Thursday, 29 June 2017

TRAVEL+ACADEMICS: INTERNSHIP IN JAPAN



"Never let success get to your head. Never let failure get to your heart"
-Unknown.


I was finally in Japan. After one year of filling out applications, messaging random people, stalking University professors, sending out hundreds of unsuccessful emails, I landed a fully funded research internship at the National Institute of Genetics (NIG), Japan. It felt surreal. I had dreamt of that moment many times but the reality was way better. I was smiling like an idiot at the Tokyo International Airport with a sense of accomplishment.  Few hours before that, I was in a totally chaotic situation. My flight from Chennai to Mumbai was delayed by two hours which gave me only 15 minutes for immigration at the Mumbai Airport. Also, due to the delay, I did not receive my luggage at the Tokyo airport.  Fortunately, I was in a country that embodies kindness. The airport personnel provided me with compensation money to buy the basic necessities and also sent my luggage to the place I stayed in after two days.



I took the famous Shinkansen or the bullet train from Tokyo to reach NIG which is located in Mishima. It is a small town located in Shizuoka and it takes about 2 hours from Tokyo.Once I reached there, I was cordially invited by my Guide and the members. When I told them about my luggage fiasco they immediately took me shopping. Well! That’s the dream, right? Land in a new country and go shopping!


Group Discussions.

I started my internship the next day. I was excited and nervous. It was exactly like my first day in school. The lab is working on some interesting topics related to cell signaling pathways.  Basically, they try to figure out the cues responsible for cell-cell communication. This is very important in developmental biology (embryogenesis) where a single cell becomes a whole human being. Additionally, fields like cancer biology, antibiotic resistance studies also benefit from cell signaling. I got to meet really passionate people and experimented with cool techniques like RNA interference, confocal microscopy etc. My mentor and my lab members were great teachers. They taught me the concepts from basics and helped me in every step of the way.


I  made great friends from different countries. We went out on weekends, cooked food together organized farewell parties. We also took the Japanese lessons offered at the institute. They definitely made the stay more fun.


Trips In Japan

Tips For Students Applying For Internships!


               1. Start early : This gives you enough time to browse through websites, read about the internships and prepare all the necessary documents.  You can find these internships on websites like Internshala, Twenty19 to name a few. Otherwise, you can visit the institute’s website to find more information.

                  2.Watch the deadline like a hawk: Trust me! Deadlines are easy to miss. Nothing hurts like a missed opportunity. So, just note down the deadlines in your sticky notes or Google calendar or anything.  The deadlines for most of the research internships may range anywhere from September to April.


                3.Do your homework: Read about the research work, the professor/scientist, the University. Be thorough. Some internship may ask you to give an interview. So being prepared helps
.
              4.Mail a lot of professors:  There are different ways of obtaining an internship. One is formally applying to a program and another highly underused way is emailing the professors.
Use your social media stalking skills and find professors on the university websites/on LinkedIn and mail them. Before doing that read up, make sure you have enough information and then proceed. Initially, there might not be any replies. I emailed around 40-50 professors and got no reply. Don’t feel dejected. Apply as many as possible. Read some blogs about emailing professors.
Again! Don’t underestimate the value of volume. You try 100 different things, you will definitely hit one.

Even though it was only for a month, I learned a great deal of science and life skills. The experience was not all sweet. I did have my doubts and fears. But at the end, it was all a learning experience and it was totally worth it.

I was fortunate to have a healthy support system. My friends encouraged me to apply every time I got rejected, my family taught me to laugh it off. So, make sure you are not in a negative environment. Also, I had incredibly amazing teachers who gave me a letter of recommendation every time I asked.  No single person can achieve anything alone. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Farwell Dinner

Another, important lesson I learned during this process is that you should not stop applying because you think it is out of your reach. Your job is to apply and they decide the results. Don’t every take their position. For example, if Harvard is offering a program, just apply! You never know! :P

I am no big brains. I just tried hard. So, it is not impossible and it is not a complex task.  So good luck! Make the most of your summer vacation.

About the Author: Anjana Sundarrajan is a true Tamilian who will not shut up about Chennai and curd rice. She completed her B Pharm from Manipal University. She is passionate about research and innovation. She is on her way to study Masters in Biotechnology at 
UPenn in the United States.  

She can now write a whole blog for you or better write content for your website for $5.Doesn't that sound like a steal deal? To know more visit https://www.fiverr.com/anjana95

You can contact her on her Facebook or Linked In

Thank you for sharing your experience and tips with us. We hope you continue to support this blog and write for us in the future. We wish you all the best.  






Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Ultimate Guide To Hampi




"The only thing I own, which are still worth what they have cost me are my travel memories...the mind-pictures of places that I have been hoarding like a happy miser"-Burton Homes.



Two sisters, two days, one trip, memories to last a lifetime that was Hampi for me. I traveled to this beautiful town of old kingdoms, beautiful temples and gigantic ruins in December 2016 with my sister Sonali Khetia. Located alongside the Tungabhadra river, Hampi is a top tourist destination for both Indians and foreigners alike. It is recognized as the group of monuments at Hampi in the UNESCO- world heritage site. Want to know more of my journey and experience then keep on reading:


TEMPLES

Old temples, big and small alike. Hampi is home to a lot of beautiful temples. From the main and the most visited Shiva temple (Virupaksha temple) to the abandoned Krishna temple, the famous Vittala temple complex, and the Jain temples, each of them has its own unique history bound to the famous Vijayanagar Empire. Many of these temples were used for worship back during the time of the Kings but have now been preserved as a monument.

Virupaksha Temple
Temple in Vittala Complex

Krishna Temple

Temple at Hemakuta Hill


FOOD

Hampi is a paradise for food lovers. There are more than a dozen restaurants within the main center offering a variety of cuisines. We picked a different restaurant from each meal so we could enjoy a little bit of everything. The pasta, pizza, fries, falafel, momos were finger-licking delicious. All the restaurants have a cozy vibe, some with rooftop setting while others with a river view.

Breakfast at Moon Light Restaurant.


Falafel <3
River View Restaurant


Moon Light Restaurant



ROYAL MONUMENTS


Hampi was the operation center of the entire Vijayanagar Empire. In order for things to operate smoothly, it was obvious that it had marvelous structures built up to serve the royal family. From water tanks to royal baths, gardens, other monuments of historical importance and some of the military significance like the elephant stables. 



Lotus Temple

Royal Pool

Water Tank At Royal Enclosure

Stone Chariot
HAMPI TRAVEL VLOG


Top Ten Tips For Your Hampi Trip:

1. Accommodation In Hampi: 

Unless you are planning a luxury stay, I would suggest not to spend a lot on your accommodation. We easily got a guest house for 450 Rupees per night! Our trip was two days and one night. We checked out at 10 am in the morning and asked the reception to take care of our luggage as we went exploring on the second day. You can collect it in the evening before catching your bus.
We stayed at the Manju Guest House.

2. How To Reach Hampi:

If you are flying in, the nearest airport is Hubli and then a three-hour taxi would bring you to Hampi or a bus from Bangalore. All of those are bound to leave you tired and you would need some good rest. In that case, you can extend your trip to two or three nights. In my case, I took an overnight bus to Hospet (12 km from Hampi) and then a connecting bus.


3. The Hardest Question: What Should You Eat?

Have a heavy breakfast so you can explore throughout the day without having to a long lunch break which will not only take away time but also make you lazy and sleepy. All restaurants on the main side of Hampi (near the temple) serve only vegetarian food. Yes! So if you want to indulge in non-veg options you can easily cross the river. Hampi also does not serve alcohol to respect the religious views of the area and the people. That is also available on the other side of the river.
-Must Try Restaurants: Moon Light, Mango Tree, Funky Monkey and River View Restaurant.


4. Out And About Hampi.

If you absolutely love exploring then get yourself a bicycle on rent. Map of Hampi is sold at 20 rupees and you can easily find your way about on your own. Every morning at 9 am a government tourist group also leaves from Virupaksha temple on bicycles. A bicycle for the whole day would cost you somewhere between 200-400 rupees. You could also get a guide if you wish. The Royal enclosure and sunset points are far from the center but a lot of places are at walkable distance.
-Must Visit Places: Vittala Complex, Matunga Hill, The Royal Enclosure, Virupaksha Temple.
You can also try a ride across the river in the handmade boats!

Tungabhadra River, Hampi.


5. Network & Communication In Hampi.

Let me assure you, there is none. No phone network. Only Wifi. This was the main reason why all the restaurants and guest houses have their own wifi. It is very hard to get a network on your phone while in Hampi so inform your loved ones prior to your travel so that they do not get worried.


