When in a Preschool, be talkative

My research as a doctoral student is with preschoolers. What this means is that I spend a ridiculously (and yet fabulously) large amount of time in preschool classrooms for data collection. Following are a few of the best conversations I have had with tiny humans, and my take on the same –

  • The one where the kid can’t believe I just come to their school to creepily stare at them for hours, and call it ‘work’ (Part 1)

Kid, sitting on the grass in the playground, staring at me: “Why are you here everyday?”

Me, taken by surprise: “Oh, I do some work here. And I come to meet you all”

Kid, looking supremely unconvinced: *gets up and walks away to play*

  • The one where the kid can’t believe I just come to their school to creepily stare at them for hours, and call it ‘work’ (Part 2, with a different kid)

Kid, looking at me curiously: “Why are you here all the time?”

Me, used to this question now, confident of my ability to answer: “I do work here, and I get to meet you all and see what you’re doing”

Kid, slightly confused, but look of understanding dawning on his face: “So you work for the school?”

Me: “Kind of”

Kid: “So you’re here all day?”

Me, realizing this explanation is getting messier: “No, I also have to go work at my own school after I leave from here.”

Kid, confused again: “So you have 2 jobs?”

Me, relieved at the easy culmination of the conversation: “Yes”

Kid, walking away, murmuring mysteriously: “I also have two different jobs”

Me, wondering whether to follow up, or accept that a 5-year-old believes he has two jobs: *shrug, go back to collecting data*

  • The one where the kid is sincerely worried about these adults being responsible for the world

Kid, at housekeeping play centre, making pretend food: Here, I made you a burger

A visitor to the classroom, the recipient of the food, enthusiastically engaged in pretend play: “Oh yum! This is great! What all’s in here? I wish we had some ketchup to go with it. Also, do you know, there’s a restaurant nearby which serves a burger which is kind of like this. Have you ever been there?”

Kid, with the most concerned look on her face: “This isn’t real food, it’s plastic”

Me, looking away, trying not to burst out laughing, then turning back, and kid staring at me with a concerned ‘is-this-guy-for-real’ look on her face

  • The one where the kid is concerned about my mental health and leads me to an epiphany

Me, walking into the classroom, having just heard a joke and still smiling about it: Hi, M! *smiling at M*

M, with a broad smile: “You’re actually happy today!”

Me, aghast and confused at what emotion she thought I’d been exhibiting every day in class before this: “Am I not happy everyday?”

M, shrugs, walks away, conversation over

Me, to myself: They know about my resting bitch face. Also, it apparently looks like my whole life is just sorrow…what have I been looking like?! *cue existential crisis*

  • The one where I am rechristened (multiple times, and counting)

Kid: “Are you leaving now?”

Me, packing up: “Yes, I am. I’ll be back next week!”

Kid, calmly, and happily: “Okay. Bye Amber!”

Me, stopping in the motion of hitching my backpack onto my shoulder, and looking confused: “Who?”

Kid: “Amber”

Me, looking at teachers, lost: “Amber?”

Teacher, smiling and rolling her eyes, to kid: “This is not Amber. It’s Sanchari”

Kid, supremely unconcerned, looking at me: “You’re Amber now. Bye Amber!”

Other kids at the table, chiming in: “Bye Amber!”

Me, coming to terms with the inevitability of the situation: “Okay then. Bye!”

(Note: I have also been called Rachel and Claire)

  • The one where the kid reminds me to be in the present moment, and chill out

Me to the kid who comes up to me, hugs me (I hug him back), while teacher is calling everyone to the carpet for group time: “Hi. Thanks for the hug. You need to go sit on your spot now”

Kid, fascinated with my papers: “I see?”

Me, showing him the sheet, then getting his attention again, while teacher continues to try to get everyone to the carpet: “You need to be on the carpet now”

Kid to me, still looking at my papers, with a lot of gravitas, holding out his hand in a stopping motion: “Woah. Wewax (relax)”

Me, once again trying not to laugh out loud: “Okay. But you still need to sit on your spot”

  • The one where I got a much-needed reminder of why I do this stuff

Me to kid B, doing one-on-one activities with kid A, while kid B proceeds to climb onto my back, hugging me from behind: “Hey, can you go play somewhere else for now?”

