The cry of the peacock

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The designer of the IIT Kanpur campus has created a magical place. Very different from being at a university in the city, surrounded by a bustling metro environment fighting over every inch of space, it has a village feel, peaceful and surrounded my nature. My friend described it as living in a zoo, and I can’t help but agree with her as I lie in bed listening to the peacocks crying out in the night, or the early morning air filled with gossiping birds and the flapping of wings. The former of these great creatures strut past my balcony on a regular basis (and sometimes try to flirt – see photo), kestrels perch in nearby branches, flocks of pearly white egrets pass overhead and monkeys swing into view, sending me scampering back inside to save my breakfast. And on special occasions we are treated with the presence of the “mystical cow”, otherwise known as the Nilgai (asian antelope).

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As much as I loved the surroundings and the tranquility of the campus, after a while it can start to feel a bit isolating, and after a few weeks it’s hard not to get itchy feet, and desire to explore beyond the campus boundary. It can be surreal at times working here, shut off from the outside world, spending hours (or even days!) getting deeply involved in a problem, and then the noise of children playing catches my ear, or a distant traffic horn will blow, or I’ll step outside into the blinding bright daylight to see ladies walking past with baskets laden with fruits balanced steadily on their heads and remember where I am.

The institute does its best to keep its inhabitants entertained, in the short space that I’ve been here we’ve had dance shows, flower shows, music performances, art competitions, seminars by Nobel Prize winners and even a whole festival for technology (didn’t stop the electricity blackouts though) called “Techrity”, where technology based companies from around the world (Samsung, Airbus, Microsoft, Bosch) came to advertise and recruit. The latter involved fields full of food stalls, bike stunt show, a fire, a pop concert and light display, and a series of lectures from a variety of important people from the director of the LCC at Cern, the National Geographic adventurer of the year, and even the former president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai! An entertaining lecture by Jorge Cham the creator of PhD comics, explained how procrastinating during his engineering degree had led him to become a world famous comic artist. This reminded me of the importance of “work” for motivating me to pursue my other “hobbies”.

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But with one paper on the arXiv and one more on the way, it was time to escape the campus grounds for the weekend… so I called Micha and told him how much I missed him until he booked flights to come and check out my new home I’d been raving about.

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