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My grandfather’s battle against Cancer

I tell you of a memory when I was a child, so it may be hazy. But, it’s worth sharing.

It was probably summer and we were in Guwahati (India) – mom, dad, my elder sister and me. My maternal grandfather had encountered throat cancer, so my granny called up from Upper Assam to inform my mother. My mother, a nurse by qualification and a home maker otherwise, immediately arranged my granddad to be brought to Guwahati. She did so because there were better medical facilities there and she would be able to take care of her ‘dad’dy in a more direct way.

Grandpa arrived in Guwahati, to our residence, and we starting taking care of him. Mom and dad took him to the hospital as per the norm. Mom used to give him timely medicines and food. I also started spending more time with my granddad. He would tell me stories and have a friendly chat with me.

I used to read a lot, those days. So I started giving my grandpa a copy of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, one by one. He enjoyed reading the author’s works. He read it till ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.’ My grandfather underwent the entire process of cancer treatment. He even had chemotherapy, though he was old. I could see that he would look weak after he came from the hospital. I would get emotional often, because I loved spending time with my ‘Nana’ (Grandpa).

The best news was that he was completely cured of throat cancer. He was a smoke addict, so we thought that was the main reason for the cancer. He did give up smoking while on treatment. He was cured. 🙂

The story doesn’t end here though. Maybe for cancer it does. But not for him.

Nana goes back to Hatiali, to be with his wife, my grandmother, a practicing nurse. He was well for quite sometime, years actually. However, my maternal uncle and his nuclear family started living with Nana and Nani now. Also, grandpa had got back into smoking.

It was early 2009, when Nana fell sick again. He was old and was preparing himself for his demise. He starting reciting the rosary, personally. He asked for forgiveness to everyone he felt he had offended, knowingly or unknowingly.

I did go to see him. He was lying on a bed and was on drips. Probably he wasn’t eating properly. I could see his veins. I asked him, “How are you, nana?” I was 16 back then. He replied, “I’m fine, Ishan! I am well.”

I returned to Tinsukia, where we were residing at that time, a 30-45 minutes car ride away. I had my 10th Grade central board exams knocking at the door. I kept preparing and also thought about my Nana now and then, how he would be. He had asked me for the next copy of the Harry Potter series. But, I didn’t lend it to him. He was dying and I should have, but I didn’t want him to die reading an unfinished book, I guess. Later mom told me, it would have helped.

My nana passed away, right between my board exams. I couldn’t even go for the last rites. I remember I went crazy, momentarily. My parents went to Hatiali and I played loud music at home because I was sad and could do nothing about it. I had lost my granddad.

I did go to Hatiali, during the months-mind, for the prayers and other customs. Many unknown relatives had come to visit. Some known but forgotten ones too.

Thank You grandpa, for your stories, laughter and care. I love you. May you rest well in Heaven.

IMG_20200306_115248

Late William (Bill) Walker, my Nana

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A New Alphabet – ABCD

A for Adorable
B for Beautiful
C for Charismatic
D for Debonair
E for Empathy
F for Friendship
G for God
H for Happiness
I for Intellect
J for Jokes
K for Kindness
L for Love
M for Mother
N for Nature
O for Outstanding
P for Playful
Q for Quest
R for River
S for Sea
T for Talent
U for Understanding
V for Vogue
W for Wisdom
X for Xylophone
Y for Yesterday
Z for Zebra

 

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The pieces

four red apple fruits
Photo by Magova on Pexels.com

Vanquish the dark so you may remember, the pearls you hide in the oysters of your memories.

Ahoy there! Listen.

Listen, dear beloved; listen oh loved one – my pride, my life, my heart and my mind – irreplaceable, my dear, impeccable one. You are the fire that keeps me burning, the ‘light’ of my life.

I feel alive when I realise…

I can feel my heartbeat, my nostrils gush with air, my tongue salivates at the thought of the taste of a glass of water; fresh from the glaciers. The water that I can drink and smack my lips in satisfaction; a feeling that my thirst is finally quenched. I eat fruits kept on a basket, at my dining table, hoping they are healthy to consume…

I pick up an apple and give it a gentle squeeze. It seems firm, not rotten, I suppose. I take it to the kitchen sink and pour hot water on it so that the wax layer added for extra lustre would wear off.