Kid B, moodily: “Why?”

Me: “Because I don’t want (Kid A) to get distracted while she’s doing this activity”

Kid B, emphatically: “But I love you!”

Me, on the verge of tears, melting away: “I love you too. You can be here if you’re quiet”

(Note: Kid B was the supposed ‘problem child’ of the class, but became my favourite by the end of the year. She was the one I always got impromptu hugs from, and the one who insisted on spending her last day in school mostly cuddling with me. I miss her.)

Quarter Life Crises?

I don’t know how it happens, but there are situations where I’ve been ruminating over something for a while, and then I see these posts about that exact same thing somewhere on the net.

If the title didn’t give it away (I mean…it’s kinda obvious), I’ve been thinking about the new-fangled Quarter Life Crisis, which probably has been occurring since forever, but now that everyone can make a meme/comic/post and put it online, people are realizing exactly how common it is.

I mean it when I say it’s common…

Now, the focus is not on lamenting the loss of childhood (or rather, being forced into adulthood), but on the fact that it is okay to not be “settled” and “in control of life” at this age.

I think that’s very apt.

But then it got me thinking…why is it that everyone grows up with this idea that when they’re in their twenties, they will be established and everything will be figured out?

What have you done society?!

PS. How is it November already? Where did the year go? What is happening? Can you calm down, Time?

A Golden Harbor in a Rainstorm

Some days are made for getting Chinese food, even though its raining heavily.

Its sort of like the concept of a ‘personal fable’ (can you tell I’m attending classes?)…even though its been raining all afternoon, you are optimistic enough to believe that it won’t “be that bad” when you leave the house.

And then, of course, when you get off the bus, its pelting, and only you’ve got an umbrella (the other two under the impression that they had their umbrellas, but actually didn’t). 

So everyone huddles under one umbrella, clutching onto each other…and inexplicably (or maybe not so inexplicably) we’re all laughing like crazy.

The laughter turns shriek-y when we’re splashed on by passing cars. Now we begin whining about how wet we are. The umbrella overturns in the wind, and now we go looking for shelter (find it and stay there till the rain relents a bit).

All in all, when we enter the restaurant, we try to act dignified even though we’re soaked. And we get our much-desired Chinese food too. Here’s a badly composed photograph as proof…

(The restaurant is named Golden Harbor, and is one of the most famous restaurants here in Champaign. The food is good)

From India to Illinois : I moved continents!

I’ve been missing for a while (again), but this time I have an extremely valid reason – I was firstly holidaying around the US, and now I’m settling in at my new home. After living a little more than the first two decades of my life at the same place, I’m now living away from home, because I’m doing my PhD at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The level of adulting (kindly excuse my use of crazy words) has gone up, people.

In the last couple of weeks, I have…

…learnt that packed lunches are a wonderful thing

…already got my first set of bruised scabby knees

…pulled/pushed doors in the wrong direction (way too many times)

…gotten a water account in my name (well they first named me Baner (first name) Jee (last name), but I got it changed after I’d laughed a full minute)

…left my water bottle in class (and then retrieved it the next afternoon)

…learnt that I can cook well enough and my experiments aren’t bad at all

…had a staring contest with a rabbit in front of my apartment building


After the staring, it royally ignored me

…understood that if your front door is open and someone is moving around in your room, it’s probably just the maintenance guy fixing your window blinds(and not an intruder, so don’t scream)

…stuck to my resolution to wash dishes as soon as I’m done with them

…gotten lost in Walmart (and Target. And JC Penney)

…repeated myself several times (slowly) because my English is accented

…learnt that my English is accented

…been expressed deep commiseration and laments over the fact that I’m a doctoral student, and will probably stay here forever

…already gotten socialized to dread midterms

…confirmed that UIUC is indeed surrounded by cornfields, but what people leave out is that within those cornfields you have pretty much everything you might need


…visited the ‘Taste of Champaign-Urbana‘ and despite the live music and delectable food, been most excited by the froyo spoons which change colour when cold


…got a taste of what the (in)famous #gradlife is about

…observed the “Undergrad” and seen several stereotypes played out

…observed the “Grad” and seen several stereotypes played out

…realized that I’ll probably be okay.

