Sunday, June 18, 2006

On dreaming

When I was in class XII or something, I had just read "A Brief History of Time" (not exactly understood, but read and was fascinated by). I had already set my heart on studying molecular biology then and I knew physics was not my cuppa tea. But I continued to be very curious and enamoured by astronomy/cosmology. So I remember telling myself then, "If I ever see Stephen Hawking and James Watson, I can die in peace". That was just me day-dreaming, indulging in my fantasies.

Just a few years after that (1999?), James Watson, the co-discoverer of the double-helix came to Bombay! I could not believe my luck. Watson was speaking at a public lecture at TIFR, and our professors at college had let us leave chemistry practicals early so we could make it. I rounded up a big gang of friends (almost yelling at some of them who didn't show interest in the beginning) ;). TIFR was a good 1-2 hours away by train, and we reached just a few minutes before the talk was to begin. The huge auditorium was already spilling with people. We were standing in one of the door-ways, and when Watson started speaking, there was silence. Until some silly girls started loudly "ooh-ing" about being at Watson's lecture. And that irritated me and I snapped at them to shut up. :) (I have a propensity to get into fights like that). What I could see from standing so far away was the white-bearded form of the 80+ year old scientist, but that was enough for me. This was more of a "public" lecture, so he talked about genetics and society, dispelling false fears in people about science, and things like that. It was really the experience, the feeling of seeing the person who co-discovered DNA!!! - (my favourite molecule, as I called it then) that was just overwhelming, and still is. My friends and I left the audi, spent some time just revelling in what we had all witnessed, and made our ways home.

A couple years later, Stephen Hawking came to India!! He was going to give a "talk" in Shanmukhananda Hall in Bombay (2001?). The very thought of him coming to Bombay was so exciting. Of course, it was very hard to get an invite, and I made my father's life miserable to get me a ticket, somehow. Poor dad, he tried all his resources and finally found a colleague who had three passes from being in some kind of Physics association at TIFR. OH MY GOD. I thought back to my innocent dream of a few years back and felt really, really fortunate. I still remember the feeling of thrill I felt then. I could not sleep a wink the night before the event. I was hyper-excited, and my mind was dizzy. On the day, I remember taking the bus to go to Sion, wearing my T-shirt inside-out! I was entirely besotted by the thought of seeing Stephen Hawking for real- didn't even realise the weird stares I was getting from other people on the bus. When I reached there, the "buzz" was that he had not yet arrived, and there was major security and everything. I met my dad and his friend and we found our seats, pretty good ones too. (Then my dad pointed out the t-shirt being inside-out and I hurriedly went to a rest-room to fix that issue and return to my seat ;) ) Hawking wheeled himself in, and I was gawking. He used a speech synthesizer to convey his thoughts, and mostly spoke about the superstring theory (which was the new hotness then), his Brief History book, and advice for youngsters with an interest in theoretical physics, etc. Again, it was really an experience, just watching someone who had overcome such a debilitating illness and produced such brilliant work. After the talk, I ran outside, to the exit ramp, where I knew his van was parked, so that I could have a glimpse of him that one more time. There were security barricades, and watchmen shoo-ing me away, but I stood my ground till I saw him exit the auditorium and make his way to the van, and until the van left the premises. My dad and his friend were amused with my idolatry. But I couldn't help it. Who would've thought that I'd actually get to see someone I read and admired so much?

Today, I was staring at this globe on my desk and fantasizing about all the places I want to go to. And I have a little list that I started adding to, but stopped to think "who am I kidding? when will I ever get to do it?". Then I was reminded of this little innocent dream I had when I was younger, and how it was fulfilled so early on, when I was least expecting it to happen. So I decided to go back and add the Galapagos Islands to my list, who knows when I might just end up going!


greensatya said...

Wow !! I just now commented in one other post about it being original and here I got one more.

I totally know what you mean. One of those dreams come true. Those little joys of life, difficult to quantify but can only be felt.

I bet one day you will see the 'Galapagos' Islands. Atleast the probablity of this happening is more than sighting Hawkins or Watson.

The Smiling Girl said...


Now thats the +ve attitude I just love..:)

Forgetting about attitudes and talking about dreams...
I always wanted to land up at MIT just because I could meet all those guys who wrote the Engg text books for us.. but meeting the discoverers of something as important as DNA must've been really great, right?

