The deceptives

For some reason I kept convincing her that it is normal. It is as if men are the sink of blames. They are the eternal scapegoats. And a kind man is easily butchered for the wrongs of an uncouth. I felt it in my heart, the hypocrisy. No amount of hurt imparted upon a being can be justified as right. Call me primitive, but I don’t laugh at a broken man. Unlike the fake, who judge on a broken note. In my heart I knew that a kind man is gone. The man who gave up on everything for her sake. Moreover, a man willing to go any length to provide a comfort that he could not have in any way provided for himself. The man, who won’t ever be the same gullible being, but remain the same.

For some reason I kept convincing him that it is normal. It is as if women are the source of problems. They are the eternal criminals. And a kind woman is easily butchered for the wrongs of a daredevil. I felt it in my heart, the hypocrisy. No amount of hurt imparted upon a being can be justified as right. Call me naive, but I sympathize with a broken woman. Unlike the fake, who judge on a broken note. In my heart I knew that a femme fatale is born. The woman who reduced her fire for his sake. Moreover, a woman willing to go any length to provide a comfort that she could have by all means provided for herself. The woman, who remembers it forever, and makes sure it won’t be forgotten.

A thin poem on emotional deciet Another thin poem on emotional deciet

All men are born a hermit
The women gave a desire
He was born aloof, a culprit
Oh woman! the peace, the fire!

Each moment I feel a burden
Every sense but of no use
And holy things are sullen
This, only the women refuse

The kings wage the wars
And kingdoms rise and fall
The queens bring the war
These bodies lain in hall

No man can par with a woman
For they are not the same
A woman can light your lamp
Or burn your Notre Dame

And is a man greater, they ask
The question is far from just
If only men could gather flowers
If only women kept the trust

All women are born restless
A man could give some peace
She was born of earth, a mystery
Oh man! the rush, the air!

Each moment I feel a fear
The memories drive insane
And holy things, and the seer
They all bring endless shame

Queens want more from them
The kingdoms stink of foul
The kings want more of us
Yet another reason to mourn

No woman can par with a man
For the pain none more betters
A man can bring you the Moon
Or bind you to invisible fetters

And is a woman greater, they ask
The question is far from just
If only women were wiser
If only men won’t give in to lust

Corrupted linux kernel headers (Solved)

I have occassionaly gotten annoyed by corrupted kernels message that prevented me to install anything on ubuntu using sudo apt-get install.

There are two solutions that led me to solve this problem.

1.) Check the grub file for any mistake

sudoedit etc/default/grub

Find any symbol mismatches or typing errors.

2.) Install all corrupt headers simultaneously.

sudo apt-get install linux-image-x.xx.x-x1-generic \

                                      linux-image-x.xx.x-x2-generic \

                                      linux-image-x.xx.x.xn-generic

And that’s it! Everything should work fine now. 🙂

 

The Persistent Learner

When they chose the easy way
We were still yet burning
When they took the first steps
We were still yet learning

We go far, we are persistent
Know this and move forward
The summit is only steps ahead
Know what causes your troubles

The weak are the filter
Strong is the filtered tea
When they were sleeping sound
We were breaking our knees

People see the finished good
The process remains unknown
People see the consequences
The stories remain untold

We are stories written in pain
We are the shoulders strained
We are the ink that fills the pot
We are the pot, we are the pen

We are glories that shall be sung
By them who chose the easy way
We remain systems untouched
When they took the first steps

The believer and the belief
Both dissolve away and fade
The dead burnt or buried
Was only one breath away

None desire, troubles to take
None troubles the desire
The pain pottery took
To be hardened by the fire

And we become the potter
And we become the mold
Those who have yet to burn
We are the truth untold

***

Effectively Using Caption Pop Without Popping My Wallet

If you are a byedniye chilovek (poor guy) like me, here is how you can exploit the features on Caption Pop or for that matter on any site without going premium.

no_premium

Caption Pop presents an effective way to navigate subtitles from a video on Youtube.

Basically, we will use Crow Translate, which takes the highlighted text and presents the tranlation in a pop-up window.

https://github.com/crow-translate/crow-translate

Let’s begin by installing it:

1.) Download the .deb file using the following link:

DOWNLOAD

2.) Open the .deb file with ‘software install’ and install it.

3.) Enjoy!

Let’s have a look at how it works. We take a video, for which there are no English subtitles. Usually for Russian to English, Yandex Translate is highly effective and accurate.

Step 1: Open Caption Pop with a video having Russian subtitles.

Step 2: Highlight the text in the subtitle and press Ctrl + Alt + E – Translate selected text automatically

Nice

Alternatively, you can also turn on Google Translate within the video itself and read the translation (but this won’t show Yandex translation, obviously).

no_problem

I hope this was useful. 🙂

Phonetic Keyboards in Russian, Hindi and Persian

Typing is a crucial step in connecting with the language. The search results for contents are better when typed in the native language and script. All of this motivated me to learn to type in native scripts. However…

Learning a new keyboard layout is a tiring process. It takes a lot of practice. But I consider this kind of practice as useless effort. Phonetic keyboards take advantage of knowledge of English Phonemes mapped roughly onto the target language. In my case it’s Russian and Hindi.