Now these realizations/learnings were only in university, so you can imagine how much I was bombarded with while I was being touristy before I got here. It wasn’t as much of a culture-shock as it is a learning process. The widespread reach of American movies, TV series and Tumblr has done at least one thing – made American popular culture known to everyone.

And now I must go and study, because you know, Grad school and all that.

(I’m probably just going to chat with my flatmates about which restaurant we’re going to try out this week)

Late-Night Musings : Trust Issues

Trust Issues are the worst kind of issue to have. Ever. They colonize your mind and seep into your very neurons, making it hard (if not impossible) to open up and give up your inhibitions.

And ironically enough, the only way to get over trust issues, is to actually…

…wait for it…

…trust someone!

(And then keep worrying and getting anxious about whether that person is actually worthy of trust or not, and whether or not you’ve made a royally messed-up decision by opening up again or not.)

Oh the barriers we create for ourselves! How happy we would be if we could set our minds free instead.

PS. This is the most inconvenient thing to begin thinking about late at night.


(from the net)

Nighttime Excursions and Celestial Mysteries

Every night, I go out for a walk in the park in front of my house with a friend who lives a few houses away (Hi Abhiti!). We’ve formed this tradition of sorts since a year or so (though it’s become regularized more recently) and we never run out of things to talk about.


(from the interwebs)

For example…

where is the Moon? (a daily favourite, because the Moon hardly ever appears in the same spot in the sky and on some days hides behind houses, frustrating us to no end as we debate whether it’s a new moon night or not)

is it a rat/mouse or frog or cat which is rustling through the hedges? (this is creepy and more of an inner monologue I think, though we do discuss it too)

how well-trained is the pet dog that someone has let loose in the park while we walk? (I really like dogs, but when a hyperactive one runs towards you barking, you kind of freeze and wonder whether you should begin looking back at your life)

what kind of nocturnal birds are screeching at night and sounding nothing like owls? (I have realized that my information-level about nocturnal birds, save for owls, is woefully inadequate)

oh cool! That’s a bat flying around the big flood lights (more of an observation. We don’t get to see too many bats here)

what invisible creature is the cat stalking so intently? (we don’t have night-vision, so it could be ghost for all we know)

when we were kids, we could see so many more stars in the sky (this is another daily observation. Clear skies are a delight)

we should go to the Planetarium some day (follow-up to previous conversation)

how lucky are we that the power outage occurred on a full-moon night? (one night, there were power outages three times, leaving parts of the park in pitch-black darkness, so we retreated to the open areas where the moon, thankfully, showed up and shone bright)

air traffic has become so high! (there are planes zooming in all directions above our heads)

will we see an UFO? (my friend claims she saw an UFO once while she was in the park. So now, we look up every time we hear a noise in the sky, and I think we’re both hoping to see something…outside the ordinary)

Needless to say, our walks are more about us chatting and less about the walking itself. But even then, it’s a part of my day I look forward to, because being outside at night is always a mysterious and interesting prospect. And there are still so many questions to be answered!

Late-night Musings: Pros and Cons

“Every single thing has pros and cons. Nothing is perfectly good and nothing is absolutely bad. There’s always some grey.”

Who said the above? That would be me. *thank you thank you*

Whenever I’m faced with difficult decisions, I’ve found myself making mental ‘Pros’ and ‘Cons’ lists, however cliched that might be.

Based on my extensive (twenty-something years) life experience, I have come to the conclusion that…

Every. Single. Thing. Has Pros and Cons.

All that changes is the perspective with which you look at something. When you change your perspective, something seemingly perfect can also throw up some negatives, or something which you’d judged horrendously bad, may start revealing some redeeming qualities.

I am absolutely sanguine about this fact…every thing in the world has positives and negatives.

And once you realise that (and try to remember that), life starts looking a little less horrifying.

Okay I’m done musing for tonight. But here’s when your musings begin. Try and think of something which has no pro or no con. If you can think of something, you get a cookie. A virtual cookie.