Why Don’t These Eggs Rot?

I was the last person to leave my house at Cornell for winter break this year. So I had the responsibility of officially checking out and collecting the keys from other residents, turning down the heating system and making sure nothing obviously hazardous is being left out. Of all these potentially hazardous things, rotten food was my main concern. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the first person to return after break had eaten something from the fridge without realizing how old it was.

I scanned our spacious, double doored refrigerator for items with approaching expiration dates. The egg cartons said that they were good for another month, the milk and yoghurt for about two more weeks; oranges we’d bought a week ago looked as pristine as ever and packets of cream cheese didn’t seem to expire at all.The cans of tomatoes in the pantry claimed it would remain edible and safe for two years. I didn’t recall getting a visa to the land of never rotting food.

Perhaps the strangest part was that no product actually mentioned an expiration date. Most of them had the ambiguous “sell by date”. Is it synonymous with “use by date”? Is the producer assuming that the consumer will use the product the day they buy it? Or that once the product has been sold, the producer is no longer responsible for its quality?

When I had to buy milk at home, my mother always instructed me to check that the manufacturing date was the current date. I had been scolded more than once for failing to do so. On rare occasions when the store had not received fresh products, my mother would unwillingly buy a-day old milk. Although we kept our milk refrigerated, it had to be used within 2 or 3 days. The same goes for yoghurt.

In the deluge of health, food and diet related articles in U.S. publications, it is revealed that agriculture and dairy products in America aren’t magical. A high level of processing combined with preservatives and packaging is what allows food to have implausibly extended shelf lives. I’m not sure how this affects the nutrients in my food or my health, but just the thought of vegetables frozen for months or years is discomforting to me. At least I’m glad to be a vegetarian here because vacuum packed meat of animals butchered an indefinite time ago is wildly disconcerting.

Coping with Uncertainity

It’s hard to believe that this semester is almost over. Finals start in four days and in two weeks, I will be back home for winter break. Yet, with the number of assignments and projects that were due this week, it didn’t feel anything like the last week of classes. In fact, it is probably the most stressful period of the semester.

As I look at the CS course management system which lists all the homeworks, exams, assignments and your scores and mean and median scores in the class for each one, most rows now have data. I look at all my scores so far and compare it to the mean/median and try to estimate the grade I can expect. Since final grades are worth atleast 20% in all my classes, my estimates could be quite removed from the actual results.

Meanwhile, I am still looking for summer internships and I’m at various stages with different companies. In the cases where you’ve just applied and are hoping to get an interview, and when you’re done with your interviews and are waiting to hear back, the key word is “waiting”. There is nothing to do but wait.I check my email an unhealthy number of times each day as I’m waiting to hear back. I also do that at the end of the semester – when I check Student Center five times a day for grades.

When I’m uncertain about these results, am I expected to simply forget about it and go on with my life? As an average human, I find that extremely hard to do. I can’t hope for the best either because the higher my hopes, the worse my potential fall. I can’t completely abandon hope either because until I know for sure, atleast a small part of me will want the best outcome. So in these last couple weeks, as the finish line approaches, all I hope for is the maturity to accept whatever will happen at the end – be it favorable or not.

Looking for Pippin

The first time I attended a musical at Cornell was at the end of my first semester here, when ‘Hair’ was produced at the Risley Theatre. Since I didn’t fully understand the socio-political background of the musical, I couldn’t bear to watch after the first act. This semester, my roommate and several acquaintances were heavily involved with the production “Pippin” at the Kiplinger Theatre. I was agnostic at first, but because I had friends in the cast and several housemates were going to watch it, I also decided to give it a shot.

I went to the show with three other friends, one of whom declared at the beginning that he was not a fan of musicals and was likely to fall asleep. I expected nearly the same from myself because I hadn’t slept much the previous night. But the show held my attention with its impressive set, costume, actors and music. There was nothing to complain about.

As Pippin, a young prince with high principles, returns to his father’s kingdom after completing his education, he believes that he is extraordinary and seeks glory. He vows to not settle for something small, to find his “corner of the sky”. In his pursuit of the extraordinary, Pippin tries many things but eventually rejects them all for being ordinary. When he is utterly dispirited and lost, a widow and her son find him and nurse him back to health. Pippin then leads the life of an ordinary farm-owner, with a loving family. However, one day Pippin realizes that this was not the glorious life he had envisioned.