Before I knew ibus keyboards I had to use quillpad to type in hindi. Which is sweet and all, but hectic to first type in quillpad box and then copy paste into the desired text field. And there are many things that I simply cannot type beautifully in Hindi using quillpad.

[Check this post for quick installation of iBus keyboard.]

Ultimately I was able to get used to Russian Phonetic and Hindi KaGaPa style keyboard. Both of these can be quickly installed using these steps:

1.) Go to Region and Language settings

2.) Select the language. In my case I selected Russian.

3.) Select the phonetic version of the given language.

Steps are the same for Hindi KaGaPa keyboard.

The keyboard layouts can be switched easily by pressing windows/ super key + space.

Each time space is pressed with super key, the keyboard layout will shift to the next one.

switch

***

Typing in Russian

Because I am already fluent with typing in English. This one is handy. Earlier, I was using Bulgarian Phonetic keyboard to type, because it made sense to me. The problem is I can’t find the characters ё and ы. For typing these, I had to switch to Russian keyboard anyways.

Apart from the usual rules:

ё is typed using shift + 3

Ё using shift + 4

ю using ~

Ь мягкий знак soft sign (myekiiznak) using x

Ъ твердый знакhard sign (tvordiznak) using shift + 5 (lowercase) or (for uppercase)

й is using j for the reason that j is pronounced as ya in German.

ч using the + key

and, ж is typed using v, for no reason at all.

Так, окей, сейчас ты хочешь супер быстро печатать на русском языке. Это отличный метод.

***

For hindi the Hindi KaGaPa keyboard is straight forward. There are two decent features.

1.) In order to make half a character you can press the character key with f

key + f = half of the character

2.) To access other special characters use right alt + character.

Right alt + character = special character of that key

Typing using this keyboard needs some practice, but it is logical and fast.

हिंदी में लिखना अब काफि सरल हो गया है।

Something is wrong here because even though I can write फिर, technically it is wrong because it takes the urdufied version of the letter and should be written as फ़िर. To make it proper we just use right alt key along with the desired character.

बिलाआख़िर (finally) आप उरदु में भी लिख सकते हैं!

पूर्ण विराम लगाने के लिये दाईं अल्ट-की दबा कर बैक स्लैश दबाएं ।

To put the full stop use right alt + back slash (\).

वैरी स्वीट।

To type press shift + right alt + e. Many characters such as ढ़ ऌ ॐ (shift + right alt + m) are typed using this.

***

Typing in Persian

For this, I use the Persian keyboard with numerals.

من مرینال هستم

من دوچرخه را دوست دارم

Someone has put in good effort to make this layout. I wholeheartedly thank them [Behnam Esfahbod].  Please maintain the credits. 🙂

Steps to install this keyboard:

Step 0: We are going to create a new symbols layout. To do that we go to xkb directory.

cd /usr/share/X11/xkb

Now we make a backup of ir symbols file in case things go wrong. And create a new symbols file fs (farsi).

sudo cp symbols/ir symbols/nir

sudo gedit /symbols/fs

Step 1:

And paste this all the way upto Kurdish section of the file.

// Replace all the way up to the Kurdish section of the file
// Iranian keyboard layout
////////////////////////////////////////
// Persian layout,
// based on
// Information Technology – Layout of Persian Letters and Symbols on Computer Keyboards
// ISIRI 9147 – 1st Edition
// Institute of Standards and Industrial Research of Iran
// http://www.isiri.org/UserStd/DownloadStd.aspx?id=9147
// http://behnam.esfahbod.info/standards/i … d-9147.pdf
//
// Author: Behnam Esfahbod <behnam@esfahbod.info>
//

default partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols “pes” {
name[Group1]= “Persian”;

include “ir(pes_part_basic)”
include “ir(pes_part_ext)”

include “nbsp(zwnj2nb3nnb4)”
include “level3(ralt_switch)”
};

partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols “pes_keypad” {
name[Group1]= “Persian (with Persian keypad)”;

include “ir(pes_part_basic)”
include “ir(pes_part_ext)”
include “ir(pes_part_keypad)”

include “nbsp(zwnj2nb3nnb4)”
include “level3(ralt_switch)”
};

hidden partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols “pes_part_basic” {

// Persian digits
key <AE01> { [ Arabic_1, exclam, exclam ] }; // ١ ! !
key <AE02> { [ Arabic_2, at, at ] }; // ٢ @ @
key <AE03> { [ Arabic_3, numbersign, numbersign ] }; // ٣ # #
key <AE04> { [ Farsi_4, dollar, dollar ] }; // ۴ $ $
key <AE05> { [ Farsi_5, percent, percent ] }; // ۵ % %
key <AE06> { [ Farsi_6, asciicircum, asciicircum ] }; // ۶ ^ ^
key <AE07> { [ Arabic_7, ampersand, ampersand ] }; // ٧ & &
key <AE08> { [ Arabic_8, KP_Multiply, KP_Multiply ] }; // ٨ * *
key <AE09> { [ Arabic_9, Armenian_parenright, Armenian_parenright, Armenian_parenleft ] }; // ٩ ) ) (
key <AE10> { [ Farsi_0, Armenian_parenleft, Armenian_parenleft ] }; // ۰ ( (
key <AE11> { [ underbar, KP_Subtract, KP_Subtract ] }; // _ – –
key <AE12> { [ KP_Equal, KP_Add, KP_Add ] }; // = + +

