It was seven years ago when sitting on my computer in New Delhi I was trying to decide whether I wanted to go for my Master’s to a University in Copenhagen, Zurich, Stockholm, Paris, …. . Of course the rankings mattered, the scholarships mattered but also my fear of the unknown mattered. Here I was in India having never ventured out of the country trying to decide where to spend the next two years of my life.
And this is where I came across the blog of a student (which I cannot dig up despite trying for 5 long minutes) who used to narrate her experiences in Copenhagen infrequently. While there was no dearth of organized blogging advertising for Copenhagen, the self-motivated nature of the blog was endearing and real. It was my first connect with the city which I was going to call home for the next six years of my life. It was my first brush with Danish naivete, Danish hygge, the student life, the parks, the sea, the weather. It was my first date with Denmark from the eyes of another narrator.
The student blog was hosted on a blogging infrastructure which was part of an initiative from the Humanities department at the University of Copenhagen called KU student blogs which used to be hosted here (the link might be broken now). This service encouraged students to create a blog and to write what their heart desired. One of the best features was the blog feed so you could read in one place all the content from different KU blogs. It was a great window into the lives of other people without all the glam of social media. It was great for old-school, boring people like me. I blogged here (maybe a broken link) for five long years infrequently which kept the world was sane.
And then the storm clouds gathered. The KU student blogs became a platform to allow KU affiliated individuals to create websites and it was not a purely student blogging infrastructure anymore. It became a website creation tool which meant the feed feature was not desirable since depending on the reader, the feed contained a lot of uninteresting information. At this point the feed was taken off and KU blogs was rebranded as KU sites. While I have nothing against website creation infrastructure, better thought could have been given to its management to keep the student blogging feeds intact.
Since the blog feed feature was gone and KU site service was hosted using WordPress and I already had a free account on wordpress.com, I moved all my content to it. KU blogs also had a questionable security policy in its integration with the KU one identity authentication systems. The KU blog password was a special rewrite of the KU password (I am not going to detail it here) to account for incompatible password policies across systems which hastened my decision to move.
Overall, a dedicated student blog system with a blog feed feature to read about student experiences is an invaluable tool both for local and international students. Its something worth preserving and I wish it had been so. Thank you KU blogs for all the initiative and the help and for encouraging me to come and live in Denmark. Hopefully, you revive the initiative again.
It was a cold January morning in 2011. There was snow all around and I was trudging along with the trepidation of soldier treading a minefield. My destination was a hair salon to get a haircut. I looked at the board outside which said “studierabat” meaning student discount. I almost jumped for joy. The normal price for a men’s haircut boldly proclaimed 250 DKK. I went inside, was greeted by a beautiful girl in her mid 20s who went on to give me a great haircut. After the haircut, I paid 200 DKK (20% off as student discount) and that’s when the high prices of Copenhagen haircuts hit home. I had just experienced a hairy culture shock literally speaking. I had been living in Copenhagen for the past 5 months and I thought that I was immune to the price shock that outsiders felt when entering the Danish shops. I had never really factored in the haircut prices. I had chosen one of the cheapest places to get a haircut (after a great deal of internet searches) but I ended up parting with a week’s worth of grocery money.
That’s when someone told me about the Copenhagen hair cutting school where it costs 49 DKK for a haircut. The news thrilled me more than any of the groundbreaking discoveries my science books have drilled into me. It was almost like finding a hidden treasure. Sure, the people who cut your hair are students who are supervised by teachers but except on one occasion I have always got a great haircut there. On that one occasion, the hairdresser misunderstood what I wanted and ended up giving me a haircut which I had to bear for the next 2 months. Today I got another fantastic haircut and that too for free because it was my tenth haircut there which is free :-). Wednesday mornings could not be any better. I tried to ask out the beautiful brunette who cut my hair but she said she was married. I guess that was probably asking too much of a Wednesday.
It holds for Danish haircuts if you know where to look
I have often heard people complain about the incessant lack of time and how everyone is so busy. A case in point is a new obsession of working people – the calendar. Whenever I travel on the S-train, I find it intriguing that people traveling alone always play with their smart-phones ignoring everything around them. I did something similar as well, getting myself engrossed in a book or a research paper for a short 15 minute journey. Until something really strange hit me home today while traveling back from the University.
The simple smile
I was biking back to take the train from Hellerup when on a zebra crossing I found an old man about to cross. I stopped and gestured him to cross before I turned right. He hesitated and gestured me to. Both of us started moving at the same time and we again gestured to each other. Then I got off my bike and gestured him to go. We both broke into spontaneous laughter. It was a simple but a poignant moment which shows how the simple things in life are just waiting for us to open our hearts to them.
The woman on the platform
I was still thinking about this incident as I made my way to the platform and suddenly I saw a woman walking across the edge of the platform. Something suddenly hit me. I was watching a video on the the relative insignificance of Earth in this Universe yesterday and the magnitude of it hit me today. What are the odds of some loose atoms coming together in a predefined structure to form the Earth ? What are the odds of some carbon atoms evolving to form this very woman living in a society all around us ? What are the odds of everything around us forming from nothing ? Isn’t it completely strange that as humans we choose to ignore it all believing we have got used to it being “natural” ? I got on the train and saw most people focused on their smartphone. And then I quietly sat and observed everything around me marveling at all the odds that came together in giving me my place in this Universe at this very point of time. Being amazed and being incredulous is the least we can do to acknowledge our very existence.
And how insignificant we really are
Finally, I have got my blog free from all the planet feeds. Now who cares about who is reading my blog. I can just write in peace.
The best form of writing