Sunday, July 18, 2010

The girl’s name was Rohini. The embers on the morning sky were visible as she was sitting on a sea of white puffy clouds that drifted briskly. She could see the tips of mountains sticking their heads out of the thick white blanket, the green blades of grass on them shining like golden swords in the sunlight. Occasionally an enormous peregrine passed, kissing her ears or little blue butterflies sat on her head. It seemed heaven…
As time passed, the sun seemed to have grown enormously, as if it was at hand’s distance, a big round plate of orange light, and she felt drenched in sweat, like she would drown in her own. And then, in an instant, she blinked her eyes and came the realization that she was on hard grassy ground, naked and perspiring badly; but the sun was still directly above shining at her. She got up, rubbed her eyes and looked around. It was the foot of a hill and thick forests began just a few feet away from her. Little squirrels and crabs were scuttling around, and the same intriguing sounds came from the forests which had, since her childhood, allured her coz nobody knew what they were. Suddenly, her train of thoughts was interrupted by something slimy that passed over her foot. It was a striped snake; more of them, of different shades and colors were coming down the hill, due to the heat. She felt amused seeing their curvy paths. Beyond the hills, she lived with other people, who were like her; the first human inhabitants on Earth.
10,000 years later, Ritu was born in the hospital that stood at the place of the forests. And now, there were no hills or lakes or animals. Instead there were a large number of creatures like her and roads and vehicles and tall buildings.
The cars seemed like little fireflies that were floating on the ground and spewing beautiful orange-light.
“Is it not breathtaking”, she asked herself childishly, on the top of a 20-storeyed building, where she was standing beneath a star-studded sky and a full moon. The roads below were busy with ant-sized people and vehicles, but around her it was really quiet and cool. And indeed this dream, to be able to stand where she was, was worth all the pain. However when the wind, through the holes in her tattered clothes, hit her body like bullets, it felt frigid. And the holes were far too many even when she used both palms. And then it seemed to grow… the clattering of her teeth coz of the cold…so much that she realized she had a headache. She crammed her body like a ball in a corner but the shiver only grew, until she could not tolerate the pain anymore. Getting inside the building might have been lucky but going out was not going to be easy, she knew this. So she thought for a second and then ran, with the speed of light, down the stairs and was just approaching its massive gate, when she got covered by the guard. It was a no-win situation and so she had to give in. She got to go after the two mocked her by calling ‘orphan’ and ‘bitch’ and then slapped hard on her back.
She lived in a small group of 18 people who did not know how to talk to one another but they figured out that they had the same wants. And around them it was nothing but a vast stretch of land with trees and lakes and animals. There were enough fruits on the trees and water in the lakes to keep them full. Other than that, they had all the time in the world. For her, this was a time to think; like what this place was, and till where it went and what was in the forests and so on. There was so much to know about this mysterious place that there was always some curiosity or another. She had figured out a lot of things by herself. Like it was important to eat, drink, sleep and attend the call of nature. When she felt hungry, she ate. When she had to sleep, she slept. And in the meantime, she walked far from her area, marveling at all the different kind of insects; catching some of them but then she felt that they did not like to be caught; they wanted to be free so she let them go. Sometimes the weather changed dramatically and it would start to rain and she loved that. And after that, there was a beautiful rainbow that lined the horizons and there was something in it that made her feel enchanted. Often she climbed up the nearby hills to touch them but then she could not. At nights, the howls and barks of animals scared her so she stayed close to her family, her people.
But despite all this fun, there was a longing in her to go farther and know what was there far away. Were there more creatures like them? And if yes, how were they? Then at nights, she lay down on her back and stared into the sky. It made her feel good. She thought that she just wanted to be the same as she was now. There was nothing good about getting old, she thought. People around her had grown white hair and wrinkles and they could not even walk properly, but she was young and active and so happy with everything around her.
She lived alone amidst millions of people around her. She didn’t know her age (although an old man told her that she was about 15), not who her parents were, not the meaning of country or war; nothing except a few things. She knew this place as if she had known it forever. It was a place where one had to struggle hard and beg and steal in order to survive. And there were classes of people; the rich and the poor. The rich had the trees and the lakes and the land on earth but people of her class were like unwanted people here and unless you were smart enough to cheat or run fast, you will not have food; shelter was too far-fetched.
She was a rag picker on the streets of a flourishing town. And she did not remember since when she was doing this. According to the same old man, she was thrown in a dustbin by her parents after her birth and he cared for her since then until she could herself get food by begging and rag-picking. For Ritu, it wasn’t such a bad thing; even the lions’ children grew in the same way. And even more, just like they were bound in their cages and habitats by humans, her movement around the posh areas was also strictly restricted, perhaps by the same humans.
The only respite from her life was the time she spent with a boy who pulled rickshaws on the streets. He did not look ‘clean’ but whenever he talked to her; it felt that she was a human too. Other times she was either bellowed at or dismissed as a bitch. Perhaps that’s why she had a special kinship with the dogs in her locality. And she thought he was really funny coz he chatted and joked all the time, which made her laugh. But they never talked about the future; there was nothing to talk about.
She had started spending time with a person who was one of them, still a little different. His body was stronger than and not as soft as hers, his eyebrows were also thicker and appealing, anyway she felt safe and happy in his company. He always gave her the newest fruits, and caught beautiful insects and brought exquisite flowers which made her so happy. And when happy, automatically her lips parted and she felt very nice.