6. What To Wear In Hampi.

As Hampi is a religious town, I would suggest dressing modestly. Go for long cotton skirts or trousers, maxi dresses. For men, long trousers, joggers or pants would be appropriate. Avoid shorts as it would be disrespectful especially in temples. It is always hot in Hampi so be sure to wear comfortable clothing that you can manage for an entire day. Wear walking shoes or comfortable sandals as Hampi is full of big boulders and rocks and there would be a lot of walking.


7. What To Pack For Hampi.

Pack light, if you are backpacking.  
Essentials include: Camera, Water bottle, ID Card, Chargers, Sun Protection (Cream, Sunglasses, Hat). See the video for more inspiration.


8.Shopping In Hampi.

Hampi has a few shops run by tourists and locals alike. They sell the most unique items from handicraft to clothes, shoes, show piece collections, jewelry and more. If it is in your budget do get yourself a souvenir to take back home.






9.The Other Side Of the River.

This is a beautiful place, which I discovered a little late during my trip. Make your way across the river in the ferry boat which will cost around 12 rupees per person. The other side has lush green fields, is much cooler and has a lot of fun places to be explored.


10. Enjoy Yourself!

Have an awesome time. Do not let the heat or the walking drain your down or get to you! Let yourself loose in the ruins, get crazy and have fun! 

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. Feel free to leave your comments, questions, and suggestions below. Follow my blog to stay updated on my endeavors and be sure to share it with your friends. Thank you.

Disclaimer: All the photos, reviews, and opinions in this blog post are my own. Do not copy or replicate without permission. 
Signing off,
Nishma Khetia.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Secret: Life-Changing Magic Of Marie Kondo


'When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state'
-Marie Kondo.


I am going to start by admitting that cleaning soothes me. I have a Mild case of Monica from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. During exams if my room is cluttered and messy my brain does not work. Unorganized items laying around is 'noise' to my brain. You are going to be like what is she talking about? Well, you are about to find out. Disclaimer there are weeks when my room is a total mess because other urgent things require immediate time and attention. Haven't we all been there? That chair that holds the clothes that are clean enough to be worn one more time but not clean enough to be neatly folded into the closet. But have you ever asked yourself how we over and over again end up in the same situation when we literally just cleaned our room yesterday! 

In November of 2016, I chipped in 450 rupees so that four of us could buy our fifth friend some book. I was not in charge of the book buying. However, when I actually saw the gifts I knew those books had valuable knowledge and they did not cost a fortune for nothing. One of them was the art of tidying up by Marie Kondo. At first, I thought what could there be about cleaning that needs to be learned. Which is also one of the questions the author asks. We are always told by our parents to keep our rooms clean but when you think of it clearly are we ever taught how exactly to do it? No.

Some of the  clothes I donated.


Marie Kondo has been a sensation that even Ellen could not resist having her on The Ellen Show. The book has sold over six million copies and there is more than six-month waiting list to get Marie Kondo's personal assistance. She has managed to clearly guide the readers on the entire process, step by step on how to clean your apartment or room just once and then never again! Every year during Diwali, my mom cleans the entire house. The mistake, as Kondo points out is almost always that we decide to clean and arrange one room at a time.Example bedroom today, living room tomorrow and so forth.

The book guides the user through a process which is divided into two main steps. The first is decluttering and the second is organizing. The key is to divide your belongings into categories and to start with clothes first followed by books/papers, CDs, miscellaneous and keep personal items like photos, letters for the end as they hold a  more emotional value. Another major point to keep in mind is while doing any one category make sure you get all the items down to the very last piece in front of your eyes before you decide which to keep and which to discard. Having all your clothes at one place will give you a realization of how many clothing items you own. Kondo says that every item has its own place and time. Some clothes are simply bought and never put to use. You should only keep those that truly bring joy to you. Take every item into your hand and think about how often you use it and whether or not it brings joy to you. You shall find the answers you seek! To the rest of the items, say thank you and then donate/discard. Moreover, do not let anyone( especially your parents or sister) see what you are about to discard because they will take it and things will keep piling up in the house. Another thing to remember is that don't make old clothes into night wear! Give respect to its purpose. Similarly sort out all your books, papers, coins, CDs, kitchen appliances/utensils, medicines using the same technique.

Organizing bottoms vertically upwards!

Once decluttering is done, then comes organizing. Storage is the word that comes to mind. A whole industry revolves around smart storage options! The key is to put every item in an easily accessible place where it can be easily seen. For clothes, we usually stack them up in cupboards but here once again Marie Kondo has something new and intelligent to offer. She explains how to fold clothes vertically upwards. This helps them to be stored next to each other horizontally so any item can easily be removed without disturbing the others. This is also a great way to see all the cloth options available at one glance. To understand this one in a better way, I highly recommend watching the short video of Marie Kondo's demonstration below.


