Category: Raghav

Culturally Gothenburger, finally.


The first glimpse of Gothenburg I ever caught was in a promotional video, which I happened to see during my application process way back in early 2013. And the city simply floored me then, I fell in love as I was landing, and I’m still happily (whispers) away from my home – Bangalore. This could be because I have been a horrible geography student, who did not quite know any natural features to look forward to in the city, and the only thing that stuck to my head during my European history lessons was Renaissance! Further, the  movies of Luis Buñuel  and the Swedish genius film maker Ingmar Bergman I had watched, only strengthened my stereotyping of Europe, to be some sort of a grand canvas for creative art and human expression.

When I arrived in Gothenburg – No, I was not a bit disappointed. Gothenburg still matches my mental image of a culturally rich, European city image. Now, after 1.5 years here and having experienced the culture in terms of people, architecture, music performances, theatre and art galleries, one lacuna that had remained and had not completed my experience as a Gothenburger was of not having savoured an opera performance, with a live orchestra playing along. I have seen the Gothenburg symphony orchestra play, but it was in an open park and on a rainy day. I won’t even start complaining about the acoustics.

That's a portion of the Opera house. No, I wasn't trying to be artistic. It was the only stock photo I had of the opera house :)

That’s a portion of the Opera house. No, I wasn’t trying to be artistic. It was the only stock photo I had of the opera house 🙂

This being the state, a colleague in my thesis room and I just randomly were talking of operas, and decided to check what the Gothenburg Opera House had in store for us. We have now seen an opera, and a two part musical, already, and are preparing for the third show later this week. Meaning we found a jolly good deal. The Opera house, considerately offers student packages with heavy discount. It varies from season to season, and we are easily paying less than half the actual prices of the tickets as part of this package. Even if not the package, there is normally youth and student discount of 25% on most shows. If you are looking for many, but semi-bourgeoisie experience at the Opera house, opt for the student package. For popular shows, the seating is not the best, but the ambience and the performance usually compensate. On the other hand, if you are looking for the wholesome experience, that I attribute as the full bourgeoisie experience, then you can opt to purchase the normal tickets (with student discount), for a show you would REALLY want to watch, and it will be worth every krona you pay!

I will not talk about the shows themselves here in detail. Maybe will write a deeper post about it on my personal blog. But to give you an overview here’s a quote from the art director of the Gothenburg Opera Dance company, where she, Adolphe Binder, encapsulates the experience they want to immerse their audiences in: ”We must examine our areas of discomfort (in the performances). Through this our audiences become ‘partners in crime’, rather than simply consumers”.

Experiencing live music is still one of those joys that makes the analog world real, amidst the digital chaos we live in. Don’t miss a chance to live it.

Digging deeper, this time around.


For the second year, consecutively, I was at the conference which from the outset might seem like something to do with digging, as I had mentioned in my post last year, Gräv,  means to dig. This edition of the investigative journalism conference was organized in the lovely city of Jönköping, which lies kissing the tail of a big blue patch on the Swedish map – the second largest lake – Vättern.

IMG_5303

Jönköping, ashore

The conference was preceded by a day-long workshop for the participants from the Swedish Institute. The workshop was a focused training and interaction event from expert journalists. Nils Hanson from the SVT, Sven Bergman and other popular speakers from the Swedish media facilitated exciting workshops, covering topics ranging from how they conduct scoops, to tips on journalism to us, and interaction with an assorted bunch of invited journalists from different countries. There were two journalists from India; I had worked indirectly with one of them, but had not met.  Serendipity it seems, that I met the journalist from Bangalore here in this conference, who also happens to live in my proximity back home.

2015-03-21 15.13.04
The conference was over two days, on the 20th and 21st of March. With new insights and inspiring sessions from investigative journalists, who have many a times risked their lives to report stories shared their experiences in lectures through the two days. More scintillating were the interactions between sessions. Heartrending stories of struggle from Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine and other troubled zones of the world were the focal point of most of the sessions.

As I hold interest in digital security and internet freedom, I was curious to extract some opinions from the event, and I ran a survey on the increase in awareness about digital security post Snowden revelations about mass surveillance. The survey seems to affirm my hypothesis, about which I will soon write in detail on another platform.

As with last edition of Grav, I return enriched with new experiences and tools, and more importantly abundant inspiration.

The (seeminlgy) strange custom of nailing PhD theses!


When you enter any building at Chalmers, one sight that is common, but weird, is to see broad planks of good wood bearing theses that are nailed to them! EDIT building, where I now live (exaggerating!), has these on every floor. I had missed asking the reason for this tradition with my Swedish friends, and learned about it today.

Nail em!

Nail em!

There was an official Thesis Nailing ceremony, or Spikning, and I gladly dragged one of the administration employees to talk me through the custom. I was initially of the opinion that this was just a  Chalmers-only tradition. Turns out, it happens in almost all Swedish universities. When the thesis is ready, and has been approved of, the final nail to the process of getting a PhD seems to be this ceremony, where the student nails his/her thesis onto one of the planks with their supervisor’s approval.