One day, she had spent the entire day with that boy and was very happy. She felt a strong urge in her heart to know more about this lovable place, especially about the forests. And she felt no opposition to it, no one was there to stop her doing what she really wanted to do. On the same stormy night, despite all the fear of the forests, she decided to go in. But there was a fear of the animals and insects but she mustered courage and tried to listen to her heart, and then she felt as if these trees, the skies and the little stars on them, someone or something that existed in and out of this world, wanted her to go.
Although there were no barriers to prevent her but there was a fear of the jungle, a fight inside the body, either to gather courage or simply forget about it and let go. The more she tried to face the question, the weaker she felt. Although she had no one to tell her, but she remembered the previous experiences of her small life, the incomparable happiness she had when she had gathered the courage to do something new, something good. Finally, out of impulse, she decided to do this; she shrugged the uncertainties and went in.
It was difficult even to walk through the thickets of bushes and the ear-splitting lightning strikes. Still, it was a beautiful breathtaking experience to walk on those wet ground, and feeling all those drops of water on the bare body. After a while, when she was shivering coz of the cold winds and water, she hid inside a cave. And then she saw something miraculous -- the rocks falling from the ceiling of the cave were hitting against a big hard rock and produced a spark of lightning just like the one outside, but it was very tiny flash and of a different color (orange). It was so simple and yet somehow she had the inkling that this was something great, she felt an amazing coherence with the world as if someone was there with her.
She got home and told everyone at her place about this. She even took two stones and showed the people how it happened. They were bedazzled…and this new discovery spread like fire…
One day, the boy offered her to come with him to his village. She was afraid first, but when he told that there were many fruit-trees and there was no need to beg the rich scoundrels for their packet-food, she changed her mind. She always thought that if God sent me to this world, why didn’t he give me enough food to eat?
Then the boy added, ‘And you know Ritu, there you can go anywhere. We can sit and watch the waters in the ponds or run wherever we want to. Nobody will stop us’. She did not if such a place existed where there were no restrictions; from where she wasn’t hurled away like animals. Finally, she agreed. The same night, she was sitting with the boy on the railing when the boy’s father came, yanked him away into his house. She heard his father beat and abuse him, ‘who the hell do you think you are, bastard? Taking that bitch to village? You are going nowhere until you earn enough to take care of your shit.’ She walked away. It was not the first time her dreams had been broken.
The night was very windy and somehow soothing to her pains, so she walked on. She wanted to walk until the dreams of going to a free place vanished. And aptly, it seemed the first time in life she had gone so far coz the lights and shops wore a different look. In fact, she felt like it was a whole new world. A world of no boundaries, where only love prevailed, coz here she saw people were interacting openly with each other. The women were attractive and the men happy and flirtatious. Suddenly, one beautiful lady came to her and started talking. It was unusual; such a gorgeous woman talking to her with such courtesy. She had never met anyone like her. In that instant, she loved her so much that when she invited Ritu to her house, she could not deny. But that was also because she wanted a place to spend the night. Her house was like a dream, beautiful and ebullient with men and women. Then she took her to a room and said, ‘Why don’t you rest here Ritu, and yes wear these clothes. Aren’t they beautiful?’
‘Indeed’ her voice choked with overwhelming happiness. Such a good person in this cruel world! Then a hefty man came and she introduced him. After that the woman went to bring something but Ritu could not remember anything. In fact, she did not remember anything after that. In the morning she had slept on a bed for the first time in her life and with a man, for the first time too. She could not figure out whether the room was soundproof or if the nice woman was deaf, coz even when her voice had cracked from screaming, she did not come. The next day, she cried sitting in the room, eating or drinking nothing, however she was surprised coz no one came to kick her out. At night, the same girl came with a tray loaded with delicious food; obviously she had not eaten any such in her whole life.
“Listen Ritu. This place is not meant for poor like us. You will die on those streets and no one will care. I tell you beta, those rich sons of bitches will not let you breathe, and you have to find a place for yourself, even if it means sacrificing your body.” Ritu kept mum. She was born like everyone else; trembling lips, little fingers, a beating heart but someday down the line, everything had changed.
Having spent years in the brothel, she became fearless and responsible at the same time. The worries about the basic necessities had been taken care of, but instead of getting happy, she got quieter. Her body had no particular importance for her now, but the strength of her mind grew day by day and she felt herself. Not like puppet swayed by the world but a person having independent thoughts, a desire to live on one’s own terms and conditions.
There were a million restrictions posed by the people, the world around her but this constant pain led her to the point when she regarded her as an individual with the ultimate power to think and to change, even if not her life; others’ lives. The same dilemma, inner fight that existed 10,000 years ago was still there, but now it needed more courage. And this time it was her seething life that made her do what she wanted to do and not what the world wanted or expected her to do. This was the time she realized the presence of God. She, in a flash of second, figured out the whole journey of her life and the reasons behind it. The mysterious ways of God were now visible to her and she was a mere medium of God. The same night, she mustered all the courage and the money she had earned all her life and rented a small room on the same road to guide little homeless girls… the darkening clouds could not prevent the dawn…

Friday, July 16, 2010

Unrequited love...

