It’s not every day that I wake up regretting not taking advanced maths in high school. I always had a propensity towards physics, my favorite teacher was an MSC in physics who thought I had the potential to win a Nobel prize. Yeah, sorry about that prof. John. Instead, I graduated with a double major in Chemistry and Biochemistry, abandoning the sciences all together to go meditating and river rafting in the Himalayas. Yes, I haven’t had the gumption to contact my high school teachers or college professors.
Why the deviation? Isn’t it obvious? I met an artist. I was nineteen when making my way towards the library from the mess I chanced upon a great commotion in the adjacent meeting hall. Scores of students had crammed themselves into that tiny venue and there was great excitement. Think squealing, gushing nubile young women. A prominent Bollywood actor was due to give a workshop on acting.
Uninterested I chose to walk away when accosted by a hostel friend who demanded that I live a little and come to see a celebrity if nothing else. I decided to hang around for a bit and then walk away, the library books were going nowhere. There were no seats available, standing room only but I managed to get a privileged seat, right near the stage next to the organizers.
The actor was the thespian Mr. Anupam Kher, recently nominated for the best supporting actor in the BAFTA awards for the movie The Boy With The Top Knot. He proceeded to request for volunteers to come on the stage. During the selection process, the organizers proceeded to play short interludes of popular Hindi songs, the one in question ‘Chole Ke Peeche Kya hai’. A highly controversial song, as it literally translates to, what’s behind your blouse. Even the organizers were giggling as they played it.
Mr. Kher was disturbed and after the volunteers were selected and the song stopped he went off on a tirade about the objectification of women and how we as women should make a stand against it and not support it. He went on and on about how good cinema didn’t need to sexualize and objectify women to make sales. Entertainment, clean and inspiring should be the goal.
I turned to look at the crowd, no one seemed to be stirred by his comments, I looked at the organizers who were busy trying to fast forward the song and diligently checking the list of songs to make sure they were ‘clean’. Except for Mr. Kher, the only man in the hall, I doubt anyone was offended by the song. It got me to question why? As the programme continued and he taught valuable lessons on the art of acting, I was still mulling over what he said and more importantly about why he was the only one affected.
I didn’t intend to even attend the workshop yet I stayed and worse the incident remained with me. Something changed in me that day, I began to see life in a new light. I realized that science had turned my brain into a calculating, logical and practical calibrator. Suddenly the quote of Einstien began to make sense, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.’
I did return to the library but I read books on philosophy and not science journals. I began to bunk classes and instead started experiencing the world. I took up meditation, yoga, theater and watched plays. You see I had finally understood why he was the only one in the hall that way, he had an artistic mindset. His life was a testament to his dedication to his art, he pursued the goal of being the very best in what he did, not trying to be number one. He was never the hero but always the best actor in a movie.
I have never regretted turning my back on science, even when I meet batchmates who have doctorates, are virologists, professors, and hold respectable positions. When asked what I do, I answer proudly, I am an author, I write stories that transport people into worlds where they get exposed to different viewpoints and really rethink their prejudices and beliefs.
So why the regret today? I was reading comments about Michio Kaku and Nassim Haramein from fellow physicists. While they are kinder to Mr. Kaku who is a Harvard graduate and has a Ph.D. from Berkley, they are unforgiving of Mr. Haramein. He is called a quack, a fraud because his interpretation of the universe like Mr. Kaku is considered ‘babble’. Unless they can distill their theories, calibrate their analogies, mainstream science has little regard for their ideas.
I regret not having the ability to study their equations and judging for myself if they are erroneous or not. Because even though science claims to be the tried, tested, and proved, the learned in the field hold onto to their knowledge with the same fastidiousness that religious zealots hold onto their teachings. They resent any alteration to their knowledge, like dry sodium exposed to air, they get tarnished. They form a protective coating that resents any change.
Brings to mind the famous case of two Australian scientists who in 1980’s tried to prove that a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, caused stomach inflammation and ulcers. This theory was just too wild to be accepted and they met vehement opposition. It took nothing less than Dr. Marshall’s famous self-experiment in which he swallowed a culture of H. pylori to prove the theory.
What is shocking is that Dr. Warren said that colleagues did not want to know, or believe, what he was describing. Anyone could see the bacteria through a microscope, but they did not want to see them. In fact, the self-experiment was because it was hard to prove the skeptics wrong. This isn’t the first time the words, ‘they couldn’t see them’ has crossed my path. It leads me onto a deep inward journey as I ask myself, what am I unseeing?