Let’s talk about chemical engineering

I have a new problem in life. I can’t stand people who cannot distinguish between chemistry and chemical engineering. For instance, this is the conversation I have had numerous times in my life:

Random Uncle ji: Beta, Ershad, how have you been? Don’t you recognise me? I used to visit your folks when you were little. I am your uncle’s brother-in-law’s sister’s father-in-law’s nephew. I would often carry you on my shoulders, and we would go for walks.

Me (thinking): Uhh, who? I’m sorry, but I don’t remember you. If I had seen you, I might have remembered you. It’s not often you see a face that so closely resembles a goat’s. And what walks? Besides, that’s too much information in one go.

Me: Oh, yes. I remember! I am fine. How can I forget those walks? How have you been Uncle ji?

Random Uncle ji: I am fine, thank you. I heard that you have been working in the oil sector. Your Aunty and I are so proud. We always knew you would make it. You studied chemical engineering, right? I heard chemical engineers earn more than any other engineers?

Me (thinking): Made it? Dude, Mark Zuckerberg made it. This guy I know who cracked the UPSC and became an IAS officer made it. That chaiwala who became PM made it. Not me. Oh, and nice try. I ain’t telling you my salary.

Me: I am not sure, but thank you Uncle ji. It’s because of your dua that I am where I am today.

Random Uncle ji: No, no, you are being modest. I always tell my son, “Follow the footsteps of your Ershad bhaijaan.” You have always been good in studies. By the way, what do you do in your free time?

Me (thinking): Okay, this is going somewhere. And I don’t like it.

Me: Oh, not much. You know the usual, TV and stuff.

Random Uncle ji: Oh, why don’t you come over to our place. Young men like you should socialise more. You should utilise all that free time you get. Once you have a family, you won’t have time for yourself. Your aunty was also telling me the other day about this.

Me (thinking): All right. First of all, I don’t have any free time. When I am not working, I am busy inventing lame stories about normal strangers, writing weird unfunny posts, fantasising about going to the gym and getting a six pack, and playing corridor cricket. I spend my time planning what I would do when I become the President of Mars. Don’t tell me I have free time. Secondly, I think I will find staring at my ceiling fan much more interesting than spending an hour at your place, thank you.

Me: Oh, thank you. I’ll plan something.

Random Uncle ji: No, you must come tomorrow. I’ve already told your aunty. Oh and when you come over, could you give a little guidance to my son regarding his studies?

Me (thinking): Oh, great! So nice of you to ask my consent. And what is with all that aunty invocation in every other sentence?

Me: What kind of guidance?

Random Uncle ji: You know, how competitive it is these days. He really wants to be an engineer. Now, he is all right with physics and mathematics, but he is finding chemistry a bit difficult. Then I remembered who better than you to teach him chemistry. Just help him with the concepts a little bit.

Me (thinking): “He” wants to be an engineer? Oh, you mean, “you” want him to be an engineer.

Me: Yes, that is fine, but Uncle ji, I studied chemistry a long time ago. I don’t recall any of it. Besides, I was never good at chemistry anyway.

Random Uncle ji: What are you talking about? Chemistry is in your blood. You deal with chemicals every day. Chemical engineering – Chemistry/ Potato – Potaato. You will be fine. Okay, I have to go now and buy some potatoes. I’ll pick you up tomorrow around this time.

Me: But…wait…sigh

This is how it ends. Always. And I just want to scream my head off at all these morons. Therefore, at the risk of sounding exactly like the nerd I am, let me clarify some things for all of you who think chemical engineers know chemistry. (Disclaimer: I am speaking about strictly Indian chemical engineers and especially those who weren’t brilliant enough to go to the IITs. Those IITians are weird.)

Where do I start? Oh, organic chemistry. You know that hexagonal thing they call benzene? Yes, the only thing we know about that is that it looks hexagonal. We actually learned the word hexagonal after we saw the benzene structure instead of it being the other way around. We don’t know where the hydrogen atoms are and where the carbon lives. We have no idea where the reactive sites are and which bonds are broken for benzene to become a phenol or aldehyde or ketone or whatever else is left. Oh, and don’t even ask us anything about resonance. The only Resonance we know is that lame band we formed in college where we experimented with heavy metal ghazals.

