My Temple Tours in India

Last time, three years ago, when I went to India, we only went to Thirupathi. But this time in 2006, we went to a lot of different temples. We went to Thiruvannamalai, Srirangam, Namakkal, and Palani. And what more, it was Ayappan season and so we saw a lot of guys in black clothes. Once in a restaurant, I almost bumped into a guy and he saw me and said, ‘swami saranam’ and went up away. Oh my, what a devotion to God!

Do I sound mocking? Definitely not. I’m not mocking at anyone and nor do I wish to. I learned a lot of things from these temple tours to different places. I admired the artistic values of the gopurams and the statues of the deities. I certainly felt peaceful after visiting these places. And by saying this I’m not implying that belief in God gives comfort. It sure does sometimes. But that doesn’t prove anything.

I’ve always thought that it is possible to be an atheist and still show some appreciation for the religious practices and places. Even the holy scriptures can be viewed from an artistic point of view. They are certainly great persuasive literary works. But the problem with religion is that most of the people read the texts and believe in its literal truth. Sure there are some nice verses written down there, but there are also vicious once that denounce heretics and praise martyrdom.

I think we are all culturally religious at heart. We are infatuated with the memes that come from these religions. I mean, just imagine. Weddings, celebrations of Christmas, Deepavali, Pongal, Hari Raya and so forth are all feel-good factors of religions. They certainly do a lot of work in bringing families together and creating happiness. In the process we thank God for such happiness, while we can derive such happiness ourselves without the help of the God! But if we were to deeply question ourselves whether we believe in a God or not, I think the answer will be a vague one. We’ll be sitting on the fence.

I still find it a problem to reveal myself as an atheist to most of my colleagues and friends at work. I’ve already told my close friends and my parents. And all those who read my blog know about me. My friends understand me better than my parents. Mom and Dad still have trouble accepting my views, but they will eventually come to understand. But I think I’m still not ready to tell my short-term friends and acquaintances about my views on this matter.

Yesterday during lunch, my Chinese friend asked me whether I can eat beef. It is believed that hindus cannot eat beef. So I replied them: “I don’t eat beef not because hindus can’t eat them, but I don’t like to eat it. I don’t like the taste or it’s smell”. Then I said I don’t mind trying a different version of beef. At that time, she was eating beef noodle from a famous hawker stall in holland village and she said that it was very good. Then my other Indian colleague started to question me, that if I am an hindu and so on. She believes that we can’t eat beef. At that moment I was a bit stalled off. I couldn’t come out and declare that I’m a non-believer and that I don’t believe in such nonsense. There were two Catholics, and one Hindu sitting on that table. Damn, one of them actually prays before eating. While they are so much of believers, I felt a bit out-numbered. Atheists are out-numbered. But there are a significant number of atheists in this world. I don’t know why I feel this way, about declaring myself. Maybe I need more time to feel comfortable of myself being an atheist in front of all those moderately religious people.

Feel free to click the Flickr link below. I have uploaded photos from my India trip in 2006.

My new job as an intern

I’ve been quite busy with my new job as an intern in the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) for the past few days this week. I joined on the 3rd of January. My friends have also embarked on a journey into adulthood. Alas, bye bye for the thought “this is the end of school/education.” It’s taken me a while to realise that this is just the end of the beginning.

My job seems pretty easy at the first glance. I have to extract mouse DNA, purify it, run PCR and then run gel electrophoresis to determine the genotype of the mouse. But one single mistake anywhere in the process, i have to repeat some of the experiments again. Furthermore, there will usually be 5 to 20 replicates. So it takes some time to complete the process step-by-step for each replicate. That is the only tedious part. And there is also the waiting time for the PCR to complete. It takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes.

I really hope that this experience pays me off. I would like to embark on a career in research. There are 2 Indian women in he lab that i work. They seem to be doing their PhD. I’m not exactly sure about this. But they really encourage me to be like them. No matter what degree i take, i want to do a PhD. That will be my ambition.