// Persian letters and symbols
key <AD01> { [ Arabic_qaf, Arabic_ghain ] }; // ق غ غ
key <AD02> { [ Arabic_sheen, Arabic_ain ] }; // ش ع
key <AD03> { [ Arabic_ain ] }; // ع
key <AD04> { [ Arabic_ra ] }; // ر
key <AD05> { [ Arabic_teh ] }; // ت
key <AD06> { [ Farsi_yeh ] }; // ى
key <AD07> { [ Arabic_tah, Arabic_zah ] }; // ط ظ ظ
key <AD09> { [ Arabic_ain, Arabic_hamza ] }; // ع ء ء
key <AD10> { [ Arabic_peh ] }; // پ
key <AD11> { [ bracketright, braceleft ] }; // ] } {
key <AD12> { [ bracketleft, braceright ] }; // [ { }

key <AC01> { [ Arabic_alef, Arabic_maddaonalef, Arabic_maddaonalef ] }; // ا آ آ
key <AC02> { [ Arabic_seen, Arabic_sad ] }; // س ص ص
key <AC03> { [ Arabic_dal, Arabic_thal ] }; // د ذ ذ
key <AC04> { [ Arabic_feh ] }; // ف
key <AC05> { [ Arabic_gaf ] }; // گ
key <AC06> { [ Arabic_heh, Arabic_hah ] }; // ە ح ح
key <AC07> { [ Arabic_jeem, Arabic_jeh ] }; // ج ژ ژ
key <AC08> { [ Arabic_keheh ] }; // ک
key <AC09> { [ Arabic_lam ] }; // ل
key <AC10> { [ Arabic_semicolon, colon ] }; // ؛ : ։
key <AC11> { [ Arabic_comma, quotedbl, quotedbl ] }; // ، ” ”

key <AB01> { [ Arabic_zain, Arabic_dad, Arabic_dad ] }; // ز ض ض زخ
key <AB02> { [ Arabic_khah, U0603, U0602 ] }; // خ ؃ ؂
key <AB03> { [ Arabic_tcheh, Arabic_theh ] }; // چ ث
key <AB04> { [ Arabic_waw ] }; // ومممنننوووونن ن
key <AB05> { [ Arabic_beh ] };
key <AB06> { [ Arabic_noon ] }; // ن
key <AB07> { [ Arabic_meem ] }; // م
key <AB08> { [ comma, rightcaret, leftcaret ] }; // , > <
key <AB09> { [ period, leftcaret, rightcaret ] }; // . < >

key <AE11> { [ minus, underscore ] };
key <AE12> { [ equal, plus, 0x1002212 ] };
key <BKSL> { [ backslash, bar, 0x1002010 ] };
key <TLDE> { [ U02DC, UFDFC, UFDF2 ] }; // ˜ ﷼ ﷲ
};

hidden partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols “pes_part_ext” {

// Persian and ASCII digits
key <AE01> { [ Farsi_1, exclam, grave, 1 ] };
key <AE02> { [ Farsi_2, 0x100066c, at, 2 ] };
key <AE03> { [ Farsi_3, 0x100066b, numbersign, 3 ] };
key <AE04> { [ Farsi_4, 0x100fdfc, dollar, 4 ] };
key <AE05> { [ Farsi_5, 0x100066a, percent, 5 ] };
key <AE06> { [ Farsi_6, multiply, asciicircum, 6 ] };
key <AE07> { [ Farsi_7, Arabic_comma, ampersand, 7 ] };
key <AE08> { [ Farsi_8, asterisk, enfilledcircbullet, 8 ] };
key <AE09> { [ Farsi_9, parenright, 0x100200e, 9 ] };
key <AE10> { [ Farsi_0, parenleft, 0x100200f, 0 ] };
};

hidden partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols “pes_part_keypad” {

// Persian digits and Mathematical operators
key <KPDV> { [ division, XF86_Ungrab ] };
key <KPMU> { [ multiply, XF86_ClearGrab ] };
key <KPSU> { [ 0x1002212, XF86_Prev_VMode ] };
key <KPAD> { [ plus, XF86_Next_VMode ] };

key <KPEN> { [ KP_Enter ] };
key <KPEQ> { [ equal ] };

key <KP7> { [ KP_Home, Farsi_7 ] };
key <KP8> { [ KP_Up, Farsi_8 ] };
key <KP9> { [ KP_Prior, Farsi_9 ] };

key <KP4> { [ KP_Left, Farsi_4 ] };
key <KP5> { [ KP_Begin, Farsi_5 ] };
key <KP6> { [ KP_Right, Farsi_6 ] };

key <KP1> { [ KP_End, Farsi_1 ] };
key <KP2> { [ KP_Down, Farsi_2 ] };
key <KP3> { [ KP_Next, Farsi_3 ] };

key <KP0> { [ KP_Insert, Farsi_0 ] };
key <KPDL> { [ KP_Delete, 0x100066b ] };
};

Step 2: Finally, replace the ir file with this fs symbols file.

sudo cp symbols/fs symbols/ir

Now, you can see that the Phonetic Persian keyboard template has been changed.

phonetic_persian

I hope this was useful.