I can feel I am alive. I can feel the wind that is flowing through my hair and the crackle of dry leaves when I tread on them. I can feel this moment now; but rarely do I; rarely am I conscious that I am breathing, or that my heart is beating. Rest of the time, this evanescent consciousness of being alive is forgotten and I just flow with the stream of life; just follow where it takes me, lost in the labyrinthine paths of the human-created-world…oblivious of life or death.
But truly, these little interludes in the continuous flow of life are my true respites. And coincidently, they usually occur when I am around her, whom I love. “Love?” they laugh at me hysterically. “There’s a liver in your body that secretes chemicals and that’s why you love”, they say. And then they look at my haggard face and try to suppress their smiles.
Chemicals? If it’s really because of the chemicals, then I guess they have got the names wrong. I mean - ‘Chemicals’ - the word itself is so insensible and repulsive, how can it be the explanation for something as beautiful as love; unless they are talking about lust. Trust me; I have known love for 30 years, since the time I played hide-and-seek with her. I was happy in love, but more importantly I have cried; and then I understood that I had this enormous power to change the world for her, to die and to kill for that one soul.
Chemicals, they still say.
I was arrested from my college, in front of thousands of students. But it won’t affect me much coz I already don’t have a lot of friends; infact any friend. I don’t know if it’s because of my horrendous face marked with black spots or coz I behave differently. One of my teachers said it is because everyone knows that I am a psycho obsessed with her even though she detests me. The thing is I respected this teacher so I didn’t laugh on his face, but I do on his back, coz he is married and doesn’t know the difference between obsession and love.
“Have you had drugs? Alcohol?” They ask me.
“Hell no, officers” I say confidently.
And again they smile at me, surely thinking that I am living in a world of my own. Oh no, they think I am a total lunatic; that’s why they have arrested me for kidnapping her. Charges of murder are yet to be proved.
“Drugs can make you laugh and cry at the same time, just like love, or lust as in your case. You see, chemicals!” these policemen say.
Now I want to explain to them the difference between the two seemingly identical feelings, but I don’t think I will be good enough for these two fat snobs. Also, I have already decided what I am going to die for…so it does not really matter either. But I will explain it to you; coz then I would have done the right thing.
I have been around her since childhood, like a ghost, you can say. I know the texture of the maroon- colored ribbon she wears on a Friday (although I have never touched it) or the delicate precise way in which she puts the clothes out in the open; anyway it would be eternity if I go on talking about her. It’s just that I happen to know her better than herself. But since childhood, I have never wanted to talk to her coz she never wanted me to. But one day in class 5th when she complained my mom that I was scaring her by just looking at her, I stopped that too (although I continued stealing sneak peeks) and I wasn’t sad. In class 9th, she had a boyfriend whom she kissed and roamed around with all the time. But you know what, I did not feel jealous. It was OK if I did not get to see her as long as she was happy. I did not miss her or wanted to see her desperately. And still the love for grew in me.
But they talk of chemicals, and to be precise - endorphins. Yeah, the chemicals that create the obsession, or lust which makes one want to be with him/her or feel jealous for them. But I just want to tell them that you are just like most people, who live their whole lives without finding true love; they marry and live forever with the ones they lust for, and they make it work, but it takes work. On the other hand, some are lucky enough to find the person whom they can love, and get it in return, without lust; they can live happily with little work, forever. Love grows, lust obsesses.
When she was 21, she knew she was wrong about that boy who regularly misbehaved with her and that too with all the pleasure. How could I not help her then? And these officers laugh at me…no…I laugh at them for what they will never feel how I do. I pity them but I have sympathy for them.
Yesterday, I touched her hands in 26 years when I saw her off at the railway station. She was fleeing from him and from her family to make a career in modeling. And she asked me for help. You see now? True love is never unrequited. It just takes time to flourish like a flower. She is following her heart and is happy; am I not? She said that she wanted to disappear from everything and for that, she needed me to accept the criminal charges of her kidnapping. After a few years, she would free me of all this.
Despite everything I was a little hurt when she said she would free me, as if I had cared for myself for all these years. I am already free coz I have chosen what I will die for. For love indeed, and I think it’s worth it. Now you must be thinking what a terrific crackpot I am, the epitome of a loser in love. But then, you are who you are, you think and do what you think and do. But in any case, it’s all about death. This is the thing. This is everything. Just a question of what is it you are going to die for, before ofcourse you die naturally, like a pig. And don’t think you won’t die. Just decide…..what will it be for? I will, for my 30-year old love that’s still growing…

Saturday, July 3, 2010


‘God is dead?’ Ritu whispered in my ears.

