Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chennai and back to Bangalore

Finally some summer! After Singapore the IIT Madras and Madras University were on my schedule, where I enjoyed interaction with the faculty and talks in front of very engaged students - as I am in fact used to here in India. Just yesterday, after the presentations were over, I managed to take a day off to visit Marina Beach - the second longest beach in the world. It was good to have some proper sunshine and heat for a day - I like it if you really feel which time of the year it is; summer needs sunshine, winter needs snow. (The only problem with my theory is that in late August it's not exactly summer in Chennai, but for a guy like me from western Europe it certainly feels like a pretty decent summer also during that time of the year.)

Setting up shop on Marina Beach.

Having fun in front of the 'cameraman'.

Waiting for the big wave of visitors during the night - only tourists (like me) go to the beach during the day. Next time I am here I will visit in the evening as well to have a look around.

Bathing the cow.

Washing fish.


Entrance close to Chennai Central train station.

Time to go back to Bangalore - taking the 'Bangalore Mail' overnight train.

A package for Babu in Calicut. Babu must be a very well-known person as it seems.

You have only been to India if ... well, there are many 'if's', but one of them is 'if your name has been on a train reservation chart'. See below - third in the list, now I have been to India.

Good night Chennai, good morning Bangalore ... and peaceful views of the Indian countryside at all times.


3 days in Singapore - mostly for work (visiting Novartis / NITD) but also to have a look around town. This city/state is quite different from what I have seen before. The number of people - fine, India is not sparsely populated either. Initially I was amazed by the diversity of Western and Asian influences which seem to merge - at first sight - into a colorful blend in this city. The problem: It's not really true. Well, to be precise: It's true on some levels, but it's far from true on others. While I was amazed at the flawlessness of construction and organization in every regard, I did not find the heart of the city during my stay. Certainly a challenging city to live in - so maybe I should take on that challenge in the future, let's see.

Ngee Ann City - prototypic shopping center close to my hotel (in the background).

On my way to Biopolis (or actually on the way back from there). Scientific / life science research in Singapore definitely has an interesting type of backing in industry and politics behind it.

Inside Biopolis - the Matrix.

Inside Biopolis - Helios and Nanos buildings.

After my business meetings a day remained to have a look around town a bit more. The Singapore Flyer is certainly one of the bigger wheels I have been on (150 meters in diameters) and it gave a nice view over the city.

Finally, dinner with friends - Shaillay and Philip - after a good stay in town. The view from the restaurant into the city ...

... and the view from the city into the restaurant. Exciting three days - I am very glad I went to Singapore, for the science, to meet friends, and to simply get a first-hand impression of this place. It's very different from what I have seen before, at some stage I still have to go to Hong Kong; visiting - in some regard - similar cities will likely sharpen my eye for their differences.

NCL Pune

Of course a visit to India wouldn't be complete without seeing one man - Karthikeyan from NCL Pune. A short e-mail he wrote to get in touch, and a collaboration was established that lasted for years in the past, and certainly for many more years in the future. From what I recall he is my first cheminformatics colleague in India I was ever working with, so of course I was honored to spent a few days in Pune during my stay as well.

My welcome at the airport was particularly nice this time, including a flower bouqet.

While in Pune, Karthikeyan organized a cheminformatics workshop for about 30-40 participants which was held at NCL, where also the first Indian cheminformatics conference was taking place in 2007. This time the atmosphere was more informal and led to several interesting scientific contacts I will surely follow up in th

Some work...

... and a visit at a local store ...

... was followed by a Good-Night Dosa for dinner. Not the first time I came to Pune, and certainly not the last!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mysore and Kabini Lake

Now it's been a few days already - I was turning 32, and since Uli from Frankfurt is currently visiting me I exchanged my office for traveling for a couple of days. We had a very good stay in Mysore and at a small resort at Kabini Lake where we went on a safari - the first time for both of us.

While Mysore is well-known for its Palace and also a few sacred sites such as Chamundi Hills, personally my favorite was the market place: You hardly ever see such intense colors in other places of the world.

Reading the newspaper on Chamundi Hill.

We stayed in Mysore for one night and went on to take a cab to the Kabini Lake where we stayed at the Kabini Lake View - about 60km/90 mins drive from Mysore, situated directly at the lake itself. The 24 hours we stayed there we went on a safari as well as a nice boat trip - with delicious food throughout:

During the safari the first 30 minutes or so not much happened, so all animals we have seen were flies and butterflies at best. But then we came to a small village within the forest where indigenous people are living, and now it was elephants instead of flies:

We have also seen a couple of monkeys jumping from tree to tree:

So that was a very nice start of the day - and I have to admit that being confronted with people living so differently made me wonder about the kind of trivial worries I tend to have sometimes. Quite a good experience to have from time to time. A long journey was concluded with a campfire together with some local people...

The next morning it was time to get up early to go on a birdwatching trip on Kabini Lake. I noticed this boat and implicitly assumed that we would make use of it to travel across the lake. This illustrates the danger of implicit assumptions since when we came to the water...

this fine young lad was waiting for us to cruise the sea. While I was a tiny bit unease when entering the boat, after a while I was actually pretty impressed by both the speed as well as the complete flexibility in navigation the construction allowed for. I guess sometimes it's good to simply believe people that they know what they are doing, even if it's a bit different from what you are used to.

Cruising the lake was impressive - in particular after spending the last weeks (or nearly months) in Bangalore most of the time. You could 'hear nature' on the water and you could also hear it at night which felt really good. While on the water we encountered some local fishermen with quite decent catch that day:

Two more weeks left in this country, staying in Bangalore and going to Singapore and Madras for a few days. I think although I was traveling quite a lot in recent years I never had as many impressions as during the two months I spent in India.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Impressions from India: Vehicles

There is a surprising variety of different two-, three- and four-wheelers on the road in India, with combinations of 'packaging' (type of car/vehicle) and 'contents' (what's inside) handled much more flexibly than in Europe.

Impressions from India: Synchronicity

It is surprising how many more events happen synchronous in India on the street. Partly this may be explained by a larger number of people present (and pure chance event), but maybe a larger emphasis on the family/social group as opposed to the individuum contributes as well.

Impressions from India: Street Scenes

This latter street corner is a whole microcosmos of life. I was waiting at this street corner (Hope Farm) for 30 minutes each time I took the bus and every second of it it was an exciting place. The main functions are (from the left) a prayer room, a small corner shop (tea seems to be the best-selling item when I was there) and a bus stop. But apart from those obvious functions it was also a place of 'social life' - I had the impression that some people simply came there to read the newspaper and to 'be there', among people.

Impressions from India: People