Part 3: Friends & Family

As promised, here is the final segment of the three part series. As you may remember, I drove up to the Bay Area for Devang & Shalini’s wedding with my parents a few weeks ago. At the wedding, I got to see all of the Asha folks again. Seeing them was like traveling back in time. Surbhi, Dev, Sapan, Suchitha, Shaon, Abhinaya and I caught up, laughed, joked, and bonded over the lifetime commitment that one of our close friends was making. We even danced a little. Check out the pictures below. Photo credit to Abhinaya and her awesome camera =).

Also, here’s a video of Dev dancing at the wedding. Too good not to share =).

On Sunday afternoon, I took my parents out to the Marina in Berkeley. We strolled along the shore line and walked on the pier. It was a special experience for my family and I, having traveled very little in the past. My only regret was that my brother couldn’t be there. The next day, my parents and I went to San Fransisco to complete some paperwork and then had lunch at the Loving Hut in Westfield Mall before traveling back down in the afternoon. Here are some pictures:


Part 2: The Wedding

So, as graduate students, we are growing up and entering the phase of our lives where our close friends and family are getting married and settling down. The first among our friend group to marry is Devang. I have been exited to attend this wedding since the moment he told me about it. Now, I get to share the amazingness with all of you!

His wedding took place at the Palmdale Estates in Fremont, California. Here are the pictures from the celebration.

Devang, as he sits while the Pandit tells him rituals.


Devang and Shalini, as they complete their vows to each other.


Family and friends gathered at the reception area.


Devang and Shalini walking together to the reception.


Devang and Shalini walking towards their friends and family.
Devang and Shalini walking towards their friends and family.


Beautiful flower vase display at the Asha table. =)


Devang, when he visited us during the reception. Sapan photo bombs picture.


The beautiful lighting on Devang and Shalini’s special night.


Devang and Shalini as they exit the reception.


Devang, as he stares lovingly at Shalini on the dance floor.


The pair, moving forward together.
First dance after the wedding!

Road Trips, Weddings, and Friendship Part 1

So, as graduate students, we are growing up and entering the phase of our lives where our close friends and family are getting married and settling down. This past weekend, I drove up to the Bay Area to witness the marriage of a close friend from my undergraduate days to the love of his life. To document the experience of the road trip, I am doing a three part post documenting my travels, the wedding, and exploring Berkeley with my family. Look out for the next two posts in the upcoming days.

Now, on to the first post:

On last Friday afternoon, my parents, Surbhi, and I decided to drive up to Oakland for Devang and Shalini’s wedding. The trip up took approximately 8-9 hours and allowed us to see many different parts of California. We took the I-5 North for most of the way, then switched to the I-580 as we reached farther up northern California. Here’s a map to give you a clearer picture.

Surbhi and I were the first to drive. Here she is enjoying her coffee and driving on the I-5.


As we traveled across California, we saw distinct changes in the landscape from mountains to farmland. Interesting things we saw along the way were oil refineries, orchards, some dairy farm, a slaughterhouse, and windmills. Many of the farms were dry, and several of them had political banners and signs blaming congress for the lack of farm water. My mom stopped the car and I was able to get a picture of one of the signs on the way back.

California has been in the midst of a drought over the last four years. On April 1st, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order asking for emergency regulation requiring an immediate 25 percent reduction in overall potable urban water use statewide. This appears strange given that residential water use only makes up 20 percent of water usage, (farmers actually use 80 percent of the water in California.) Governor Brown has pointed out in past speeches, the drought has significantly affected farmers. Farmers have lost $2.2 billion over 2014 as a result of lost crops and increased water costs. This is in addition to the 17,100 jobs that have been lost in the economy.

The loss has not been spread evenly. California’s water policy is based on historic water rights. As a result, whenever there is a shortfall, the farmers who have owned the land longest, have greater water rights than those who came after them. We could see how this manifested in real life as we drove near the farms. Some were lush and green, while others lay completely fallow, with browning grass, dangerously close to catching on fire.

Two distinct types of farm land as we drove through California.