‘God is dead’ I affirmed, thrilled to see the disbelief in her eyes. She seemed to be in a graver state of confusion than I was, when I had been, for the first time, exposed to this secret piece of knowledge. Our social science teacher Nina Miss was still scribbling the homework on blackboard. Then, it came like a flash of lightning to me and I tugged her shirt.

‘God is not dead. He was never alive.’ I hissed. She was dead blank.

Today, nine years since that day, I still remember vividly, the look on her face when I had shared the secret information with her. And knowing her (we were best friends) and her family, I didn’t expect anything less. That’s coz she hailed from a devout Laheri family and unlike me, she did all the puja. Definitely they were less religious than my family, but they could have given my family a good competition had there been one in going for fasts three days a week or having mahayagyas in the house for no good reason or simply waking up early for worship. But in one sphere, my family was unbeatable: my grandpa was a renowned theologian in the state and to an outsider; my house would have looked more like a temple than a residence.

Eighteen years ago, on the 24th of April, 1990 when I landed on Earth, the Hubble space telescope was launched into space (however we did not meet in-between!), and all these days on this planet I did not know this. I got to know this today when I was chatting with Ritu on gtalk. She scraped me a link saying that it was the coolest surprise ever for me (and that she wanted a treat). Now seriously, isn’t it cool? Well, even if you don’t know what a Hubble Space Telescope is, I can assure that it is indeed very cool (honestly) to share your birthday with his. If only I had known this nine years ago when both of us were in class 4th, I could have bragged about it to Ritu that even her God (if there was one) made this awesome connection between me and science.

However it did not matter now, not because I am mature but coz something inside me has changed.

The day Ritu left for Delhi, her voice cracked badly, she said ‘I will miss you Anny’ and hugged me like two sisters were being separated by painful circumstances. I hated it. As a matter of fact I hated her more than the whole situation, the reason being that after our awesome marks in 10th (I got 92.4% and she got 89.6%), we both had written the entrance exams for the ‘Central School’ in Delhi, one of the best in India. The thing is she got through, I did not and the funniest (may be not) part was that we had matched all the answers and she was getting one mark less than me. So, wasn’t it my right to get shocked (and a tiny bit jealous) to see the results? But that was until my father told me that she was privileged.

‘What?’ I said to dad while my mind probed into the possibility if she had a finger missing or something that made her physically challenged.

‘She belongs to scheduled caste. Didn’t you know this?’ He declared as if it was as obvious as the sun rising from the East. I did not know whom to be mad at. It was not her fault, not her parents’ either. Not even her caste’s coz it was the government who was giving them benefits and not even the governments’ who were just trying to uplift the downtrodden people (although she was not). Whose then? I pondered for a long time over it and finally came up with the answer: It was God’s fault, and I was not just being big-mouthed. I had solid evidence, straight from the Vedas, that said: the castes were created out of the giant Purusha from whose head Brahmins were created, warriors or Kshatriyas from his arms, farmers or Vaishyas from his stomach, and servants or Shudras from his feet.

And I was sure that I had rightly spotted the offender.

My intense atheism, as it must have been clear by now, was not influenced by the Newton’s third law of motion. I mean it had no inkling of an equal and opposite reaction to my family’s strict religious customs, in fact it was based purely on logic and reasoning. Even in 4th standard, when I had dispensed the secret information to Ritu that ‘God is dead’, I had a reason to believe so. Actually, the day before, we had been introduced to the chapter ‘origin of human beings’ in science (with figures of gruesome apes on the front). The same night, as was my latest fetish those days, I had searched the net for some more information and had come across an interesting article. It read ‘’Charles Darwin’s ‘the origin of species’ refutes religions’’. Although I could extract little from that lengthy write-up, yet I made sure that I grasped few things completely so that I could brag about it to Ritu. He said that the human beings, as was previously thought owing to lack of knowledge, were not God’s creation. In fact, they were a result of gradual changes in the organisms that came before us. All I understood back then was that this Mr. Darwin had found some evidence that showed that there no God and thus my arguments with Ritu (initially I told her, ‘have you ever seen Him?’, ‘Why does not he come down and do magic?’ ‘You are such an orthodox girl’) now got backup. However, she still maintained what even my family had taught me, that the first human being was called ‘Manu’ and was created by God Brahma. I mocked her big time.

Few days back, I came to know what Darwin was really saying. He proposed that Human beings had evolved through a long period of changes in animals (apes as we were taught). Individuals less suited to the environment are less likely to survive and less likely to reproduce as compared to those who are more suited, and they leave their inheritable traits to future generations, which produces the process of natural selection. These variations slowly led to us. In 1859, the year when he had published the book ‘Origin of Species’, it was, till today, one of the biggest revolutions, coz it tried to show that all our lives, we were wrong in thinking that there was some mysterious power that created us.

This was a strong threat to the religions who believed God was the creator. Although some thought that Natural Selection was the God’s method of creating us however the thing that we had evolved from animals still did not make sense as animals were not thought to have any spiritual sense, which we had. Although, I was in total support Of Darwin at that time!