You will be surprised how easy it is to organize once you have decluttered. I discarded almost half of my stuff and I never have once missed my things. If you live with your family try it with everything you own first and then convince others to do the same. While decluttering, you should throw away all the unnecessary receipts, old bills because filing such negativity is pointless. (I sound sarcastic but how is having the receipt of my first year of B.Pharm tuition fee going to help me now? See my point. But parents have a tendency to do these things and they convince you to do the same as a rule or something. Just throw it away already.) Do not keep old boxes of items with the hope of it bringing value to the item while re-selling *facepalm*.


A clean, decluttered and organized space will allow your brain to focus on more important things. Many times our eyes are flooded with items surrounding us, taking in all that background information which truly speaking decreases our efficiency. Kondo's last rule is that after using everything return it to its place. When you come back home, take the items out of your purse. Your purse needs rest too! Return your clothes to the cupboard, your books, and papers to the place you assigned them while organizing in the first place and you shall never have to set an afternoon aside again in your life to 'clean' again.People who have tried this method have seen a tremendous change in their lives. Students have improved their grades, mothers are finding it easy to manage family life, employees have improved their efficiency at work, it has even motivated people to get over depression!

From the moment I started this, it has made my life easier. I went into hyper mode and did throw my friend's mobile charger which according to her was working fine but did not work for my phone (Hehe). But other than that I have nothing but praise for the method, the author, and the book. I knew I had to share my experience with you. The photos in this blog post are the actual photos of decluttering and organizing during my journey. I save the best to share with you guys, my readers, even if it is a late post because such precious information needs to be circulated around and when I have the first-hand experience in it, of course, you guys will hear about it!



That's all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed saving these photos for all these months so I could write this and tell you about it. I hope you guys try it out for yourself. If you do share your photos with me and comment below to share your experience. Share this article with your friends and family or perhaps a sibling or a roommate to give them a subtle hint ;)
Signing off,
Nishma Khetia.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Genesis : The Story Of My First Trip.




"Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport"
-Unknown.

Everyone has that one awakening moment that shapes their life and the choices they make from there onwards. For me, this happened in the December of 2014. At that time I did not realize that this would be the start of something that I would grow to love. I somehow managed to convince my parents to let me travel to Mysore and Ooty in my college break. The plan was to take a government-run trip that would start at Bangalore. Three days and two nights! I couldn’t be more thrilled. It was the first time I was travelling alone. I would not call it a solo travel because technically speaking I was on a bus with fifty other strangers but yeah, it was going to be one of the most relaxing and memorable journeys. Obviously, no story was complete without some very huge twists and turns but we will come to that later.

The Karnataka government (KSTDC) operates tours and travels from the Badami House in Bangalore. They trip usually start at 6.30 am. While in Bangalore, I was under the instructions to stay with my relatives who lived a good 30 km away from Badami House. I know right! I left before the crack of dawn at 5 am in the local Bangalore bus praying to reach safely to my destination. Soon after I reached the trip began. My seat was next to an old man from Kolkata travelling with his wife and son who was pursuing his Ph.D. in Chemistry (What!?).  The old man was friendly, chatty and one with a lot of wisdom.





The itinerary for the first day included travelling to Mysore from Bangalore which was a 3hour smooth ride.  I had heard about the beautiful gardens and palaces of Mysore. I was a big fan of visiting old Palaces and learning about the history of the kingdoms that once ruled great empires. Our first stop was at the magnificent St. Philomena’s Church. It was built in 1936 in Neo-Gothic architecture inspired by the famous Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The twin spires of the church are 53 m in height and they resemble the spires of the Patrick's Church in New York City.


The main tourist attraction of Mysore, the Mysore Palace was the most beautiful and majestic palace I have ever seen. The Bangalore Palace has the more modern touch to it. The palace in Gujarat is royal as well but this one was a clear winner. It had four grand entrances, the interiors transported me to a historical world altogether.


Mysore also hosts the Tipu Sultan’s empire which is now left in ruins after the invasion. His summer palace still stands in Bangalore. After some much needed South Indian lunch, we dedicated the afternoon to exploring the great Mysore zoo. It was extremely entreating. The zoo is very well maintained and it is a must visit for animal lovers and families with children! It exhibits a variety of animals and birds.