Happy typing! 🙂

My approach to the Russian language

Last year in September I made a bet with my classmate Natasha. I told her that I’d be speaking Russian in 3 months. There was no situation of win or lose per-se, it was a playful bet, and I was all pumped up for it.

Fast forward 3 months, all I could say was:

здравствуйте, как дела, всё хорошо, отлично, пока пока

так…

проста

и я не собирался никуда с этим небольшим знанием

The last sentence was an exaggeration. I can say that now, but not back then.

***

So I lost the bet by a significant margin. I realised that it is way easier to learn to read and write, or type (more on that later) than to actually perform live communication in a language. Duh! common sense, I didn’t have to loose a bet to realise that much right?

Anyways, I have tried many different approaches to Russian, just to figure out how to start learning it! Yes, just to begin with the language in the first place. For me, it is not necessary to actually learn Russian. Our program at ITMO is in English language, buy me being a language enthusiast can’t make the mistake of letting this brilliant opportunity to slip away. I am surrounded by Russians, every once in a while I get the opportunity to talk to complete strangers, whether I am on bicycle and people mistake me for just another Russian мальчик (mal-chick, please don’t interpret in Spanish). Their enthusiasm wavers a somewhat when I could only reply in my broken bits of Russian.

***

Russian language: Motivation

Russian is from Slavic branch of Indo European languages. Even though it is one of the latest languages of the family, it is mysteriously unique but at the same time shares ancient congnates with Sanskrit, and the one of the most preserved languages in the IE (Indo-European) group, Lithuanian.

 

Instead of writing about it, I’d just share some links:

https://www.rbth.com/blogs/2014/11/01/sanskrit_and_russian_ancient_kinship_39451

Russian people are surprised when they hear about this stuff, but for many Indians this is common knowledge. We know that Aryans came the central Eurasia (gross generalisation) but they share a lot of cultural similarities across the satum languages.

Not only that, but there are intresting Mythological one to one corresponding similarities between Vedic mythology and Norse mythology. The Norse God template seems like a derivation from Greek – Roman template, but it is functionally similar to the cousins Slavic – Lithuanian – Sanskrit template. More on this later. It’s too much to write about. But first, let me quickly comment upon gross division of IE languages.

Basically we have Hunden, Centum and Satum division of languages in IE group based on the number ‘hundred’.

Anglo-saxonic languages like German, English, Danish have hundred for 100.

Latin branch with French, Spanish, Italian etc. have cent for 100. Cien, ciento etc.

Satum branch with Slavic, Persian, and Hindustani have sau, shat for 100.

Not only that but these divisions also preserves some cultural similarities, and shared mythology. For example,

From Sanskrit, Dev – Pitr (God and father) -> Zeus – pater (Zeus father) -> Deu – pitar (Jupiter) going to Norse mythology as Thor. While in between the migration of these words, different adaptations have been made.

For example, my favorite… the transfer of goddess of knowledge, beauty, fertility etc. go from Saraswati to Ishtar to Ashtart to Aphrodite to Venus. All during the way merging together into one Goddess or separating into different Goddesses.

One culture similarity would be the celebrations during winter solstice. Since winter is a time of hardship, having endured it is a joyous celebrations. Check out the History_and_cultural_significance section on this Wiki page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

***

Perfect, so the world is more connected than it seems. We are all brothers and sisters under a veil of ignorance. And Samadhi and Bodhisattva are real concepts. But where does that leads me on the path of language acquisition.

For me, the mere idea of similarity with Sanskrit is tantalizing. Knowing that we have such a shared bond in form of words, and memes/ cultural phenomena (no pun intended), is refreshing and motivating.

However, having a connected background with some shared cognates is not guaranteed to produce language fluency. My biggest hindrance with Russian is lack of juicy stuff to watch. And by juicy stuff I mean, raw cultural experience though art. Being predominantly an introvert, cinema, music, comics, and video games are the number one most important source of language acquisition for me, and probably a lot of people like me.

Some of the best movies of the world happen to be Russian, however, it is past. Modern Russian movies are stuck in a loop of wars, and patriotic love. While as glorious as it sounds, I would be really interested in raw human emotions. Portrayal of a military power and all is fine by me, but having an elaborate vocabulary of war strategy is not helpful at all.

I mean look at Korean, and Japanese languages. A lot of people gain fluency by watching a ton of Korean drama and Japanese anime. A cultural feast intertwined with entertainment. While I tried to sequester material, I could only find interesting music. And I am not really intrested in music that have intelligence level of dumb Spanish reggaeton (Spanish has a lot of brilliant music, but Reggaton is just dumb lyrics on a lit beat). So how exactly do I approach the Russian language in this situation.

***

In general, I have a variety of ways to keep myself in an immersive environment.

1.) Before even coming to Russia I had downloaded Google translate with offline Russian langauge pack.

The first thing I did was written a lot of cyrillic. Today, I am able to write in cursive Russian as well. But the key fact is that I have written a lot. Sentence after sentence, even though I had a rough idea of what I am writing, but I still chose to draw the letters until they become engrained within my brain. This is the same approach I used when I was learning the Arabic Nastaliq script, which is used to write Persian and Urdu. The idea is that once you become familiar with the writing script, things become easier. And you don’t fear the language as much otherwise.