The day my 10th board results were declared, my grandfather decided to go on a surprise trip to Vaishno Devi, and I have to confess it was great fun, not because it was called a pious place but coz it was rich in natural beauty. The next eighteen months saw me solving bulky numericals, shuttling between tuitions and home, inventing mnemonics to deal with Inorganic Chemistry, skipping TV serials and burning the midnight oil over and over again. I had anxiously waited for this period of two years; to prepare for IIT-JEE (which was said to make lives) and to test my self-proclaimed love for science (although I had never said so but neighbors thought, that since I was an atheist I must be a ‘science’ girl).

I took off with great control and speed with just the right amount of hard work to crack the code of IIT-JEE. My parents were very happy to see my diligence(even mom stopped asking me to sit with her in puja) but there’s a saying- ‘going fast is not as important as going in the right direction’. In other words, things did not work out as smooth as expected. I struggled with Physics; actually I did understand the concepts but there was always an element of uncertainty and dilemma about things like where to apply the ‘conservation of momentum’ or how to solve new problems. These things prevented me from thinking clearly and gravely subdued my confidence; and in exams I either ran out of time or solved so fast that not even one question was right. In short, I sucked at Physics. As days passed, I got more tensed and the implication was that I gave up the hopes of IIT owing to depressing results in Physics. I was definitely not the kind of person to give way to the silly hope which losers carry with them, thinking that if God wills (that is if luck favors) anything can happen. I simply moved on.

But even this setback in science, did nothing to inflame my belief in God. And then, like in movies, out of nowhere came a day when I was sitting in front of sir, studying Physics and everything seemed to change by an equation, of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Let me introduce my teacher first; he is, incontrovertibly, the cynosure of my story. He is called Faraz Khan, merely 4 years elder to me but doing engineering from IIT Delhi and so my parents had forced me to take coaching classes. His physical characteristics are rather uninteresting (if you know what I mean) and totally irrelevant to what I am going to expound. His intellect, reasoning and patience, however, are peerless.

I had heard a dialogue in a movie and always reflected upon its meaning but could never get a real feel of it, ‘Most men live in quiet desperation until they die’ until I felt it myself. There were plenty of occasions when I had wanted to say something that was in my heart but ended up saying something totally different, out of a care for what the person or the people around me may think; and then followed that feeling of desperation, as if I had lied to myself. For instance if it was a stranger, I would be dying to break the ice or talk about what I liked or disliked but all I could manage was ‘The weather’s good’ with a sheepish smile. And this happened with all of us.

But sometimes we act brave by asking the question which is in the core of our heart, accompanied by the heavenly feel in the consciousness of that moment, when seconds fly like elf. I felt the same when I asked that question to Faraz sir.

‘Sir, why do we study Physics in life, especially such useless equations?’ I took the risk of becoming a spiritual fool.

He was taken aback by my sudden intrusion into his concentration.

‘The principle?’ he asked.

I nodded and then he beamed as if a wilted sunflower had found rain. Personally, I hated when teachers smiled smugly coz that meant they knew the answer well and worst still, what always followed was a detailed and boring explanation. However, this time I was willing to grasp and keen on hearing the answer to my weird question.

‘Do you watch TV?’


‘Use laptop?’

‘Hmmm…’ I did not like when teachers acted smart.

‘Then say thanks to Werner Heisenberg. His equation is behind all of them; laptops, transistors, TV, all.’

Now this was a shock, one of those pleasant shocks which seems unbelievable at first and then slowly melts, in the back of your mind, into believable fact; getting firmer in its form every passing second. And you try to contradict the person by saying just the opposite that works perfectly to arouse him and extract out of him, the things you want to know.

‘Are you kidding? One equation can’t invent such complexities like in a TV.’

He smiled, meaning he was not kidding and I was a fool.

‘I did not say that it did. But it has its part to play; it is the basis of the Quantum Physics that in turn led to such developments. Scientific inventions are often results of a chain of events.’

He added. ‘But to answer your question in a broader way; an equation can lead to much greater implications than the creation of a mere television. Guess?’

One equation? Instantly I thought about Newton’s laws. Their equations were indeed very important in describing all types of motions. But an invention? Nope. They simply described the phenomena of motion of a ball etc. Nevertheless it was better to say something (protected you from looking totally left out).

‘The Newton’s laws?’

‘Ah! Wrong. But you are close. Think about his successor. The true one.’

His true successor? A scientist in history. Was I a history student? Hell no. I was to say Einstein but thought better not to.

He paused and then went on, ‘how about an atom bomb?’

The high-sounding word ‘Quantum’ was enough to ball me over; atom bomb expunged any remains left.

‘I don’t know what you talking about.’ I said, irritated with myself, Physics and his roundabout ways.

‘Ok no more tricks. Here’s the thing. A little sight into the history: Albert Einstein gave a…’

Einstein indeed!