I cut the apple, first into four, then into four more pieces. I removed the portion with seeds and also unfortunately scaled off the skin, I may not be able to digest it. I offer some to my sister and walk towards my room to eat them.

I ate the apples while watching a YouTube video of a music rendition of a great composition of a composer I didn’t know of. I didn’t know the composer before, but the music was so beautiful, it captured my heart. My soul was delighted.

It was a live performance and the audience showed their appreciation too, by clapping at paused intervals and when it probably touched their hearts the most.

Amidst the eating, my throat went dry. So I paused my eating and drank some water. I didn’t feel like eating more, but I didn’t want to waste the remaining pieces.

 

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Articles Data Science

How I got into Data Science after a Master’s Degree in Economics

I was always good at computers and spent a lot of time on it since I was a child. Despite having this keen interest, I went into the Commerce stream in Senior Secondary School and later got a Bachelor’s degree with Economics as one of the majors and a Master’s degree in Economics. I was happy that I studied Economics but the child in me had some dreams unfulfilled.

During my Master’s degree program, I had a knack for mathematical and statistical methods. Econometrics was however, a little challenging. As a requirement of the program, I had to complete a compulsory internship after the second semester. The professors at St. Joseph’s College (Bengaluru, India) were very helpful and approachable. One of my professors in the Economics department shared an internship opening at a development research institute named Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), Mumbai. I applied and was selected. It is during this internship that I got a hands-on experience with datasets. (I had learnt some basics using SPSS before but this was more intense.) These were large national datasets. I was assisting a professor at IGIDR on his empirical research related to the Industry sector, with intensive use of Excel and Stata. Later in my Master’s degree program I was also required to complete a Dissertation, the area of which I chose as Behavioural Economics. During this Dissertation, I learnt a lot about research methods like review of literature, data collection, Econometric methods to analyse data and interpretation of that analysis in the context of Economics.


Over time, I realized that I really liked working with datasets and that a knack for problem-solving. I wanted a career in which I could work with data and maybe also where my knowledge of Economics could be useful. Around this time, the demand for data scientists and data analysts in India were on the rise. There were articles written about it often and advertisements of several courses offered by different institutes and educational websites flooded the internet.

So, I did a little research and found that getting into data science required a good understanding of computer programming logic and a certain level of ease dealing with Statistics. Both the child in me and the adult me were happy to finally find something that could connect both. I joined a Post Graduate Diploma program offered by upGrad in association with the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore. The program was offered online, it was well-structured, included live sessions, regular assignments (both individual and group), had an exclusive discussion forum, had assigned student mentors and Career support. It was a complete package for getting into a Data Science career.

The course focused mostly on R as the language used for explanations and assignments but they did have additional optional modules on Python too. As I progressed in the course, my affinity towards programming logic and knowledge of Statistics and Econometrics helped a lot. In fact, many concepts like Inferential Statistics, Hypothesis testing, Linear Regression, Time Series and Data Sourcing were quite familiar. Even though I had a good understanding of programming logic, I didn’t really code much before apart from some basic programming languages, C/C++ in high school and in a paper on HTML in college. But even this meagre knowledge helped me to learn and work on R and code naturally. Overall, the difficulty level of the Data Science program was moderate for me – familiarity of Statistical Concepts and unfamiliarity of programming experience.

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Time vs Timing

Time and Timing are two relative concepts. Often, Time seems disregarded in our daily life, by some while given too much importance by others. Timing, however, has a whole different purpose.

 

Time is a restrictive concept. There is no accurate measure of “How much time will I need to do this?” Of course, one can measure how they performed last Time and assume that the Time required to do that particular work is, say 30 minutes.

However, I say that doing this will hinder any possibilities for improvement. Instead, one can look at the Time as a reference rather than a measure.

 

For example,

 

Case I (Time):

 

I need to write an article of 1500 words. If I try to guess how much Time it requires, I would have many obstacles in completing the work. I would keep looking at my watch to see how much Time is left according to what I had measured. I would keep getting worried about the lack of Time and become impatient. I will start doubting my speed of doing work and eventually get demoralized.


