floored that the Bhutanese in me has emerged more refined than ever before. I have come to wonder if it takes going out to realise how much of a Bhutanese a Bhutanese is. Then I concur, without a trace of doubt, that it did take going out a long time to grasp how much of a Bhutanese I have become over the course of last couple of years. Put in other words, the Japanese way of life I was adapted to had churned out the best version of Bhutanese in me.
However, it is no denying that I have tremendously longed for home in between. There were always these upfront feelings- of mountains, bird chirpings, wild brooks and laid-back way of life back home- which had me occasionally soak in deep trance. It had dawn on me that I’d largely taken things for granted. And it is quite jocular it took miles of distance away from home to digest all these small things. As expected, it came at the cost of time and money. I had to pay for it since the idea of free lunch barely existed. Spot-on, in one of my sightseeing expeditions I was charged to walk into a bamboo forest. How it rings true that you only know your lover when you let her go.
Today as I try to catch up with my everyday work, I realise life has remained all the more same- whether living in fast lane or high up in the mountains. When I was away, since I had a tied-up schedule, I thought I would be quite cosy in my work place. But unlike those yesteryears, freezing the ticking hands of time has almost become non-existent. A simple get together with a colleague next door would require painstakingly calculated free time.
If not, in silently celebrating my arrival back home- I feel a singular sense of joy for being able to connect with the mountains and hills yonder right from the comfort of my bed room.

March 8, 2019

What had the long and arduous and roller coaster ride given me?

Beginnings are always obscure.
When I first walked into my lab, I had not a single idea how I would be able to chase my academic aspirations let alone completing my course. Whether I would emerge unbeaten or beaten, it had proven completely elusive at the time. So, it was better left at the mercy of my fate.
Besides, I saw that the task I was going to confront can’t be likened to what I had done in my course work based undergraduate program- clearing semester exams and getting promoted to next grade. As anticipated, the turn of new event was an exact carbon copy of my guesswork. Nonetheless, of all- I rejoiced madly at the feeling that I don’t have to sit and write any exams except for my final thesis defence- which the school deem as oral exam. But it came with strings attached agonizingly painful than exams- recurrent stressful progress reports and seminars after seminars without semester holidays. That was when it struck me exams were perhaps secured way of keeping heads clear of research pains. 
Meanwhile, the daredevil move of getting into neuroscience and the thought of having to come up with something novel at the end of research period almost killed me. It made me feel jittery, insignificant and diffident. Just few months into my research endeavours I started seriously asking myself- did I commit suicide or the move was too disastrous? The question of sailing smooth ride or stars convening in a clear night sky sort of philosophical thoughts were then not even remote. They didn’t just seem to exist. Even if they did, they were inconsequential because it was all about day in and day out commitment once the research kicked off. I thought the hell was breaking loose.
Peeking over the vaginal smears to detect the various stages of estrous cycle
Fast-forward the time, here I am pondering and wondering over the same obscure beginning and recalling the entire journey. So many questions pop up- some amusing and others worth keeping as well as sharing. One among them stands out notably striking for me- what had this long and arduous and roller coaster ride given?  
I can’t aptly think of any other than adaptation in my first list. I suppose this very trait is the barebones of any organisms wanting to survive anywhere else on earth. Needless to say, getting the better of acclimatising to new environment transcends everything that comes after it. This is why my flow to evolve and grow - personally and professionally- came by easily. In short, being able to adapt is the must have building blocks for achieving great feats. So, roll up the sleeves and master it by and by. Remember it isn’t easy as it sounds. Equally disastrous is failing to catch up could spell sure trouble. Making peace with it is a good way out.
Without exhibiting high level of tolerance, it is impossible to achieve excellence at work. In science, tolerance is the mother of necessity. Anything less would call for mediocrity. Of course, it also applies to others. But many may as well concur it as one of the most difficult attributes to scale. Personally, this trait had played central role in completing my research work. Because I was rookie in the field, I had to receive tutelage from almost all the members in lab- PhD, undergraduate and graduate students. In honing this craft, it helped me ward off tantrums, acquire resistance to temperaments and backstabbing. Were it not for my high tolerance, I am afraid it could have strained my relationship with others. Therefore, keep calm and cultivate tolerance if you don’t want to settle for average.
I know this one here could be cliché but let me put up in another way- sharpen the thing called grit and be efficient. After all, the impeccable pairing of two can possibly move even the mountains. Persevere consistently and beaver away on whatever makes you move out of comfort zone. Remember the signature trait that distinguishes iconic performer from average is the grit and knowing where to hit hardest when it needs the most. In my attempt to polish my academic competencies, I have had major setbacks and downfalls. I can’t keep track of times I was buffeted with embarrassments and frustrations. On and off, it came with the cost of ‘who-cares’ and ‘need-only-certificate’ attitude. Yet, I tussled with my warrior grit and came out strong every time I fell apart. Eventually, I had a comeback that took me a long way ahead. Above all, grit is indispensable- go get it.
Develop team work and submit gracefully regardless of right or wrong. I know this quality is hard to come by because given the druthers, everyone would like to flaunt. Particularly in a setting where teamwork is the key, flaunting can be an eyesore. And the worst trying to be one-man army with know-it-all mindset. Worst because it can ruin the good bonds. If not, strength and enthusiasm of the team could go untapped. Here, it is not just about the academic thing. I had several other obligations apart. Nonetheless, whenever my service was required, I sprang forward without shirking as it was my job to fulfil it. It had me gain trust from others and in that, I grew from strength to strength. I learned to be honest in my failures and submissive in my triumphs while sharpening the craftsmanship of team work and uprightness.
On the more, there are lots of sure-fire recipes out there which I precluded for the fear of long and tedious read. Further, I have deliberately attempted not to share about my academic highs and lows or for that matter the tales of burning midnight lamps, because I believe(d) academic success would follow suit if challenges outside and inside are coped up well.  For the reasons that I somehow fared fair in my effort, my substance here revolves mainly around the aforesaid mantras. To put it in other way- emotional intelligence pays higher than intellectual quotient.
YES, the journey was brutally gruelling up until the very last day. But I am pleased my little boat has braved through many storms and reached the port safely. It was painful in the beginning, messy somewhere in between and sweet at the end. I have come to grips with the fact that a bit of painful start, messy transitional phase and sweet finish was everything it took to awaken the little scientist in me.

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.