Monday, 6 July 2009

1. The Master of Science

Much has happened since I last posted anything here. I finished my thesis, I left St. Andrews, I went to Belgium, I had a great time, I left Belgium and I came to India. Along the way I picked up my degree and became a certified 'Master of Science' while drifting as far away from being able to weave the various threads of my life into one harmonoius 'shimmering tapestry' as I have ever been. I - for once - feel reasonably competent at what I do while I have become more aware than ever of the utterly incomprehensible vastness of the abyss that remains beyond all knowledge.

Someone once told me that science is an ever expanding frontier of ignorance. At the Perimeter Institute this coming year I will be transported from one edge of that frontier of ignorance to another, from technology and engineering research to theories and speculations of the most fundamental nature - powerful, far removed and abstruse. In all this esoteric knowledge seeking and continent hopping I have conveniently ignored what I consider my fundamental duties - to have an income, a family and generally make my parent's lives more pleasant in ways more immediate and real than the abstract achievements of research and academia.

I would have loved to write about the absolutely brilliant time I had at the EMMP Summer School in Gent, the fantastic people I met, old friends, old haunts in a city I have come to love and the goodbyes, the firm handshakes and the promises to meet again. A beautiful place, good people and healthy emotion resting comfortably on a bedrock of learning and competence - i.e. all the things that make life worth living were present in generous quantities at that summer school but I can no longer write about any of it. I have spent barely 3 days in India and it has overwhelmed me. The delicate and pleasing emotions that are so natural in the genteel environs of Gent have been swept away by a violent and painfully enjoyable barrage of crowds, memories, relations, conventions, smells, foods, stories and lives.

One must follow one's dreams - that I cannot bring myself to doubt but where does the pursuit of knowledge fit in this mad milieu of noise, money, passion, tragedy and history ? Is this not the first fight I must fight ? To create a bubble of happiness and maintain it till my children take over the job ? Has my father not done this all his adult life, and done it brilliantly without a word, is this not where I still return for guidance and solace and comfort ? I give advice while doing precious little to lend a hand, should I not be helping to strenghten our lovely bubble, expanding it and decorating it, so that my family can rest secure, and my dad can walk without the weight of responsibility on his shoulders for the first time in 30 years ? Is this not my first duty ?

It is. And I have no clue how what I am doing is going to help me discharge it. Im running on faith and hope. India is a wonderful place - painfully, violently, enjoyable. Much more naked and up front than the west ever is. There is more passion and drama on any road in Mumbai than all the couples in all the squares of Paris. India is like a raging river, invitingly mad, cruel and sad, fey and boisterous, shiny and old, silly and wise, it is everything to everyone and I want to jump in and experience it again but I cant. Im in the river but I dont get wet, the water flows over and around me without touching me. I dont look, sound or feel like I can handle the torrents that flow through the veins of India and so I am spared and excluded.

Mumbai speaks to me no longer, it seems I can but watch from afar - I no longer see myself in the people on the roads, I see strangers and I wish I was them, with them, sharing their city, listening to their stories which form the story of the city and the country, my country. Master of Science with 'Great Distinction' is nothing. In my homeland, at home, I have not done my bit, my character hardly has a role while everyone waits for the main protagonist to step up and play his part.

Here, I am no one, I barely exist.

And thats all that matters.


Anonymous said...

I love ur description of India.. we really are a savage country.. and development doesn't seem to be changing that. Quite a change from UK eh? The weather must also be a problem...

Psmith said...

quite a change from Europe, yes..but I like this more, mostly.

and the weather in Mumbai was horrid.....rainy, or hot and sticky in the extreme. Im at home in the middle of the Deccan now, in the Monsoon, this place is as pleasant as its possible for a place to be.

Why have you disallowed comments on your blog ?

Juhi said...

Hey nice to hear you are in India!

Mumbai is very very rainy now but somewhat cooler and pleasanter now that it has rained properly.

Really like your post...yeah i know bombay has that feeling of teeming with life and frothing with passion...never ever dull and of my favourite things to do is just go and sit on the sea wall at marine drive and keep observing all the people, weird and wondrous as they often are. It helps if i am with someone who can join in a game of snarky comments.

(And in case you read this crowcious, why have you disallowed comments on your blog???)

atwice said...

'Im in the river but I dont get wet, the water flows over and around me without touching me. I dont look, sound or feel like I can handle the torrents that flow through the veins of India and so I am spared and excluded.'

I felt that when I was there too, and it makes me sad.

Psmith said...

@Juhi : Yes...but when it does not rain in Mumbai its quite humid sticky :) I keep coming to Mumbai. what a city !

@Aarthy : yep...its a little depressing to be a little bit of an outsider in the homeland. and Ive only been away 2 years !