‘…famous formulae E=mc^2 in the year 1905, a formulae that did not seem very significant then but in the days to come, was to become the most celebrated and enigmatic equation in the world, or should I say, in the universe. E stands for energy, M for mass and C for the speed of light. It looked very fancy coz what it did was connect the tangible mass with the intangible energy but did not make much sense then. Some people thought it was mysterious coz it sort of joined the materialism with spirituality; something tangible like human body with the intangible like the mind or God’s presence. A great analogy is that of mind and matter/body. Like in our mind or consciousness, we always feel the presence of a higher power.’

What the hell? I said to myself.

He went on, happily, into a little history. ‘Nobody paid much attention to it but in the early years of 1940s scientists like Otto Hahn and Max Planck, were experimenting on the atoms and the neutrons, protons and electrons inside them. Now, you know that the nucleus contains protons and neutrons about which the electrons revolve. Now, what do you get when you add 1 to 5?

‘6’ I exclaimed; easy one.

‘You get a larger number, right? In the same way, at that time there was an effort to increase the size of nucleus by adding more neutrons into the nucleus. But when they did, they were totally baffled. Why?’ he shot at me.

‘Why?’ I repeated.

‘Yes Anny, why were they baffled? What they found?’

‘Well, coz they got a smaller number? I mean smaller nucleus?’

‘Why?’ He asked.

And then it came to me. I had studied it in 11th. I said, ‘from what I know, when you add a neutron from outside into the Uranium nucleus, you don’t get a bigger nucleus. In fact the uranium nucleus becomes unstable, like a drop of water, and breaks into two smaller nuclei.’

‘Exactly.’ The broad smile on his face was infectious. I too smiled. ‘Otto Hahn got two smaller nuclei, Radium and Barium. But the theory showed, that in order to get smaller nuclei, you had to supply an enormous amount of energy. Naturally he thought there was a mistake somewhere coz they were not at all supplying such a huge amount of energy. But, here comes the genius of a girl.’

‘A chemist named Lisa Meitner, on a walk through the snowy fields, found out that the products’ mass was less than that of Uranium. And this lost mass was equivalent to 200 million electron volts from the Einstein’s formula E=mc^2. You see, Albert Einstein had already predicted this about 40 years ago. Lisa, ofcourse was overwhelmed with happiness coz she was the first person to know that an atom has been split apart, releasing huge amounts of energy that was however not visible coz it was lost in the form of mass.’

Indeed a girl; we rock!

‘Wow!’ I could not contain myself anymore.

‘And do you know how much energy that is?’ He asked and then answered himself. 'about 20,000 tonnes of TNT and just for your knowledge, i ton of TNT equals 4184000000 joules of energy.
Soon the news of the famous discovery spread and since it was world war 2, covert operations began in America under the name ‘The Manhattan Project’ to create atom bombs. That of course, the scientists had not intended coz it killed so many people.’

‘That’s why they are called atoms.’ I said. Although I knew that there was nuclear fission of atoms, but had never reflected upon the significance of it. For us, it was just a chapter in science like others, totally disconnected with human emotions or endeavor behind it, without any hint of the huge impact of it, on the world.


‘That’s one hell of an equation!’ I said.

‘Oh no! That’s not it. There’s more to this equation.’

I was all ears.

‘The equation also explains the origin of the whole universe. Can you believe that? You know about the big bang, right?’

‘Yes. I studied it in 9th I think. The theory that says the universe started from a tiny concentrated mass with an explosion.’

‘Right, so when this highly concentrated thing exploded, it released a huge amount of energy, and so much that you can’t even imagine. And now listen carefully; this energy over a period of about fourteen billion years, converted into mass that formed the stars, the planets and so on. All governed by one single equation.’

‘Is that how the Earth really came into existence?’ I stressed on ‘really’ coz my grandparents had taught me otherwise. They said that Lord Brahma was born from a lotus out of God Vishnu's navel or hatched from the cosmic egg and had pronounced the word ‘AUM’ through the vibrations of which the world was created! And there were other theories as well like God Brahma had created the earth from the depths of an ocean.

But either sir completely missed my point or he, being Muslim, did not want to take that topic. He said, ‘For what else, do you think, Einstein is so famous?’

‘For his tongue of course!’ I remembered the famous picture of Einstein with his tongue flashing at a reporter.

‘And do you know the best part about E=mc^2’ Now, this was the problem with passionate people; they could not just get satiated with what they love. They would go on telling everything they know about it, whether you like it or not. However this time I liked it.

‘What, there’s more?’ I was excited.

‘Aha. You know how the sun works?’

‘Hmm. There’s fusion of atoms inside its core, and energy is produced. I don’t know the details.’

‘But you can guess now. The sun loses 4 million tones of solid mass every second that is converted, using E=mc^2, into energy. In exact words, it becomes lighter every passing second.’

I could not help smiling.

‘But you know what. We worship the sun as God in Chhath. A God following Physics equations! That’s funny.’ We both were laughing.