Moving on to the topic of physical chemistry, I can assure you that we only like the stuff that is common with physics. Stuff like atoms and electrons and their ilk are all right. However, we are stumped when you start talking about how these things interact during bond formation. What we are more interested are in the awful jokes about protons and neutrons like the following one:

“A neutron ordered a coffee at the coffee shop. When it asked for the bill, the owner said – for you, no charge.” …. Hahaha *frowns*

If this doesn’t convince you that we suck at chemistry, how about this: we have no idea what to do in the chemistry labs. For instance, remember the titrations and stuff? Yes, we only know that you have to either make the colour disappear, or in case it is a transparent liquid, make it appear. We don’t know anything about which one is acid and how much alkali we have to add. Phenolphthalein is something we can’t even pronounce (phenol-pa-thalein, penol-palein-thin, phenol-polythene?), let alone use.

Trust me, chemical engineers know nothing about chemistry. Due to unfortunate fate, or poor engineering entrance marks, we ended up studying chemical engineering. It had nothing to do with choice or a passion for the branch. Besides, the chemical part is mostly because we deal with chemicals every day. But isn’t that the case with those warehouse people who store chemicals? Or those doctors and pharma guys who use them? No one asks them to teach their kids chemistry.

Anyway, I think that’s enough for today. I will continue again as soon as another moron asks me to teach his kid.

P.S. Jokes aside, this is what chemical engineers actually do (especially those who work in chemical process industries). Imagine you have to synthesise a few grams of a substance Z. To do that, you have to react a few grams of substance X with a few grams of substance Y. And since the reaction is endothermic, you have to supply external heat. A chemist in such a case would normally use a test tube and heat the test tube over a Bunsen burner.

Now imagine you have to synthesise the same substance, but this time in tons of quantities. Where do you find such a big test tube and such a powerful burner? This is where chemical engineers come in. They design (or help other engineers design) equipments that can take care of such large quantities. Then they also take care of the operation of these equipments to deliver the desired quantity and quality of the product.

Let’s talk about dogs

Okay, before I start this rant, I would like to state a disclaimer: I like pets.

 I love cats, and have a soft spot for rabbits. However, I hate dogs; but not because I have a hatred for the dog species. It’s just that they scare me (Yes, even the supposedly cute and cuddly ones). In the words of the great Chandler Bing: “They are needy, they are jumpy, and you can’t tell what they are thinking, and that scares me a little bit. “

So, with that out of the way, let’s crack on.

I have a new problem in life. I can’t stand my neighbourhood pet owners. To be precise, I can’t stand dog owners. Notwithstanding my latent hatred for dogs, it is the behaviour of the owners which bugs me. To the untrained eye, dog owners seem like normal people. They do normal people stuff like waking up, brushing their teeth, taking a dump, and cleaning dog poop (Okay, maybe not that normal). Don’t be fooled though! This is just a facade. These are the most annoying people on earth. I’ll list a bunch of idiosyncrasies common to dog owners.

First, when you meet a dog owner, you will notice that small talk only lasts for about two minutes before the topic of conversation turns to the dog. Just to give you an example, this is the conversation I had with my neighbourhood dog owner the other day:

(After two minutes of small talk)

Me: Hey, Mr Dog Owner, can I ask you for a favour?

Mr Dog Owner: Yeah, sure, anything! You see my dog loves to run to me when I get home from work. And he is so sad when I have to leave him alone…

Me: Uhh…

Mr Dog Owner: …I’ve bought him a bone that’s shaped like me. It has a built-in app that can record my voice and…

Me: Umm…

Mr Dog Owner: …For some reason, he hates biryani; even the Hyderabadi biryani. So I feed him toilet paper…

I don’t suppose the conversation went exactly like that, but I think you get the gist. Talk about politics, and he will reply how the other local dogs being basic bitches were conspiring against his dog. Speak about economics, and he will lecture you on Pedigree inflation. Talk about your mother, and he will talk about dog birth videos. The point is that irrespective of the issue being discussed, the dog owner will always find a way to talk about his dog.

Secondly, when the dogs are apprehensive of strangers (Me, in this case), the dog owner will make baby noises and call the dog all sorts of puke-inducing names including baba and beta. Ostensibly, this calms the mongrel down, although I’m yet to see proof. In practice, the crazy canine keeps barking louder and louder till you are unable to hear the owner’s pathetic swooning (Which is not a bad thing).

However, what really gets my goat is the following statement:

Mr Dog Owner: Beta, no. Don’t do this. Uncle is really nice.

Me (thinking): What the F did you call me? Uncle? Did you just tell the effing dog to call me Uncle? Look buddy, I don’t care if the dog is your son or your grandmother’s ex-husband, but don’t you dare club me with the filthy, mangy curs. Hell, I’ll even beat your “human” son if that punk calls me uncle. Have you even looked in the mirror? You are old! I’m not! Exclamation! Avada Kedavra! Exclamation!