Case II (Time):

 

Now let’s look at this situation another way. I need to write an article of 1500 words. I look at my watch and see that it’s 9:01 PM. I keep my watch aside, remember why I am writing the article and where it will get me. After that, I write the essay and enjoy every aspect of it – the theme, the writing… anything related to the article directly or indirectly… I choose to get engrossed in it.

You would find that in Case II, you would have finished writing the first draft of the article in 10-15 mins and the final selection after grammar checks, sentence framing, etc. in 20-25 mins whereas in Case I you might not even finish the first draft in 30 minutes.

That is why I say that Time is a restrictive concept.

However, Timing is not a restrictive concept. Let me explain this differently.

When you suddenly get a fantastic Idea, you will be overwhelmed, and either of the following could happen:

Case I (Timing): You will execute it immediately

If you execute it immediately, you will be satisfied that you quenched your excitement. But gradually, you will realize that there are many loopholes in the execution of that Idea. If you persist, the gaps will become visible by others, and the impact of your Idea will be minimal.

Case II (Timing): You will not execute it immediately but plan to do it later

If you do not execute it immediately, you can build on the Idea. You now have the chance to think about it each day, research on queries/gaps that arise, add possible things that could make its execution ever better and give a gap period before executing it. You can also plan to implement the Idea at a time when it will reap maximum benefits. That’s Timing.

Case II has higher possibilities of success as the Idea has been scrutinized well. The impact will be much more substantial. The effect will also be even stronger if the execution is timed well. It is as simple as investing in more ingredients for food recipes when the Annual Food Fest is near.

Hence I say Time may not be as crucial as Timing is. Still, it is of inevitable relevance for reference.

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A Winter Morning that Once Was

I thirst for a few gulps of water on a bright sunny afternoon. I take my wallet off my jeans and run to the nearest grocery clutching a 10-Rupees note, discomforted with my parched throat. I could feel the water flowing down my throat, as I drank to my satisfaction. Then I chucked the plastic bottle in a bin kept near the store and head to my destination.

As I walked, I reflected on the weather. My mind swayed away to dwell on memory; a memory from childhood that I so vividly remembered. It was a winter morning, sometime in December. My father and I had come out of our house for a walk. There was a sense of freshness in the air. I could recollect how the breeze pampered my skin. I could see droplets formed by mist gleam on the reeds of grass as they reflected sunlight.

I continued walking on the narrow street, laid with round pebbles and was fascinated by a stone that looked like marble. I picked it up and admired the cold, moist stone for a while. Then my dad called out to me, “Son, drop that stone. You’ll get yourself dirty.” So I dropped the stone, went up to my dad and held his fingers with my small fist. We continued walking for a few minutes enjoying the pleasant abode of nature in all its beauty. We passed by a tea garden on an adjacent street and inhaled the freshness of the moist leaves which exhaled oxygen so abundantly into the unpolluted air. Then slowly the sun beamed its rays on us. I could feel mild warmth that made me cosy.

“HONK!”

A grey SUV was right behind me, unable to go ahead as I had strayed away from the footpath, towards the road. I looked back and moved quickly onto the footpath. I was back – to reality, to now. The sun’s heat wasn’t mild, but unbearable and scorching. When I inhaled, I could smell the smoke that puffed out from the vehicles’ exhausts. There wasn’t a garden of any kind. Only tall, concrete buildings surrounded me. I pulled out a handkerchief from my pocket to wipe my sweaty and dusty forehead.

I cannot even remotely, ignore the fact of climate change. Yes, the world is moving to achieve something greater. But at what cost? We are more interested in making life more convenient and have forgotten the joys in living it fruitfully. We know that we are harming nature. We reduce our guilt by supporting environment campaigns too. But change will only come if ‘you’ do something and believe that it can be done – not once, not twice but every time you are bothered by it.

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My Lineage

Part 0 – Introduction

Often people ask me, “Are you a Tamilian or a Malayali?”