Now, how does a person react when she has just found out something enthralling, which pleases her to the core? Or when a long time antagonism with someone (Physics in my case) starts to melt down? Well I think, tiny bubbles of happiness burst inside the body and she can’t wait to share it with someone. Right? On that day, I was the lucky victim of this captivating feeling; of knowing such a great truth about the world. On my way home, still black-and-white pictures of Einstein, Otto Hahn and Lisa Meitner shuffled in front of my mind’s eyes (although I had seen only Einstein). I imagined them eating and drinking like normal people…

In the midst of all this going in my head, I felt the scorching heat of the sun. It was 2.10 pm and the roads were deserted. At the next turn, I entered into the lane that led straight to my house. On the doorsteps of a hut on my left, a two year old child was crying. I knew his mother; she had once come to us asking for food, saying that his husband had left her. The boy was barely clothed and very thin. I witnessed this scene daily and ignored it, without much effort. I believed that everyone should make his/her own destiny and this, even my parents agreed however since they believed in God, they helped them too. But I thought it was weakening them and so never cared.

But on that day I was immensely happy, excited with this great piece of knowledge. But once I saw him lying there, crying for help, it kind of soaked all the joy from my mind. All my happiness vanished in thin air and then came the familiar blockage of thoughts. Should I help him or not? The dilemma that seemed to rip me, it was like a conflict inside my body, perhaps between mind and heart. I could not decide what to do, I wanted to move on but it seemed like committing a sin, like leaving one of my organs there; and when I thought of helping, I felt an overburdening sense of shyness and more than that, a question on my whole life, the kind of person I had been all my life. Finally I convinced myself - ‘there is no thing as God or anything good in helping, I have seen people getting spoiled by help. One must live logically, use mind.’ Finally, having convinced myself, I ignored what my heart said and moved on. Still something was wrong.


However in the evening, I had forgotten the incident and studied, with interest, about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the big bang. And to be honest, for the first time in these two years I did not want to go to sleep even at 2.00 in the morning. It was a welcome change from the kind of Physics I studied for engineering, the one that gave tension. I learnt that Physics is broadly classified into two parts, first one is the General Relativity and the second one is the Quantum Mechanics and they both dealt with different things. Like the former explained the phenomena of bigger and heavier objects like those we saw around us, the sun, moon, houses and so on. On the other hand, the Quantum Mechanics dealt with microscopic objects like subatomic particles, for instance neutrons, protons etc.

Now here was the fix regarding the big bang: We did not know which type of Physics to use in order to explain the big bang theory? The problem was that at the beginning, about 10 billion years ago, the whole of universe was concentrated to a very small point like a nucleus but was enormously heavy. So the problem was which part of Physics to use, the general relativity coz it was heavy or the Quantum mechanics coz it was small? In present day, we have no such object that is extremely heavy and infinitesimally small at the same time. So there’s no problem.You must be thinking why not to use both of them. Well, that’s what the scientists tried to do to explain the origin of universe (big bang) using both General Relativity and Quantum mechanics but when they did so, the laws of physics broke apart and it gave nonsensical results. Meaning they could not be unified together. And thus the big bang theory could not be proved and thus not fully accepted as the creation of universe.

The big bang theory totally discarded what the Christianity, Judaism or Islam said; that the universe was created merely about 10,000 years ago and spread by the faith of Abraham. It said the universe was atleast 4.5 billion years old, and ironically, my religion, Hinduism seems to get this right. It also talks in terms of 4 billion years! However unlike religion that relied on books and people’s words, the big bang has evidences to speak of.

But I don’t have any clue about these, coz I was too flabbergasted to understand anything. It said that sometimes on TV, when the network isn’t there and we stare at those white and black dots; well they are actually the remnants of the big bang! They are the remains of the radiation called microwaves that were emitted during that huge explosion. And it was still there everywhere; for this silly and weird discovery, two Americans even got the Nobel Prize in 1971!

The second reason, that the total energy of the universe is zero, did not have such a profound effect on me then but a few hours later, it was going to make my head spin.

In the morning, I was barely asleep for four hours when the ongoing commotion in the hall (adjacent to my room) woke me up. When I opened my eyes, dadi was in the room, sprinkling the ‘holy water’ everywhere. ‘Get up Anny, it’s already six, get ready beta and come in the hall’ she said. Actually there was a ‘Geeta path’ in our house; we had this roughly twice every month, and there was a chock-a-block scenario every time, worst of all: we all had to be present when the pundit, dressed in nothing but an orange silky bed sheet-type cloth, expounded his ideas.

By seven, I was ready and sitting in the last row with granny. And I don’t know how or why it happened but that day; he was talking about the yugas, in other words the origin of the universe! Nasty coincidence, I would say. But little did I know that it was going to be nastier. I was blown away by his words. The more the pundit spoke on what is written in the religion (not just Hinduism), the more my heart ached, the reason being the striking and unavoidable similarities between religion and what I knew about since. There was an uncanny, kind of latent kinship between them. All my beliefs and conceptions about God and religion since childhood were being shattered.


Soon after the Geeta-Paath, I went to Faraz sir’s place to tell him about it.

I told him everything what the pundit had said, but I present to you, my interaction with sir in a different way. Imagine I had a video of the pundit that I was showing to Faraz sir.