2.) I also use my favorite reference English 2.0 dictionary for quick one to one reference translation for words.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=livio.pack.lang.en_US&hl=en_US

3.) I use caption pop to watch videos with English (UK) to Russian.

https://www.captionpop.com/

4.) I am using Greewood’s history of modern nations for Russian history

https://www.abebooks.com/9780313303937/History-Russia-Greenwood-Histories-Modern-0313303932/plp

Approach to the language itself

To be honest, I have tried a lot of different approaches just to find out what suits the best for Russian in this scenario. A fundamental realisation is that language learning is all about input. I make sure that foundationally I don’t get my basic syntaxes wrong.

I used the Michel Thomas method for Russian:

It gave me a quick flavour of the language.

For a reference grammar book I found two amazing books by the same author.

Finally, I am into standard translated sentences. For this I use 3000 reference sentences from Glossika.

https://ai.glossika.com/language/learn-russian

This is basically about drilling the syntaxes into head.

Here is a sample anki deck. I don’t own it. Anki is basically a flash card system, it is used for efficient rote memorisation.

https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/2029878795

***

Final notes

So as I described earlier, after struggling a lot I found the above method useful for Russian. Since I don’t have movies to watch, I’d rather watch interviews, advertisements, music videos on Caption pop with Russian translations. I prefer to use only standard translations i.e. the translations provided by the video owner themselves. Additionally, captionpop can be used to view language instruction videos, where it is immensely helpful. Additionally, I make use of the google translate’s speech feature to listen to a rough pronounciation of the Russian sentences.

For me time is a constraint. I am only a hobbyist when it comes to languages, and primarily spend my time in Biology, and programming. This method is perfect for me to practice during study breaks, or general leisure time. Let’s see if this approach, which resonates with me well, is a success or failure in the end.

Typing in Russian

Since I don’t have the time and effort to get used to Russian keyboard layout. I have become a big fan of phonetic typing. It is the ability to render the phonetic sounds of one language to those in another language. In simple words, if I type Privet in English, it should be displayed as привет (Cyrillic).

Here is a post describing how to do this in Windows and Linux.

http://mkrd.info/computer-software-related-articles/linux-2/adding-russian-phonetic-yazhert-keyboard-to-linux.html

But I have a neat trick up my sleeve.

I don’t know when a phonetic keyboard for Russian will come out (that actually makes sense). In my case, I just use Phonetic Bulgarian along with Standard Russian keyboard. The phonetic Bulgarian has all the letters except ё (yo). For which I just quickly switch to Russian keyboard and press ? button. Then I switch back to Bulgarian keyboard and resume typing in Russian. The problem is that sometimes there might be spelling mistakes according to spell check, in this case, I just quickly paste a spelling  in google translate, which displays to me a correct form. It’s a work around. But it’s not like I have to type in Russian all the time. 🙂

I will share my progress. Let’s see where this approach is heading towards.

йо бро! (yo bro!)

пхонетик руссиан то тхе го! (phonetic russian to the go!)

Some Memorable Experiences in Saint Petersburg 2018-19

Saint Petersburg (SPB) is a city right out of fairy tales. It’s clean, presentable, and majestic. I mean just look at this!

 

 

Since I don’t usually get the time to write these kinds of posts. I will solely depend upon my memory to write down some of the most memorable experiences I had, as a student, as a person who has never stepped outside India for such a long time (about 10 months).

Memories are important, and must be cherished because eventually these sum up, and we try to find the best narrative to give meaning to our lives. No memory, no narrative. The good thing is, I use poetry as an tool for memory. During my stay, I captured how I felt in the moment by registering my thoughts in either English or Spanish. These help me remember everything like a FHD movie playing in my head preserving all the raw emotions, and senses involved.

 

 

 

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My favorite building in Lomonosova :'))

A post shared by Mrinal Vashisth (@mrinal_manu) on

♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢

First Few Days: The Giveaway, October 2 – 10, 2018

The intial days are the toughest, you come to a foreign land, not knowing how it will all work out, but it does. I arrived at SPB on 2nd of October. It was a good flight, the moment I exited the plane, I went straight for the baggage. I had brought few clothes, my bicycle, and my cabin bagpack with me. I hadn’t know at that time that we can do a Yandex taxi for 600 Rubles. I ended up spending 2400 Rubels or a private taxi outside the airport. This is the most expensive taxi I have ever taken. I asked the taxi driver to take me to ITMO guest house, somewhere near Petrogradskaya.

I used google translate to communicate. I remembered asking the driver an extraordinarily stupid question, “Is everyone rich here?”. He looked at me in surprise, took my permission to smoke a cigarette and asked me why I thought everyone was rich. I replied, “Well the city is so beautiful, and the taxi is so expensive.” He smiled a bit and politely communicated through translator telling me that, ‘it is all a show’. He spoke the words of wisdom. He dropped me off the guest house, returned me 100 Rubles from the initial 2500 Rub agreed upon fare, shook my hands and drove away. That’s my first memory of SPB.

Two days fast forward. October 4, 2018

I got to meet my classmates. I cannot write the entire description, because it was a rapid introduction session, with everyone firing their names. They are kind, and smart people. Well rooted in the ground. Just the kind I like. If I were to write about any person, describing exactly how they are from my eyes, I have to write probably a book. This involves continuous accumulation of data, which involves every single interaction, dialogue of memory of them. It’s too much, so I’d just skip.

