My earliest claim as a legitimate, independent researcher were borne out at the Indian Institute of
Technology, Bombay, while in my fifth year of the dual degree programme in Powai. I was fortunate to have an enterprising advisor who provided me with some of the best literature in mathematical biology. With some effort a
presentation prepared by me and presented by my advisor was adjudged to be the best talk of an international symposium at Tenerife, Canary Islands in Spain.
were roadblocks to publishing this material as my advisor had got two offers for the visiting professorships either at Berkeley or at Newark, Delaware. I also had the intention of pursuing my doctoral studies from some place other
than IIT Bombay. University of California, Berkeley is famous worldwide for its all round excellence, while in Chemical Engineering, our chosen discipline, Delaware has been consistently ranked in the top ten, competing with
Princeton its neighbour in the rankings. My advisor chose to visit the suburban and picturesque Delaware.
Delaware is one of the smallest states in the USA, tucked in the tri-state region of Pennsylvania, Maryland and New
Jersey. The state itself is comprised of three counties, with Newark lying in the northernmost, highly industrialized and populated county. Newark, Delaware is a small, peaceful, suburban neighbourhood of Wilmington, Delaware and
is not to be confused with Newark, New Jersey which is crime-ridden and the site of the international airport. People who joke about Delaware often asků Delawhere?... but indeed, Delaware is 'The First State' of USA, and home to Du
Pont and many other chemical giants. Delaware used to be a Swedish colony, which explains its blue and yellow flag and the tax free shopping mall- Christiana Mall- in honour of the Swedish Queen.
The Chemical Engineering
Department at Delaware put a list on its homepage telling us of the prospective graduate students who were to join in the Fall of 2001. There were around ten-twelve international students and eighteen odd Americans. I got in touch
with the student from Hapur (Uttar Pradesh), who was later to be a close associate at work. We touched down at Philadelphia together on a cold and windy evening. I told my friend that my nickname was 'Patiala'- a fitting name for a
person who had not even seen more than a couple of streetlight crossings before going to IIT Bombay. In turn, 'Hapur' was a resourceful person, having traveled to and from Kanpur and Delhi for attending university and coaching
We leased an apartment together. The two of us could be seen pushing supermarket carts filled with a month's supply of Coke, Butter, Red Kidney Bean and Chickpea Cans along with Frozen Paranthas. I had
brought a Pressure Cooker from home and some utensils, while Hapur's bag contained all sort of spices.
The English Language Institute- which was given charge of making us better teaching assistants- invited all incoming
students to a party where we had to come prepared with something native and relishing. I decided to prepare something 'red'- baby carrots. Novice chef as I was, I had put a little too much of red chilli pepper. While we enjoyed
food from all over the globe, the rest of the world was quick to dub me as 'The Carrot Killer'.