I would also give anything to meet ppl like Watcon, Crick, Hawking, Khorana, CV Raman(I know its not possible now!), Abdul Kalam... ppl who are famous only for their brains and nothing else...

Uff... bhagwan unka itna dimag kaise deta hain yaar... *Sighs*

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

thanks. :-) yes, i do hope i can go see the islands some day.

yeh kya gold/silver laga rakha hai? What's this craze for a piece of metal, i just don't understand!!

hee hee hee ;)

yes, it's quite something to see these big-names. Puts a different spin on it completely.

I am off blogger said...

Ameen.....and what are the other places in your "list"???
And you seem to have quite a bit of "depth" see Molecular Biology and physics alone can make most ppl look away and you were intrested in both!! Good going maybe yoo can start with physics also........BTW, have you read "You must be joking Mr. Feynman"???
Must read I will say......He was nuclear physicist and still had done research in biology!!!

Akanksha said...

Nerd alert he he :D

but really cool that u got to see them..
i dnt kno when my lil shweet dreams just disappeared and now life has just become a goal to reach an assignment to finish
i feel sad!

Macho Girl said...

cool!!!!!!!!!! u got to attend lectures by watson and hawking??? Amazing! There used to be a copy of "brief history of time" in my house when I was a primary school student. Didnt read it back then coz it was "grown-ups" book. Now I can't find it :(
I have only attended Abdul kalam's lecture till now. It was pretty inspiring! I guess he is one of the very few role models left for Indian youngsters.

I keep dreaming too about the people i'd like to meet and the places i'd like to go... after reading this post, I just added Africa to my list ;) Europe and Africa are the 2 continents which i wanna tour. one for its history, one for its wildlife :) hope u get to go to Galapagos Islands sometime! :D

Rebellion said...


... That was such an awesome post gurl! Great postive attitude.. Love it dear :)

Your post just reminded me of a beautiful sms that I'd got once..
Dreams are the tiny seeds from which beautiful tomorrows grow :)

Great going..
Keep Dreaming...

May ALL your dreams be fulfilled :)

Take care,

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

no, i've still to read feynman. heard so much, never got my hands on the books. will put it on my list now. :)
as for my list of dream destinations, it's long yaar, :) will post about it soon. ok?

> Nerd alert
:@ :X.
just because you're the owner of one of my most favourite names, i'll let you be.

>i dnt kno when my lil shweet dreams just disappeared...
i suppose you meant " i didn't know when my ...." right?? :)
yaar, my day-to-day life is also like that- one experiment to the next. bas. but that's why it's important to dream, and, if you're as forgetful as i am, to keep lists of all those dreams ;). some day, before you know it, you'll get to them.

yes, i consider myself quite lucky, to have seen both these big people, and that too when i was so rosy-eyed, and not the jaded person suffering from an overdose of TMI that I am now. Abdul Kalam? wow!! that must've been quite awe-inspiring.
am so glad my post made you add to your list! excellent! i want to go to africa too!!!
may be we can plan something together, eh? :)

aarti dear,
thanks yaar. that was a beautiful, and a very apt quote.

shub said...

that is really cool! I'm in awe of stephen hawking too actually!:) lucky you!

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hi shub!
*glares at the person i know has stolen my gold a few times at sayeshaz..*

oops! er, thanks for stopping by. :D. yes, that is probably one of the most memorable things in my life, i'm glad i wrote it all down. :)

Swapna said...

Wow... that sounds like quite an experience.

Great post! Hope all your dreams come true. :)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hi swapna!
thanks! :) i am really glad i documented all of that now :)

PSV said...

I don't know you but you sure are inspirational.
Keep Blogging

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

thanks! i've never thought of myself as "inspirational". :)

sashi said...

I can't say I have been to any lectures given by celebrity scientists, but I do go running when I hear a 'famous' writer is in town to give a reading or a talk. However I had to transplant myself to a different country before any of this started happening. So lucky you for being in Bombay then. :)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hey sashi!

yes, i was lucky to get this experience in bombay. so you hound writers then? interesting. i've only gone as far as going backstage to get a band member's autograph. :)