My first class at ITMO was that of English, taken by none other than ma’am Yulia Ryabukhina, a young and vibrant professor. She had been teaching at ITMO longer than the oldest person in my class. That’s indeed very long. She was the head of language department. She said farewell to us after ITMO ceiling collapse. We were lucky to have studied as long as we could under her. After the class I had a very good reason to remember the names of our kind Ksuisha, and Natasha. Sedreh I already knew before even arriving to SPB.

I remembered entering the metro, I was with Natasha and Ksuisha. Sedreh already parted ways. We were supposed to change lines at Red-Green, Ploshad Vostannaya. When I was about to enter the metro cabin, a woman behind me warned me about a few men that were about to enter the metro after me. As soon as I entered the cabin, I reached for my pocket but one man blocked my hand. Another blocked my way, the third one took my wallet and ran away. This is how I got robbed for the first time in SPB, no, in my entire life. I ran after them, but they disappeared.

I lost a all my money, my ID card, my PAN card, my cherished Nepali coins, and my passion for public transport. Natasha and Ksuisha hurried back to me. They took me to the metro security, then to a nearby police station. And I registered my first police complaint. It was the first time I kept a wallet. I was terrified, because I had just lost all my money. Ksuisha and Natasha escorted me to the guest house. And did lend me a few bucks to go through next few days.

As per how I felt about the whole incident. I was just a bit surprised. Because I have been to New Delhi, and I have been pretty open, had ample of opportunities to get pick-pocketed, but it happened to me in SPB, which is kind of odd given that central SPB is one of the safest places. Thus, my initial experience of the city was not good. But as soon as I got my bicycle up and running. I forgot about all that jazz, and continued forth with my adventures.

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Meeting a LOT of people form a LOT of different places

I was assigned dorm at Nabereznaya Reki, Karpovki. They say, you are lucky if you get his dorm. In my case, I got it because people at some faraway dorm in Alpeskiye peryouluk didn’t allow me to keep my bicycle. Anyways, there a was a bike stand in front of my dorm, that was kinda cool.

My room is 303, it has two three’s so I like that. My roommate was Japanese, Kohei Yamaura, for the first 6 months. And then SangHyeon Seo, a lit Korean guy. Charlie left us too soon (for another dormitory). I went with Kohei to Sushi-wok and Bap-jip with SanHyeon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My entire is filled with Spanish speakers, so that’s kinda home like situation for me. There is also a malay dude, Kirtivasan, there was an Indian bro Aditya Prakash, the Algerian guy Mohamed, the Iranian guys, the Kazakastani folks, Abu Gafar Bodai who just disappeared, the Chinese connection, wow, there are a lot of people to mention. The third floor is the most occupied one. One by one, I met them, got to know them, and they left. And so will I one day.

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What is my program at ITMO like

ITMO is cool, but of course I can only speak about my program here. Because we are the first batch, the workload is kind of hectic. But I am not sure about other programs.

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International Masters Programme students. [I hope there is no problem. I don’t know who clicked this photo. The person may contact me and claim credit]

Usually, at top universities; everything a student does actually counts. For example, we have to do assignments, midterm tasks, and pass exams. Sometimes we can get grades for the course we had taken, at others we will get a percentage, or Pass/ Fail. My own experience is that it is not easy to study here. By the time we finished the first semester, I saw a lot of familiar faces disappeared. I think it is wrong to assume that hard-work correlates with efficient education.

For me, the quality of education at ITMO is a novel experienced. Maybe someone who already is from top 500 universities better be able to compare, but for me, it is a rapid-fire dope education experience. It’s interesting that master’s students in Russia are treated like working professionals.

This is an excrept from my emotional baggage right after the end of the semester. I’ve embellished it to fit here:

All of a sudden we have three, four or even five deadlines approaching. As my guide, Yury Barbitoff from JetBrains aptly explained to me the concept of burning deadlines. You get so washed up in the workload that you eventually don’t even care what is happening around you. I experienced it first hand after noticing that I spent four days, still confusing the gap between those days as a single day. The only memories are wake up, work, sleep and repeat. I think, if the program is not organized, the student suffers, even if they’re brilliant students. An unorganised program is a series of uncomfortable experiences. It is not a question of good or bad, it is simply a wastage of time. Sedreh (my calssmate) oft told me about her frustration, other students complain among each other about the workload stress as well. I have had great experience in handling stress. Indian educational system is one of the most stressful in the world downright from the school, not because it’s good, but because of its competetive nature. Thus, workload is nothing I complain about even with having a lot of clashing deadlines.

As an extension, imagine working day and night on something that you can’t understand. It almost feels like you are wasting your time. I think the second most important thing after food is time. I have seen people spend a lot on time on doing something they don’t like. I think they are under the impression that they are immortals. Even though four days seemed like one, I learnt something important and useful. I suppose that’s the way things work out at top places. The way to solutions comes from accepting the fact that there is a problem.

The education here is practical, that is excpected. Again speaking about my own course, we don’t study useless stuff. It’s a trade-off between quality and quantity. I think that is a credit due to professors. They really know what they are going to teach, and how they are going to impart this knowledge. In our MS Bioinformatics and Systems Biology we were taught from lecturers who studied from Harvard, MIT, Max Planck etc. And in turn we get to choose excellent projects for our thesis. I like it. But I am wondering, what is the future of this program. Our MS is the first of it’s kind here, and we are the first batch. Only time will reveal.

