"Meeting Inspiring people, tackling global warming and ... learning to ride a bike"

It’s 7 o’clock in the morning and the alarm clock buzzes softly. Relax. Tailbacks and tooting car horns? I wouldn't know, as my apartment is only a stone’s throw from VITO. I arrive at 8.30 and there’s still enough time to say Hi! To everyone. Thanks to VITO’s flexdesk policy, I always have the opportunity to meet colleagues I haven’t seen before and it's interesting to find out what they are working on.


At VITO, I am working on a global climate model for cities, known as the UrbClim model. Our team is headed up by Koen De Ridder. Our final objective? To make our model available to cities and local communities, so that they can do their utmost to prepare for the impact of climate change and fight the Urban Heat Island.

I am working on this project as part of my PostDoc in Climate Sciences from September 2016 to March 2017. Though by the time you read this, I will have returned to my home city of Delhi, in India. And yes, what I want to do is to apply the UrbClim model in Delhi and make projections about the impact that climate change will have upon my city.

Every Monday, we have a meeting in Mol together with the members of our team who work at our premises in Berchem. For me, finding out about the various projects that people at VITO are working on was truly inspiring.

Our team also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a research team in India. Occasionally, we even schedule a teleconference with colleagues in my home country. VITO has actually been working with the TERI University (Delhi) for some time now.

Of course I also take the time to continue writing my papers. It is extremely useful that VITO is able to provide individual workspaces with glass walls where people can work in silence.

All meetings are held in English, though in the meantime, I have picked up a few words and phrases in Dutch. That said, the people here are extremely friendly and they immediately switch to English when talking to me. In other European countries where I have spent time, that was not always the case.

Nice and spicy

In the afternoon, I often eat in my own apartment – often an Indian meal that is nice and spicy! But I also go to the cafeteria with my colleagues. Or, if things are busy, I simply eat in the office.

I have to say that it wasn't until I came here that I got into the habit of eating bread at breakfast time. We don't do that in India. The bread and sandwiches here are great. Just like the fries. And not forgetting the spiced biscuit flavoured (speculaas) icecream at the farm just down the road. The only thing I haven't tried is the meat, as I’m a vegetarian!

After work, I speak to my family in India on the phone. The time there is four-and-a-half hours later than it is here. On an evening, I then have time to socialise with the international visitors staying at VITO. The thing I most enjoy is a glass of beer, which is also something I wasn’t familiar with before.

On two wheels

One of the most striking differences between India and Europe is the work culture. At home, you no longer have any private life if you work for a company. Here, however, people maintain a healthy balance between their working and private lives. So I did have some spare time ...  But what did I do with it? I started drawing again. But the main thing is that I have a new hobby - cycling! Back in Delhi, I’d never actually learned to ride a bike. But the son of my PhD supervisor, Koen, had a bike that was just the right size - not too tall, in other words. But I was so afraid I would fall off. On two occasions, I had a hard landing, but a week later, I was back in the saddle again. Who would ever have thought it?