I thought it was metaphorical, befitting the agony of slogging through the 4 years of research was being vented out by nailing the thesis to the wall. Then I discover it has been a tradition since the 15th century. Mainly practiced in regions of Europe, where Lutherian Protestant version of Christianity made its way. As with everything about religion, Sweden gladly perpetuates the traditions, and leaves most of the divinity behind. Martin Luther in the 15th century, nailed his 95 theses on church doors, which then gave rise to the Protestant reformation. Since then, nailing people’s work in public spaces, for others to read and leave it behind seems to have become a norm to disseminate one’s ideas. And, more than 500 years later, as PhD theses are fully grown and approved ideas, it seems quite natural to nail them onto these walls!

When you next time spot these crucified theses, be glad to be witnessing a tradition going on for centuries!

2015-03-09 18.04.57

Snow-boarding, in style


Winter sports are a spectacle to behold. Hailing from the tropical zone, it was quite an experience to witness my first winter, or should I call it semi-winter sporting experience. Semi-winter because the snow is all actually gone, and the venue where we were spectators to world snow boarding competition in fact had old, or artificial snow. The event was AleInvite, just outside Gothenburg.

Irrespective of the quality of snow, the thrills of snow-boarders performing mid-air acrobatics, after being thrust mid air by the momentum of sliding off the slope was scintillating. The stunts were reminiscent of the wake-boarding competition I had written about few months ago. But, in this event the terrain was more realistic, and gravity was unpardoning on the ones who mis-landed. The participants were from different northern hemispheric countries, and many have been champions at some or the other international stints.

Witnessing these sports does enthuse me to want to try out some milder form of winter sports. This venue, 25 km outside Gothenburg, in fact offers basic terrain for rookies like myself to practice skiing, and full experience under controlled environment for the next level skiers. In case I last another winter here in Sweden, I shall certainly try that! Until I post my own feats on snow, relish these clips and pictures from the event.

Look, BirdMan

Look, BirdMan

Dashing through the snow.....

Dashing through the snow…..

Match my move

Match my move

Flying high

Flying high

 

Research and writing!


Formatting using Latex

Formatting using Latex!

Previously I had written enthusiastically about my thesis. It doesn’t imply this post would have waned down, and I am going to whine about it in this one! While in that post, I skimmed through the research methods, the depth in which problems are looked at, and the nuanced approach to everything about research, now I am equipped with experiences of some of the results from research based on my collaboration till now.

After struggling with the research work for more than a semester, and while we are still struggling, we think, we are a point where some of our results seem publishable. The struggling part I attributed the work to is legit. Justified also by my supervisor, when he jovially acknowledged, ”If you’re struggling, then you are learning”! And, it is quite true as well.

Getting back to the publishing business, one of the primary difficulties as I learned is to decide when the research results are worth publishing. Once, you have convinced yourself that there are adequate ideas, neither less, nor in surplus, to be framed into an academic paper, the next part of the learning begins. Academic writing can get tedious, cumbersome, and jolly, all at the same time. It can also get despicable, if you are working with the wrong people, or in some cases if you are that wrong person.

We have sketched detailed time plan, after planning the plan for a few days. This certainly helps to stay focused, and allocate resources adequately. Blueprinting the ideas that would enter the document, the flow, connections, simulations, citations and derivations – the nature of content to ponder about are aplenty. But, once the outline is ready, and with all the work that has happened, formulating the ideas into legible, and comprehensible form is no less of a challenge.

While I can with ease scribble out less formal creative writing, academic writing seems to appear at the other end of the spectrum. Of course, writing skills of any kind do help in transcribing one’s ideas into words. The constraint appears in the structure and the links between ideas. One cannot succumb to the wilderness of the mind, and hop between ideas. There must be at least, a certain pedantic way of presenting your ideas. As I have learned in working with my supervisors, a linear growth of ideas is quintessential in presenting an academic idea. I would be lambasted (deservingly) for having used these many, unnecessary paragraphs. But, the joy of blogging lies in these nitty-gritty perks of making one’s own grammar 😉

While I get back to my thesis endeavours, happy expecting spring to everyone (winter is slowly fading away!)

Rookie’s guide to not tripping on ice!


Yesterday, I posted an album of pictures on a social network, after the sun was bright and skies were clear, beaming out the glitter and glow of the snow from two days before that. Whilst in that joy, I did not warn that those scenic vistas were traps for a Monday morning.

Snow, Sun and Serenity!

Snow, Sun and Serenity!

After such a beautiful day, with sun and snow, the temperature does go up slightly. And since it is Gothenburg, within a few hours it reverses to just a couple of degrees around zero. This shuttling of the temperature melts the lovely snow, and forms thin, bumpy layers of ice.

This is a treacherous ploy of nature, because the proverbial walking on thin ice, does not only hold good when walking on thin ice over a lake, but also when there’s thin ice on streets. I know a handful of people within the duration of my stay in Sweden, who have succumbed to this ploy and have ended up with more fragments of their skeleton than before the fall, by tripping, slipping and crashing on ice!