My degree would basically be Applied Mathematics and Information Technology, and we are studying not just at ITMO but also Bioinformatics Institute (BI). So we get lectures by cool guys at JetBrains as well. Someone once told me that I have excellent skills of marketing, because I explained how tasty Indian food was. May be they’re right. But all I do good is put forth my honest sentiments. There are some things I like and some I don’t. It just so happens that the things I like about ITMO undermines the ones I don’t by a huge difference, in a positive way.

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Making friends and all

Initially, like a common ritual in every university, the students come together, interact with each other. We had a tour through the center of SPB, we got to know about a lot of cool stuff, like why are the buildings in SPB nearly all of the same height (they can’t exceed the height of Peter and Paul fortress). I found a lot of Persian people here, so that’s another feeling of home. There is just too much to write! But… I can always post some links. This is a post by our leader Onis. Oh it just melts my heart!

Even outside of SPB I met and interacted with a lot of people. Even though I can’t write about all of them I want to tell about Pasha and Olga. We met one and the other and we have walked to different places since then. Pasha has a good sense of humor, he also invited me to his dacha. I would write all about it. There is also Vlad, he is a mathematician. I was surprised to find out that he has an interest in Hindi. That’s kinda dope, because I haven’t find many people interested in learning Hindi! One day I met with Ksuisha and Vlad and I cooked some tasty South Indian food for them. Also, I already told about my trip with Anton, Sergie, Guns, Nick, Irina, and Lisa to Elbrus.

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Two interviews

I am just going to post the links.

Coursera interview

Interview at ITMO

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The Things We Cook To Survive

As Indians we usually cherish spicy food. But mark my words, when Indian speak about spicies, there are two which actually make the food inedible for most people outside India, these are red pepper and cloves. And Indian people kind of over-do these two. If you remove the pepper and clove, Indian food becomes as tame as Georgian food.

Another complain I get a lot is the criticism Indian food gets for the amount of oil. I wouldn’t defend this one. Indeed, Indian food uses a significant amount of cooking oil, but the really unhealthy thing is clarified butter (or Ghee). Indian people eat is like Americans eating chicken. And we know excess of anything is bad. Ghee is just too delicious, and it is another reason why Indian food is so “Indian”.

I am Indian, so for me there are two kinds of foods in this world, Indian and Not-Indian. Just like every popular song in this world has at least one cover in Hindi and Spanish. Every popular dish in the world has an Indian equivalent. For example, Qutabi c cirom ulguni is just Paneer parantha (with considerable abount of chilly and baked in ghee) in disguise, which if filled with some meat becomes the Mexican tacos. Different ingredients result in different tastes. Russian food is kind of different, in that it is heavily meat based.

We have a lot of soups and breads in Russian food, similar to most of the European food. Also, people here enjoy plain tea, without any sugar or milk. And coffee here is unusually expensive. I guess that’s mostly a European influence. In India we usually don’t eat soup or bread, both of which are considered ‘breakfast kind of food’ or ‘incomplete food’.

I never thought I would say that, but one of the tastiest things I have had are Potatoes and Musrooms (which I ate at Pasha’s dacha), there are no spices at all, only some salt, and the potatoes were boiled. And you have one of the tastiest things in the world! For an Indian, that is almost unimaginable, because for us the tastiest food means a perfectly spiced dish (containing about 12-18 different spices, or at least 5 most essential ones [yes, I can name all of them]). Potatoes with Mushrooms was so tasty, that I didn’t even take a photograph. The another delicious stuff is a drink called Kvas, yumm yumm yumm.

Because I am kind of vegetarian, I can’t really comment upon the meat containing food. Interestingly, wherever I have been in SPB, the food is always expensive and never enough. Maybe because I am vegetarian, and my lifestyle is bit exhausting but still, for the same amount I can get more than enough food in India. Also, water is not free. There are racks of water bottles, and they sell! Which is kind of strange for me as an Indian, the only time I need to buy water is when I am traveling in buses.

Thankfully, I know a lot of stuff I can cook. In-fact cooking is one of my hobbies, it’s a relaxing activity. To cook Indian food is difficult, because I can’t find Ghee in Russia. Maybe there is, there are many Indian supermarkets. But I am too lazy to go there. There are three things I miss in Russia the most, Cardamoms, Ghee, and good milk. They are nowhere to be found. The prices of dry nuts are nuts! For example, I can get about 100 grams of roasted peanuts for 10 Rubles in India, here I have to pay 50. Also, tomatoes are Gucci here, over 200 per kg as opposed to 25-35 Rubles/ kg I used to pay in India. I think I can impress a Russian girl by presenting her 1 kilogram of Mangoes (I found Mango shake somewhere for 350 Rubles). It is difficult to be vegetarian in Russia. My friend Ksuisha is a vegan, with an extra statutory label of ‘no animal products’. I think it’s next to impossible for a vegan to survive in Russia. Luckily the only thing I don’t eat is meat so viva madre Rusa!

