I did not really realize how quickly one year passed since I wrote this post! While the struggle to complete my never-ending last 6 credits is real even now, I started with my thesis at the Hasso-Plattner Institut, Potsdam. Finding a research question is a little difficult; I am still exploring the data set and planting a lot of seeds (ideas) around, hoping one of them would grow into a plant that I would be proud of.
A lot of things happened in this time frame. What kept me busy apart from my thesis? The Podcasts that I started, got covered in the local newspaper; there is now a small team and season 2 of the Podcasts have some really impressive names on the guest list. I also started writing for the “Study in Germany” portal of DAAD. I could only manage time to write two so far, but the response I have received is overwhelming. It felt good. I also started working for an NGO in Berlin, Ignite eV. It is an Indian/Bengali association. PS: They are going to do Durga Puja in Berlin ❤️ ❤️. I am on their technical team, hosting interview sessions and taking care of their Google advertisements. This, I must add, is a very different experience.
The winter snow slowly gave way to Spring, which seemed very less like Spring but more like an extended winter. Temperatures were low even during the month of May. It rained a couple of days the way it does in Calcutta, with black clouds over the sky and it poured down cats and dogs!
Spring in Magdeburg 2021
While talking about plants was just rhetoric when I was talking about my thesis, it would be pretty literal when I start talking about my room now. But for now, let’s discuss something else. My flatmate who is as good as a brother, Madhu, moved back to India. This is some amount of change I am dealing with right now. Over the last three years and seven months, I have grown very attached to him. I have never been close to my parents or my sibling; there was a void and that was filled by Madhu. From the moment he woke up in the morning, till he went to sleep in his room, we were together: studying, cooking and having our meals, discussing random things, buying groceries, watching TV series and whatnot. Even in my extracurriculars, whenever he could contribute, he volunteered. He was always there. When he went to India for a couple of months, I lived alone. But now, I have to share my flat with somebody else. My history has it, I have not been the most comfortable with changes.
This month, we completed three and a half years of living at this address. Over this period of time, it has become a home; something I always looked forward to coming back to, from either the university or whenever I went out on small trips. I opened the door, kept the keys where they should be, and called out “bhaaiii” and he would respond mild “hmm” or “yes” as if he was waiting for it. Maybe at times, he was. It was routine anyway, but it was a renewed reassurance that I have a home to come back to.
Plants ? ? at home ?.
There was nothing much otherwise this entire year. I have started my thesis and we are living in the middle of the pandemic, what do you expect? As I write this, there are no active cases of Covid in Magdeburg, for over a week now and a lot of people have got their first dose of the mRNA based vaccine. Life is getting back to normal and the restaurants are overflowing. The sun is out after a long time and it’s party time for people. I have, however, found an interest in plants.
This isn’t new though. My mother bought plants when we moved to a new residence in Calcutta. While she took care of them, I was just happily amused seeing new buds bloom into flowers. I counted them and gleefully reported to my mother, who would anyway know. She had a lot of hibiscus plants: red, yellow, pink, white, and another kind where the flowers were like a ball. She also had Bougainvillea, and plants that had fancy Bengali names. When I came to Magdeburg, I bought a couple of plants. I watered them a lot expecting them to grow faster and give more flowers quicker. They decided to die instead.
One morning, I went out with a couple of my friends and we passed through the market in Magdeburg Alter Markt. I saw a plant and it was pretty. I bought it. The week next, I took my first vaccine shot and while coming back, I found another pretty plant. I bought it as well. A couple of days later, another. When Madhu left, I got another. By then, the first plant died. I realized I gave it too much water. It felt like a very deep personal loss. I started reading about taking care of plants. One Android app “Picture This” helped. I wanted an indoor plant, so I asked Indranil to come with me to a plant market (Baumarkt) and I got a tiny-sized Zebra plant. On my birthday, Ankit and Shipra gifted me 3 more plants, thus moving the tally to 8. Well, one almost died because I had given a bit more water. But I could save it. I consulted a couple of my friends who have maintained plants before and later I consulted a horticulturist. Well, that interaction was funny. We used broken English, broken German, hand gestures, a lot of running around, and a lot of failed attempts to explain the problems and the solutions. But I understood how dry the soil should be, read symptoms of over-watering, how to correctly water the plant, and how to prune. I did as the horticulturist asked me to. And the dying plant is alive again!
From where I sit to study, it looks very nice. There are four flower plants on my window and hanging right above them are the three birds I made last year. The sky behind is blue, often with white clouds. When the balcony door is open, I can also see the other two plants. The light hits my room early in the morning, waking me up. I wake up and check if the soil is dry enough.
Over the last three and a half years, we had always treated the balcony as an extended dustbin, garbage bin. But since Madhu was going away, we took the opportunity to clean it a bit and put a couple of chairs and bedside tables. Now, in the evenings, I can work from there and watch the sun set.
The beginning of the end.
Madhu’s returning to India was a rude reminder that I also need to complete my studies. Although nothing is in my hands, I would really need to push it. I am finding newer interests, meeting newer people, working on newer things and it is always the same cycle. During each phase, we meet new people, we become friends, then we part. We carry the happy memories with us and wait for time to tell us, whether we grow closer or grow apart.
I am currently doing my thesis. After that, I might move to another city. Maybe Berlin, maybe London, it could be any city in the world, very literally. But what’s fixed is this: My time at this university is now at its end. Life in Calcutta was very different than my life in Magdeburg. And my next phase too would be very different. I am curious to see what’s ahead. Ler’s end this post with a photograph of the morning when Madhu returned to India.