The issue has gotten so big that the United States Congress is two legislative packages to address the issue. President Obama, the House Speaker, and the House Natural Resources Committee have come to the Central Valley to better understand the issue. You can learn more about bills and lobbying efforts here.

It was the first time I saw the everyday experience of farmers facing the drought in California. I’m going to be a lot more conscious about how I use my own water in the future.

What are your thoughts on the drought? Are there any tips you would like to share on water conservation? Let me know in the comments below.

Sailing the Ocean in San Deigo

My first adventure after the end of finals was to visit some friends in San Diego! I drove down the weekend after finals ended to explore the marine ships with a friend on San Diego’s beautiful coast. We got on a boat that gave us a tour of the naval bases and ships around the harbor. I was surprised to learn that San Diego had a long Navy history. Here are some pictures from the day:

Art of Living Adventures

This past Thursday, one of my best friends came to Los Angeles to visit me and see Sri Sri Ravi Shankar during the May 9th Art of Living event, Meditation 2.0. The event included a guided meditation by the Guru and a question and answer session with him on issues of life that concern people.

I took the Art of Living meditation course during my undergraduate days at Berkeley, and find the meditation techniques useful for relieving stress and tension when I’m having a bad day. But, I hadn’t once set foot in the Art of Living Center over the last nine months I have resided here. My friend is a very strong advocate for the meditation practices taught through this organization and was dismayed by my apathy. So, with some push from her, I finally wandered into the building and saw the beautiful architecture and got a glimpse of the man behind the organization.

A view of the Art of Living Center from Adams Blvd.
A view of the Art of Living Center from Adams Blvd.

The building looks like a grand hotel or congressional building. When you wonder inside, there is a lobby, some volunteer organized book stores, a large space for yoga and meditation in the bottom floor, and the most amazing part: a grand auditorium with a large dome. The architecture of the building is astounding with beautiful engravings in the ceiling and staircases. You should check it out if you get the chance.

View of the dome from inside the Art of Living Center
View of the Auditorium inside the Art of Living Center.

I also got to take a tour of the adjacent building, which is normally used for smaller meditation sessions. Here are some pictures of the kitchen area, where vegetarian food was being prepped for Sri Sri Ravi Shanker’s visit that weekend.

Sign near the entrance to the adjacent building.
Painting of Ganeshji outside the adjacent building.
Statue of Buddha meditating at the entrance of the adjacent building.
Kitchen where food was being prepared.
Volunteer cooking food for big event =)
Volunteer who gave us a tour of the two buildings. Also very nice =)

I also caught a few glimpses of the Guru himself when he arrived. There was a crowd of people following him around as he walked through and around the two buildings of the center. Look out for pictures I captured of him as well. He is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, a global service project that exists in more than 150 countries around the world. You can learn more about it here.

LA Supports Baltimore Rally in DTLA

Protesters marching at Los Angeles City Hall

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I went to a Los Angeles Stands with Baltimore Rally on Saturday, along with some friends from my graduate program. We marched around Downtown Los Angeles from City Hall to Little Tokyo. These are some of the pictures from the protest. You can check out more pictures here.

10 Lessons from My 1st Year in Grad School

10 Lessons from Grad School

Hi folks!

So many of you readers are either considering going to graduate school, are anticipating starting soon, or are in the middle of your graduate school programing, whether getting a masters or a PhD. To commemorate the ending of my first year in my masters program, I have created a list of the lessons I learned. I hope this helps you along your journey through graduate school.

1) Be positive and focus on the things you can control.

In your first year of graduate school, you are going to encounter many new projects and people. You may face situations that make you uncomfortable or frustrated. Don’t be afraid of these circumstances. Keep your head in the game and work to improve on the areas you feel weak in. Remember, no one is perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Your purpose in graduate school is to challenge yourself. So do it. Believe me, you will thank yourself when you tackle the things you thought were impossible in the beginning.

2) Be organized.