Just before the sunset, we made our way to the beautiful Brindavan Gardens of Mysore. It is ranked in the top ten gardens in India. Our hotel was located in the heart of the Brindavan gardens. Life could not get more perfect than this. I watched the sunset as the beautiful fountain lights were turned on. The hotel served us with dinner and we called it a night as we were extremely exhausted from the bus travel through the day.





Early in the morning after heavy breakfast, we set course for Ooty. It was going to be a long journey up the mountains. We visited the temple in Nanjangunda in the morning. It was a typical vintage South Indian temple. The forest route to Ooty up the Nilgiri Mountains was beautiful. We were in Tamil Nadu territory! We stopped at a roadside tea shop to enjoy some hot tea and pakodas in the chilling December winter of Ooty. The forest route was very pleasant covered with Eucalyptus trees. We spotted elephants and some deer before we finally arrived in Ooty. Our hotel in Ooty was the most adorable place I have ever seen. I am not kidding. The small hotel run by the government was once the quarters for soldiers of the Mysore king for his winter palace in Ooty. After checking in and getting some lunch we went for boating. It was a fun experience. Beautiful landscapes surrounded us as we moved through the cold waters of the hill station.




Our hotel in Ooty was surrounded by hills and valley with beautiful flowers from all over the world. Coonoor is an army base camp just above Ooty which has the Dodabetta peak, the highest mountain peak in the Nilgiri Hills standing tall at 2,600m. The view was breath-taking. All of Ooty could be seen from the viewpoint.


We settled in for the cold night, bundled up in blankets and surviving on hot tea. The next morning we visited Sim’s botanical park in Ooty. It had an amazing variety of fern houses, butterfly house, trees of various species and I was simply delighted with the whole botany exposure. We began our journey back to Bangalore. We faced a four-hour delay on one of the sharp turns on our way down from the mountain roads because a huge truck had stopped in the middle, blocking the path of our travel bus. Obviously, this was the middle of nowhere and there was no mechanic or tools. Finally, we did make it back safe and sound to Bangalore.



Personally, it was a life changing experience. Travelling with total strangers all of who were curious as to why a tall girl was traveling alone. I guess they assumed my story was like that of Kangana from Queen (I could be for all they know!). I managed to interact with them, share stories, explore two beautiful places and collected memories to last me a lifetime. It was after this wonderful experience that I realized how travelling was relaxing, therapeutic and liberating for me. This trip was where it all began.

TOP FOUR TIPS FOR MYSORE-OOTY TRIP:

1. If you are going in December (winter) carry sweaters/jackets, socks, gloves. It was very cold and if it rains the temperature drops are crazy.

2. The road from Ooty to Mysore is uphill and can give you motion sickness so stay prepared with a plastic bag, anti-emetic tablet etc.
3.Both Mysore and Ooty have a lot of travel-friendly shopping. 
VERY IMPORTANT: Only buy items from government store (inside Mysore Palace area). My friend was sold fake sandalwood in-scents, I bought fakeEucalyptuss oil from very genuine looking shops. Ooty chocolates are fine. They are delicious. Be sure to try some!

4.Mysore Palace has a lot of tourists so be careful with your belongings, also remember to plan your day well so you can visit the zoo in the morning, palace after that and reach in time for the gardens as you will not benefit if you reach the gardens after sunset. They are away from the city. Also, the local bus for the garden is very crowded on public holidays. Just get yourself a taxi. I did not have a pleasant experience on my recent trip to Mysore.

CHECK OUT MY MYSORE-OOTY VLOG





So now you know what you have to do! Take that trip you keep dreaming about. Where is it that you want to go? Is it with your friends, your partner or your family? Make that bucket list trip a reality. This brings us to the end of this blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading my experiences. Leave your thoughts and comments below. Do not forget to follow and subscribe. Thank you!

Disclaimer: All the photos and videos, the stories in this blog post are mine. The songs in the video have been credited at the end of the video to respective singers.

Acknowledgments: The main photo of the view of Ooty from inside the hotel is not mine. It was taken by my sister Sonali Khetia. (She did not allow me to use it so I stole it through a screenshot because it is too beautiful to not be put to good use.)

She went on the same trip with two of our mutual friends two years later. Yes, that is me inspiring travelers right there. Hehe. Bye

Signing off,
Nishma Khetia.


January Product Reviews | New Year Brings New Experiments!

Hi guys and welcome back to Time Travelling Shutterbug! Its been a long time since my last blog post and if you are following me on my v...