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. 

January 27, 2017

Thank you, 2016

2016 had been a wonderful year in numerous ways.

The birth of our prince was the best thing that ever happened.

On a personal note, the year was an impartial merger of ups and downs. Glad that I have endured the worst of times, turned it into positive vibes and fared well.

Of all, winning a prestigious scholarship was the most accomplished feeling. Like they say, it was a dream come true.

One of the cherished days goes back to the time when I was invited for a send-off lunch at His Excellency Kenji Hiramatsu’s residence. The event, first of its kind, was brainchild of Japanese embassy, New Delhi, India. The news came like a bombshell. I was the lone Bhutanese among other MEXT fellows from various parts of India.

Never in my life, have I chanced so closer upon such a pluripotent figure and make conversation akin to a long lost companions. HE had every good stories to narrate about Bhutan and shared his beautiful affairs with the tiny kingdom.

We had delectable Japanese cuisines and bantered a lot. In addition, I have also had good chance to rub shoulders with some famed Japanese businessman and well-read Indian officials.

The program ended with a photo session. Getting to pose right next to His Excellency was once in a life time deal done.

As I took my sabbatical leave last year, so did my first batch of students graduate out of high school. Today many of them are freshman in various universities.

We swap words whenever time permits. And it is a sheer delight to know they are getting along well as a conscientious and competent persons. It is my great expectation that, three or four years from now, we would all complete our studies and do ourselves proud.

I have also successfully passed my entrance exam conducted last November. Now my candidature is secured. Come April, I will be enrolled as master student. 

While I can’t wait to start the first semester, I am well aware that the task ahead is daunting. But I am all geared up to embrace it from day one until the tail end. In fact, as a research student I have been put into tests several times. It was challenging but certainly not impossible. 

Another one that makes 2016 a singular year is the fact that, in my quest for learning I have bumped into so many beautiful people. Some days visiting it would be real trip down memory lane.

However, I candidly admit that I failed terribly to keep pace with writing and reading. Few posts on blog and a book to my list, what a disaster it was.

So far, for all the good things that came my way, I thank the omnipotent almighty above for being my eternal guide and answering every call. Special mention goes to my parents, siblings and beautiful other half for everything. And not to go oblivious of all those who resolutely believed in me.

As the promising New Year makes the onward march of time, I commit nothing extraordinary than to just learn, unlearn, relearn and travel a bit.

May 2017 bring us all the happiness.