In this post, the rookie me, will try to capture some tips and techniques that can reduce the risk of you not fragmenting your bones. Needless to say, these might not necessarily be accurate to all. Seems to work for me 😉

Walk slow
Are you one of those creatures, who flaunts in vanity that you can walk faster than almost everyone around you? I am one such megalomaniac, and under normal conditions, it holds true. Try catching up when I am walking alone. Given this is the case, there is no better braking mechanism than the slushy, bumpy, icy streets. When icy, walk slow!

Watch every step
Walking slowly gives you time to plan, and plant your feet for the next step. It is a maze of sorts to walk under the conditions under consideration. It takes extra effort to solve this puzzle of where to land next.
There are three kinds of terrain usually –
Region 1: The icy segments, usually on the center of the mildly convex streets. These are the most dangerous places to be in. Avoid them, unless there is ample gravel, and clear spots without the milky portions of slippery ice.
Region 2: Towards the edges of the convex streets, due to the design for draining water and the extra gravel that gets sedimented, you can hope for clear regions, where you can do a tight walk on rope of sorts and survive.
Region 3: Thirdly, the portions on the grass, say, or regions where there is still fresh snow! You can never slip on snow, and even if you do, it will cushion you, unlike the unpardoning icy roads. I usually do this. I don’t mind drenching my feet to a small degree, and end up walking on fresh (or gray) snow! Remember, it must be snow, not ice!

Ice-Walking zones ;)

Ice-Walking zones 😉

Do Not Run
Needless to say, under no circumstances should you run, not even to catch that bus which is leaving right in front of you.
Now that I think about it, there aren’t any adrenaline pumping chases in any movies, on icy winter roads. It will be less of an action sequence, and more of a laugh riot.
In case you are being chased by a Swede, which is one of the most unlikely events in the Universe, you needn’t risk it by trying to flee. They can navigate seamlessly and hence have a certain chance of nabbing you. Give up already.

Walk Chaplin!
Our gait, through evolution has been designed to place our body’s center of gravity forward – so that we can walk forward, with lesser effort instead of having to drag oneself. Remember those steep uphill climbs? That is because you are now trying to drag yourself, and on the other hand, downhill is not easy either – your balance is tipped. This is pretty much what happens when you are walking on ice.
Who better than Nature to teach you how to walk – look at penguins – that’s the way we should walk. Their gait is evolved to walk on conditions we are helplessly trying to avoid here. As a human example, you could think of walking like Chaplin’s Tramp! Those broad and wide steps, feet almost perpendicular to your intended direction of motion, and yes a stick will help too!

All said and done, it might be a good experience to trip and fall on ice, but without taking permanent damage. Happy Ice-Walking 😉

Walk like the Tramp!

Walk like the Tramp!

Being, and having been a student ambassador


One of our Student Ambassador Fikas. (Picture from Next Stop Chalmers Instagram account)

One of our Student Ambassador Fikas. (Picture from Next Stop Chalmers Instagram account)

Time flies. It has been a swift passing of more than 15 months since my journey at Chalmers began. And almost all this tenure, I have also been one of the Student Ambassadors for Chalmers, primarily writing blog posts covering my experiences as a Chalmerist, and about my life in Sweden.

With this blog post, I will have published 50 posts for the Chalmers blog, and I was thinking maybe a round up of sorts might serve well in this post.

Pictures through a period of time can capture one’s physical transformations, but there is nothing to beat regular writing which captures the progression inside one’s head. This has been true with my personal blog, which I have been writing for more than 5 years, and now when I look back at my earlier posts here on the Chalmers blog, it works the same. My earlier posts were oozing with the awe and enthusiasm of a newbie, trying to capture all the macro differences from my experiences back in India. With time, you might have seen, or at least I hope that the enthusiasm hasn’t mellowed down, but my observations must have gone slightly more nuanced.

Being a Chalmers Student Ambassador is not a privilege by itself, in the sense that we are not different from rest of Chalmerists. The main difference is that we get to express our experiences, and represent rest of the international students. To brag about it, we are in the scope of platforms like this blog, voice of international students.

At the same time, being a student ambassador does have its perks. Starting from the Student Ambassador Fikas, to access to some exclusive events and interactions. The team of student ambassadors also is a nice bunch of diverse crowd; unfortunately we do not hang out as often as we should be. Still we share a camaraderie that is hearty.

If you skim through the blog posts here – not just the ones by me, but by other ambassadors too, you will get a glimpse of the broad spectrum of positive experiences we have recounted on a regular basis. Travel, talks, seminars, food, fun, and sometimes study have all been captured in these blog posts.

With a big shout out to the Next Stop Chalmers team, I will look forward to continuing rest of the journey, while I bring my experiences to share with all of you.

Cheers, or ”Skål” as we say it here in Sweden.

PS: If you want to skim through all my previous posts, you could follow this category.