At my early days in school, people used to ask, “Are you a South Indian?”

But then I used to reply to these folks, “No, I’m from Assam.”

People still get unsatisfied with this answer. Though when they listen to me speak fluent Assamese, they have no other choice.

Part I – Paternal Lineage

I do not blame them. My beautiful State itself does not recognize us completely. In a few other states, people of my paternal lineage are recognized as Scheduled Tribes. We, on the other hand, are void of such perks. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t looked down upon by “teachers” and classmates in school. After all, Indians have a narrow, stereotypical view of the Adivasi.

The ‘Adivasi’ as the name suggests were the first settlers (of any land, but in my case – India).

They have often been stereotyped as “primitive.” Well, obviously that isn’t the truth. I am a Kharia because my dad is one. On many occasions, I have heard him tell stories of my lineage. He would say, till my granddad, we were a clan of priests. No, not priests in cassocks. I’m talking about priests with the ‘Sacred thread’, clad in white or saffron, having topknot hair (Chon’ti).

Among the Adivasi, we were Pujaris (priests), which is the equivalent of a Hindu Brahmin.

My ancestors revered cows and had similar practices as that of Hindus. They also revered nature.

LR pic-290

Part II – Maternal Lineage

My mother was born to a son with an English father and a ‘Munda’ woman.

These were among the English-men who had settled in India during the British rule. My maternal grandmother, however, had ancestors who were Naagvanshis (literal translation: descendants of the Snake).

Part III – The Roman Catholic Church

Though my dad’s ancestors were Adivasi Priests, he was born into a Roman Catholic family. Are you wondering how? It’s simple. My paternal granddad was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church at his own will. So, both my paternal grandparents and my paternal uncles/aunties are Catholics. They do, however, respect the traditions of the Kharias.

My mother was also born into a Roman Catholic family, although initially, my granddad was Anglican.

Part IV – “Isn’t ‘Kerketta’ a surname from Jharkhand?”

Yes, Kerketta is a common surname in states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Kharias in Assam were originally from these states. But during the British rule, many Adivasi migrated from these states for various reasons. Some came for jobs whereas others liked the ambience in Assam and got settled.

Part V – Conclusion

Now you know my lineage. But that isn’t all I told you. I told you about Adivasi groups and their traditions. Permit me to say, if we were primitive, we wouldn’t be getting straight A’s in class at a recognized and formal Educational Institute, in an unbiased setting. I also informed you about the Adivasi who have migrated to a different state. You have also been narrated about how the Adivasi have been absorbed into the Roman Catholic Church. I have also mentioned briefly about Anglo-Indians.

But who am I in the end? I am an Indian and a Roman Catholic by birth. We are a country of beautiful lineages and exquisite diversities. But then, why do we discriminate?

History decides our heritage, but not what we want to leave behind. Hence, even though I am proud (not arrogant) of my lineage, I identify myself with what I can do now in order to leave behind a heritage for not just my succeeding generations, but for all future generations of the world.

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On Art

Take any form of art. You can learn the technicalities of the game, but your art will only be artistic if you express yourself through it.

Let’s take four examples: Poetry, Sketching, Music and Photography.

In Photography, we have 3 key concepts known as ISO, Shutter speed and Aperture. You can also be taught how to arrive at different effects like light trails, freezing water droplets, etc.

In Sketch
ing, you can learn different ways of shading, different forms of sketching such as portrait art, still art, etc.

In MIMG_7105usic, you can learn musical notation, key terms and concepts. If you are a guitarist, you can learn sweep picking, finger-style guitar, shredding and could even memorize the fret-board.

In Poetry, you can learn the technicalities of rhyming schemes, refrains and syllables. Though, there are many popular poems that do not rhyme at all.

At the end of the day, you will learn all the technicalities. But if you are not able to express yourself through the particular form of art, the art will have lost its flavour. If your expressions are embedded in your art form, you will succeed in making the art create an impact for not just yourself, but the world.

After all this you might ask, expressing is alright but what about passion?

For that I say, if expressing yourself through art makes you an artist, passion is what drives you to be one. It is the energy; the fuel for expressing yourself.