Pippin’s story resonated with me and perhaps it would resonate with most Cornell students. The world tends to have high expectations of students at a university like Cornell, but our expectations for ourselves are even higher than others’. No one imposes the high-stress college lifestyle on us; we choose it for ourselves. Moreover, the fast-paced lives of our peers are enough to motivate us to do more. In every person I meet at Cornell, I find traces of Pippin.

*Spoiler alert*
The musical ends when Pippin realizes that in his search for the extraordinary, he only found mirages. He never found what he was looking for, regardless of how hard he tried, because the object of his search did not exist. He renounces the glory and glamour of the extraordinary and returns to his lady-love. However, they find their young son taking the same path as Pippin did, as he sings the song that the young, dreamy Pippin once used to. The finale was staged so fantastically that it gave me chills.

Although I enjoyed the production, the “love is all you need” turn was too cheesy for me. Either I am not mature enough to recognize it, or a line like that only belongs on the stage and not in real life. In any case, I am glad I went to this show.

Tales from Fall Break 2014

On Tuesday afternoon, my memory of the four days of fall break is in a haze. I had grand visions of following a healthy routine of sleep, cooking my own food, doing the tasks on my to-do list and spending some time with friends. Of course, those visions were lost right after my last class on Friday, when I spent the evening just chilling in a hammock on our porch, listening to music.

Since most students were visiting home or travelling over the break, the campus was unusually quiet and empty. The majority of those who stayed on campus were international students or west-coast residents. The dining halls were closed and there were no events happening on campus. So on Saturday night, some of my sophomore friends from India and I gathered for a small dance party at my nearly empty house. After a long time, I danced to Bollywood music with friends and played cards against humanity with them. They even had a mini foosball tournament at three in the morning.

I woke up at noon on Sunday, made pancakes for breakfast and walked around Beebe lake with a friend. The Cornell campus – especially the trails and surrounding natural areas are glorious at this time of the year. Given the good weather over the weekend, it was a pleasure to just be here.

Beebe lake in the fall

On Sunday night, my two housemates who stayed here during the break decided to watch Gone Girl at the Ithaca Mall. I had read excellent reviews for the movie, so I joined them too. Since then, I have not stopped raving about the film and it takes much self control to not spoil it for my friends who haven’t watched it yet.

After a long, refreshing night of sleep that night, I had a sumptuous brunch at the Mehak buffet, where for once, they actually had paneer in the paneer dishes. Then I spent most of my day at the library. I read for fun, something I don’t get to do often as a Cornell student. That evening, a friend and I decided to go to Moosewood Restaurant for dinner. This restaurant is among the first few things I tell people when I describe Ithaca. I am a big fan. We decided to go at 8pm, but we missed our bus and ended up walking to the Commons from West campus (not such a long walk, surprisingly). When we arrived at 8:32pm, the host politely told us that they closed at 8:30pm. We browsed restaurant row in the Commons and finally ate at Taste of Thai.

On Tuesday morning, most of my friends who had left Ithaca for the break were back. So I met some of them at CTB; we chatted about our respective breaks and made plans for future breaks. As we walked back to campus, I saw someone riding a Big Red Bike. For a long time, I had wanted to ride a bike on campus. The weather was warm and we all had some time on our hands, so we decided to borrow a bike from Uris Library.

We got a bike and as I tried it out on the Arts Quad, I realized that these bikes were quite different from what I was used to at home. My bike at home was heavy and required a lot of effort on my side to move. This bike accelerated at the least pedaling, within a second of my riding it. I panicked and searched for brake, which is horizontally parallel to the right handle in all the bikes I have ever ridden. Before I could find the brake, which was below the right handle, I saw some children playing on the path ahead. In an effort to stop the speeding bike, I ended up falling and scraping my knee. (Yes, the kids were safe. Is this how heroes feel?.)

It had been years since I had last scraped my knees. I regretted my decision to ride that bike on the Arts quad without even knowing where the brake was. But I guess we don’t take risks or learn many new things as adults because we are so afraid of failing or getting hurt. I convinced myself that I had learnt something new today: Learn how to stop something before starting it. I felt like a child all over again as I cleaned my wound and went back home.

And there end the tales of Fall Break 2014. I spent the rest of the evening doing some last minute homework and writing this blog post. It’s time to get back to the busy rest of the semester ahead.