Me (actually saying): Oh, yeah. Really nice. Come here, poochie poochie.

Seriously, dog owners don’t understand that it’s not cool to call me or anyone Uncle. The dog probably has an uncle he loves and holds in high regard. He does not need another. By the way, the reason Satan keeps barking is probably that they always tie him up and take him on their stupid, slow walks that don’t do their or his health any good.

Which brings me to my final point: dog owners seem to have nothing else to do than walking their dogs. Of course, that’s not a bad thing. Walking is a great exercise. What’s wrong is that the dogs always seem reluctant to walk. It’s like the owners force the hapless creatures to not enjoy their natural laziness. The sight of a woman trying to play tug of war with her monstrous, killing machine of a dog who only wants to sleep on the footpath is not uncommon. Alternately, I often spot one of my neighbours – who is six feet and weighs about a hundred kilos – dragging his poor little pug on his evening walks. Just the difference in sizes of the two beasts is enough to file a case for animal cruelty. For every single step of my neighbour, the poor dog is forced to take eight tiny, rapid steps to keep up.

Whether these owners are the exceptions to the rule, or represent the larger community, I may never know. What I do know is that they are the last persons you should invite to a party. Trust me, they are not fun. The three examples I have mentioned only scrape the surface of their un-coolness. There are innumerable Facebook posts with close-ups of the dogs with captions on “how they didn’t choose the dog life and the dog life chose them.” There are WhatApp statuses updating every single walk with the dog, and blog posts on the latest dog shampoo in town. The list is endless.

So, dear readers, stay safe and believe in the saying, “Never mind the dog. Beware of owner!”

 Note to Dog Owner: If you are a dog owner and a pedant, you will notice that I used the word “dog” 43 times and the word “owner” 23 times. I also used a misleading title. Go ahead, sue me!

Let’s talk about cows

No, I mean it. Let’s talk about cows.

Why? I’ll tell you why.

I hate these things. I mean I don’t hate them as in “hate” them. But I can’t stand them. Does that make sense? No?

Well let me explain then.

Ever since I moved to Numaligarh, I’ve noticed cows. To be precise, I’ve noticed how they have a propensity to always be in the middle of the roads. Yes, it’s a common sight in most parts of India. However, here, their frequency is almost like one every fifteen feet. And for some reason, I can’t recall ever seeing them grazing on the fields adjoining the roads. Sometimes I wonder if they eat asphalt or something. Maybe, that’s why they keep chewing continuously because asphalt is, well…hard, I guess. Perhaps, that’s how they lost their upper set of teeth. It’s like the old adage: “Keep chewing asphalt and your teeth will fall off.”

They have started annoying me even more ever since I got my car. I like driving, and I like driving fast. What I don’t like is shifting down to the second gear every thirty seconds just because  some fat cow feels indecisive about crossing the road before taking a dump or doing it before crossing the road. To make matters worse, they give you this smug look while you’re honking as if to say, “Hey buddy, could you not do that? I’m taking a shit. ” Yeah, I can see that, and don’t call me buddy. I’m not your fricking buddy!

As for the young ones, they are unpredictable as hell. They’ll wait by the sides until you feel relaxed that you have crossed them. Then suddenly they’ll say, “Hey buddy, let’s test your driving skills,” and jump right in front of you chasing their tails or trying to tap dance. As you curse and pray to God while trying to avoid them, you realise cows don’t talk. They just moo. So, you begin to question your sanity. You wonder if it’s the cow inside you that’s talking. Uh, I fear I’m digressing. Sorry. Back to my rant then.

Basically, cows have this hidden agenda to ruin your day. Or I guess, they have a grudge against me. I mean, I can feel their evil stares whenever I’m too close to them. Why else would they start peeing and splashing it all around when I’m about to walk past them? In case the piss misses my shoes, they’ll try to swing their filthy tails and slap my butt. Even the bulls hate me. If I’m alone they’ll try to charge at me to kill me. If my family is with me, they’ll charge at the nearest cow trying to get some happy time just so that I can die from embarrassment.

Oh well, I think I’ve gone too far. Nevertheless, I feel somewhat better now. I wish cows could read. Better yet, I wish I could teach a cow to read, for the sole purpose of making it read this rant and the countless vitriolic journal entries I’ve written. Alas, I’ll have to make do with some milk and beef kabab. Hahaha.

Sigh, I need a life.