One of the skills you need to be very successful in a graduate school program is organization. This means, having a filing system, a strategic place to organize all your notes, and important paperwork. At this point, graduate program staff, professors, and your peers are going to expect you to be on top of all your work. Make sure you have an easy way of keeping track of all the documents you are given or create. One of the most useful tools in doing this for me has been Google Drive. The new updates google has made now allow you to create and manage multiple files online. I personally use this to keep track of all my lecture notes, class assignments, and exam study guides. It’s convenient because it allows you to share folders for group projects, which comes in really handy when you need multiple people editing the same assignment. So, go ahead. Use it. Love it. Make it your best friend.

3) Schedule time for everyday life.

Graduate school can be really tough when you decide to move to a new city or just live on your own. The best way to stay on track through all the rigorous workload is to make sure you have the basics of laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, rent, sleep etc. covered. So, when you are planning your schedule, make sure the first thing you think about are these basics. As someone who wants to work for the betterment of humanity, I constantly have to remind myself, “you can’t help anyone else, if you don’t take care of yourself first.” 

4) Get to know your classmates.

 When you begin a new program, it can be nerve recking to open up and get to know your classmates. Don’t let it stop you. Your peers are going to be with you for two or more years. Take time to build relationships with them. Its wonderful being able to share your dreams, fears, successes, and challenges with the people sitting across from you in that lecture hall. It also keeps you accountable to those grand visions you have for your life. So do it. Start up a conversation with that girl or boy sitting next to you in class the first day. It’s totally worth it.

5) Remember graduate school is a marathon, not a race. 

This was the biggest takeaway for me in my first year. Do not stress about the small assignments and getting everything done. Take in the bigger picture. One of the best ways I have learned to do this is to keep an agenda with a list of due dates for important assignments and exams due throughout the semester. Doing this at the beginning will allow you to step back and strategize about ways to maximize your time and energy.

6) Plan, plan, and plan.

For masters programs like the one I am in, there are a lot of large group projects which require meeting with fellow students frequently. The best advice that I have for you is to schedule a time to meet with teammates each week, and stick to it. Treat that meeting time like its a class, and plan around it. This helped me immensely when my group for meeting to work on a semester long policy paper. It allowed us to stay on-track and feel less stressed over the length of the semester, especially when it came to turn in the final project.

7) Split up reading assignments with your classmates.

If you are a student with multiple responsibilities including work, school, and family, you know how difficult it is to finish all the readings necessary for class. Splitting up readings with fellow students is very helpful, especially in classes with a very heavy reading load and detailed discussions. This year, doing so allowed me to take detailed notes on the coursework I did read, and to have background on the readings I couldn’t do. Just remember to plan time to read over other people’s notes (It’s not helpful to have other people’s’ notes if you don’t actually look them over).

8) Plan fun time into your schedule. 

Its really easy to get burned out with all the assignments and projects you have to do while in a masters or Ph.D. program. So, make sure that you plan to do at least one fun thing a week that allows you to de-stress. This fun thing can range from going to the gym, trying food at a new restaurant, going to a bar or club with friends, to rest and relaxation in the comfort of your own home. Take time to plan out what it is, and make it a priority to keep this up through out the semester. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

9) Maintain relationships with the important people in your life. 

This particular task is very difficult to do when you have lots of different things to tackle. But, it can be done. So, make sure you communicate with those you love and spend time with them, whether its a phone conversation once a week or hanging out and cooking dinner together. These relationships will be a great resource to you in your time of need so make sure you continue to cultivate them while you are in the program.

10) Keep a fun hobby.

This is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you. Find a passion and continue to cultivate it when you are in a graduate program. While it might seem counterintuitive to pursue something extra on the side when your life is so intense, believe me, it can be really useful. My side hobby is cooking, and it helps me to de-stress after I’ve had a long day of school work, projects, work, etc. One of the best ways you can keep your mind healthy is through the sheer joy of doing something that you enjoy without the stress of being perfect. It will help you push through those days when you dread getting up in the morning, and make your overall life a lot happier.

Well, thats all I have for you folks. Please feel free to comment and share any pieces of advice you’ve learned from your graduate school experience, or something you would do differently now that you’ve had time to reflect. Also, if you have ideas of future blog posts you would like to read, please let me know.