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The Bike Thief, January 10-24

I rarely use metro, or any other public transport. I have never traveled on a Tram or Bus till now in Russia. Bike is the way to go for me. Here is an entire post dedicated to this experience. However I want to highlight a particular incident.

One early morning, I woke up and went to the supermarket. At around 10 AM when I returned, to my surprise my bicycle was gone. Turns out, that 5 in the morning at -15  degrees, someone stole my bike. The dorm admin had footage on CCTV. I found my Algerian friend as I went to the stairs, I asked him if he could help me with filing a complaint. Mohamed quickly finished with his business and got the number from admin office and called the police. He knows Russian, so he explained my situation. And we waited for the police to come.

I also explained my situation to Kirti, who was enjoying food and consoling me in my loss. I felt like loosing a part of me. Not to be too dramatic, but I was imagining myself to be walking long distances for the rest of my stay. I couldn’t bring myself to travel in metro. I realised just to what degree I hated any kind of transport. I guess I like biking because it keeps me involved, and it is entertaining.

When the police-officer came, I and Mohamed sat in his car and explained the whole situation. Every detail. It’s kind of strange that I don’t remember the exact day, but I just remembered that it would be a long wait for me. The officer filed my complaint in Russian, took a copy of my passport and told me to wait.

Much to my surprise, the same evening Mohamed rushed to my room. He showed me a video of a drunk woman and my Bike lying on the snow laden sidewalk. I was thrilled! We had to rush to the police station. When we reached there, because I had not proof of purchase with me, the officers instructed me to wait for one week before they’d release the bike. The thief was already apprehended, but we didn’t see her. A translator was called and my report was translated into English and presented to me. When asked the officers how they apprehended the thief. The officer told us that this woman was an expert and that she has stole many expensive bicycles around the region. In my case, she just happened to be a little drunk and near police station.

After one week I was called and my bicycle was handed over to me. When I went back to dorm, I requested the dorm admin to keep my bicycle inside for 1 week, as I hadn’t any lock for my bike. And thus, finally after January 24, I resumed biking again. Fast forward, one week, I received a call. I was instructed to be presented in the district court, where a hearing was organised. In my entire life, I had visited the police station for the first time in Russia, I can’t even tell you how Indian police stations look like. Likewise, for the court.

In mid of February, I took my bike and headed for the court where my case was held. I waited on the third floor of the building, outside a small office. I waited there for one hour and until my appointment time approached. At about 1 AM I entered the office and saw my first court! Quite unusual to be honest, there were only two benches, there were two sitting spaces, one for the lawyer and another for the assistant to the judge. And right corner of the door was where the judge sat. I also got to see the perpetrator of the theft. A tomboy woman, about 40 or so, she was a Ukrainian immigrant.

The judge started to read my case, she spoke Russian faster than Eminem’s Rap God. Within a few seconds she recited the entire case. And then she shouted out at the secretary, as a translator was not called for me. The judge asked me to wait outside again for an hour till the translator comes. I was really impressed with our judge, she had a strong personality and the just the perfect rage!

After an hour my translator came and the hearing resumed. They asked usual question to me, name, nationality etc. They asked whether my bicycle was returned to me, I explained that I came to court on my bicycle. And the first thing the surprised judge said was, ‘ne xolodna?’ (is it not cold?), I replied, ‘just alright’. They thought I was a bachelor student first year because of my age, (first year is usually preparatory in Russia, where students have to learn Russian language)  but I was a masters, with course offerings in English. My translator explained to me that the woman also stole another man’s bike, she pointed out another person in the room. Apparently, he had a bike over 40K Rubles and the poor man didn’t get it back. In a sense, I was saved by the nape of the neck.

The woman had her reason. Primarily, she hadn’t money to pay for the apartment, which is kind of understandable, because apartment prices in SPB are quite ridiculous (not as ridiculous as Mumbai though). Finally, the judge asked me whether all my damages were done. I understood that if I’d ask about my lock and stuff, it would take me multiple rounds to the court. So I just said, all is good, and that there is nothing else I want from the convict. The judge ended the hearing, and I was told that I don’t need to come to court in the future.

I never imagined writing about police stations and courts. But it was kind of exciting in an unusual way. But interestingly, I was poppin’ about with my bicycle. All well that ends well.

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Go Karting! March 31, 2019

I don’t know how to drive a four-wheeler, but when it was Anton’s birthday I took the opportunity to join the group for Go karting!

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It’s not an accurate depiction but this was where we raced.

 

 

 

 

 

We got registered for the track, changed for the karting gear and at about 5 PM we were ready to rock the track! It was awesome! Just pedal, throttel and adrenaline! We raced in two groups, I was in the group of newbies, while Anton being a pro was racing against the group champs. I got 2nd place in my own group. :))

 

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Go karting in SPB… When it was Anton's birthday

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There are many more experiences, and they deserve their own post. Maybe I’ll find some time to write about them. 12 months in the city and there are only few places I know by name Petrogradskaya, Lomonosova, Kronversky, Bagovaya, Spasskaya, Chornaya Ryecha… I don’t even know why I know the last one. I am bad with names. I have just spatial map of some parts of SPB in my head, I know how to go to a Russian banya (yes! the banya!) from Petrogradskaya, or get my bicycle repaired, but some cool stuff etc.

 

 

 

 

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Some lit photos from Peter in winter 😀

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