An Alien’s Perspective: Arriving at Wichita State

I was a sixth grader when my brief obsession with extra-terrestrial life forms began. The idea of life beyond the confines of our planet was fascinating. On second thought, I am quite sure I was interested in their supposedly superior technology more than anything else. Anyway, a decade down the line, without having to really try, I am technically an alien. Hence the title for the column, “An Alien’s Perspective.”

Before I came here, I was familiarized with the four phases I would go through during my stay in the U.S.: the Honeymoon, Rage, Understanding and Acclimation. The fact that I am currently going through the third of the aforementioned phases makes it hard for me to address topics from the earlier phases with accuracy. However, I promise to do my best.

What no one prepared me for was the overpowering sense of fear.  It began even before I entered the U.S.  I did not eat anything during my flight from New Delhi to London, primarily because I was confused by the food.

“What is this strange concoction you call tea,” I wanted to ask the stewardess. But, I was not sure how to pronounce it and my throat was dry. I needed water.

Getting off the flight, I was confused even further when I looked around the airport. Everyone seemed to belong to the Indian subcontinent. Did I get on the wrong flight and accidentally land back in New Delhi? If that was the case, my mum was going to scold me. I told myself to keep walking.

The journey to Chicago was quite uneventful. Although I am embarrassed to admit it, it was the first time I saw snow. I had to use my best poker face to pretend like it was the most mundane thing I had ever seen.

“Keep quiet and blend in,” I told myself.

Eight hours later I was still enjoying the snowflakes on the windows and the other passengers at the airport were not quite sure snow was such a great thing. I arrived in Wichita several hours later than I had planned. It was 2 a.m. A friendly (or crazy) co-passenger offered to drive me to campus. She immediately assured me she was not crazy. Hmm.

Two Wichita State University students picked me up when I got off the flight. On the road to WSU, I realized I was definitely not in New Delhi this time. People seemed to respect road rules and had fairly good road etiquette.

I was under the spell of the Honeymoon phase.



Concentration + Meditation = Graduation

Moving up from the regular calculus program to the honors program is really good for your ego. However, what is not so peachy about this escalation is the stress that comes with having to keep up with the extensive course work and the average of 20+ pages of handouts passed out in every class.

Everything seems great during the semester. It is pleasing to see how impressed people are when they see your notes and find the complex looking equations. You smile like you are John Nash from “A Beautiful Mind.” Time flies by, and before you know it, the end of the semester is around the corner and you have six tests to clear in 10 days in order to pass the class.

This is the case with a lot of students, not just engineering or mathematics students. The amount of information available to us is infinite. The amount of distraction that information brings along with itself is overwhelming. Research has shown that an increase in mental activity results in an elevated temperature in the head.

Often in a mental or spiritual crisis, people have looked at eastern cultures in order to find a solution. Yoga and classic martial arts are just some of the several techniques in eastern culture that help channel your energy, whether it is physical, mental or spiritual.

But not many people would wake up at 5 a.m. and practice martial art Katas to calm their minds. Another technique that significantly helps calm your mind and increase your concentration and retention is meditation.

Buddhist and Hindu philosophies emphasize the importance of meditation. Calming the mind and bringing it to a state of equanimity is much harder than taming a wild horse, and can seem impossible at first.


One of my favorite forms of meditation is also one of the simplest. It is often referred to as Jyoti meditation. Since it is extremely difficult to clear one’s mind of all thoughts, Jyoti meditation uses a clever technique to help beginners achieve this. By fixating your mind on just one simple thought, you can clear your mind of the chaos in it.

You begin by sitting in a relaxed position with a point-sized source of light in front of you. Traditionally, an oil-wick lamp is used. However, you could use a candle. Gaze at the flame and maintain the gaze.

Quite often, your mind will initially experience a rush of mental activity and you will notice every thought you are having. Maintain your gaze and fixate upon the flame and nothing else. You will slowly begin to notice the features of the flame. Every tiny aspect gets pronounced like life has gone from pixelated graphics to HD. Close your eyes and focus on the image of the flame in your head at the spot between your eyebrows.

If you lose focus and get distracted, open your eyes and refocus on the flame. Even just 10 minutes of meditation can help drastically increase your concentration and retention.

Do not take a break after the meditation activity. Immediately get started with your studies while your mind is still calm.

Baby face


Baby face

This was the first panel in a 3-panel comic i did for The Sunflower a few days ago.

My reaction to the new Spiderman movie


My reaction to the new Spiderman movie

So there’s a Harry Potter group on campus


So there's a Harry Potter group on campus

Dealing with maths during Finals week…


Dealing with maths during Finals week...