‘Aum namah shivaya.’ The pundit said, closing his eyes and touching the index finger and thumb together. Then he took a deep breath and opened his eyes, and started. ‘Brahaman Satya Jagat Mithya, meaning in actual there was nothing, there is nothing, there will be nothing… what all we experience is MAYA which prevents us from feeling this nothingness, the feeling of purity and utmost satisfaction.’

‘This is typical of Hindu pundits to talk about such complex terms as MAYA and MOKSHA.’ I told to Faraz sir, ‘now here’s the important thing, listen!’

‘As Vedas put it; only the Pure Consciousness is TRUTH, everything else is Virtual…’ the pundit paused as if in deep thoughts and then started with renewed energy, ‘we teach our children mathematics, the addition and subtraction of numbers like 0, 1 and so on. But do we teach them what these numbers are. Do you even know how beautiful these numbers are? Let me take an example and show you.’

‘Listen.’ I warned Faraz sir although he was already keenly listening.

‘The concept of number ‘zero’ originated in ancient India. Now, you may think that it’s just an ordinary number but that’s because you don’t know. Read the Vedas and the Puranas’, his voice turned up, ‘zero is a number that is totally different from other numbers. It contains, in itself, the essence of the whole world.

People believe what they see; the tangible, the material things that they can sense and I tell you, to identify visible or perceptible objects do not require much ingenuity but zero, on the other hand is not a symbol but a concept that connotes nullity and nothingness. At a time when people talked only about positive numbers or material things, it came to represent something that was nothing. A Blank. A void. It was the advancement of the human mind to perceive the idea of abstraction, the unity of the tangible with the abstract.’

‘Just like E=mc^2’ I almost screamed at sir, in case he had missed the point. He said, ‘Right. The number zero, I wonder how I never thought about it.’

I was brimming with pride.

‘This pundit is really amazingly knowledgeable. It must have been a great achievement at that time to invent something that was actually nothing and see how much importance the number zero has, in today’s world. You know, even Einstein thanked the Indian mathematicians for inventing the number zero, and how ironical that some days later he himself gave the equation that says something similar as what the pundit is saying.’

‘There’s more’ I resumed the video.

‘In ancient India this numeral was used in computation, it was indicated by a dot and was termed Pujyam. Today we have replaced it by the term Shunyam meaning a blank. But don’t we all know what ‘pujyam’ means? It means holy, respected or esteemed. Param-Pujya is a prefix used in written communication with elders. But the question is: why is it that zero was called ‘pujyam’, something that we respect? The answer or the reason as to why the term Pujya - meaning blank - came to be sanctified, lies in the heart of Hindu religion.’

Here again, the pundit closed his eyes, took a deep breath and came back, ‘Hindu philosophy gives the concept that the material world is an illusion (Maya). Since evolution, it has stressed on the act of renouncing the material world (Tyaaga) and the goal of merging into the Void of eternity(Nirvana), into nothingness; coz Moksha itself is nothing but merging into Brahma, who is also represented by zero. You see!’ he said a soft smile.

Faraz sir preferred not to comment. The pundit went on.

‘This is not the end. Even AUM contains represents this beautiful number. For simplicity… observe the chanting of AUM… the opening of your mouth… ‘A’ the power of emerging or creation (zero)… followed by subsequent expansion of ‘U’ and the ending with ‘M’ the termination of Universe back into Zero… AUM is whole cycle of universe creation and termination which goes on and on… infinitely

Therefore, the world is ZERO… it emerges from this silence or ZERO state and merges back into this ZERO… so the sum total is ZERO; the ultimate reality is ZERO…’

The expansion of U and termination of universe back to zero eerily reminded me of the big bang theory. I think it had struck Faraz sir too but despite looking happy, he looked tensed. He suddenly said, ‘You know Anny. Even Stephen Hawking says that the total energy of the universe is exactly zero.’

I knew Stephen Hawking was a legendary living scientist and the Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.

‘He says that the matter in the universe is made out of positive energy. But the gravitational field itself has negative energy because one has to expend energy to separate things against the gravitational force that is pulling them together and,’ He emphasized, ‘ one can show that this negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter. So the total energy of the universe is zero.’ He sighed.

Then, as the pundit continued I thought he had suddenly changed the topic. But I did not know what he was approaching at.

‘Often a lot of people ask me; is Hinduism polytheistic, meaning believing in many Gods? Or is it monotheistic, meaning believing in one God? And if it polytheistic, how is it possible since we worship roughly a million Gods and Goddesses. Well, I say is that our religion is none.’ the pundit said.

Giving a little time for the commotion caused by his statement, to settle down, he continued. ‘God is everywhere. He is in the depths of the darkest oceans; he is in the infinities of the space, in this room, in your body. He is a part of us and we are a part of Him. He is immanent, all pervading. So, you say’ he said to the people, ‘is it right to call our religion polytheistic or monotheistic? God is one indeed, but that does not make it monotheistic like in Islam or Christianity. NO. It’s more apt to say that Hinduism is pantheistic, that God exists in and out of everything in this universe. He is everywhere.’

‘Just like quantum fields.’ Sir said. ‘They are also supposed to be everywhere, throughout the universe.’

‘What are hell are they?’

‘They are simply vast fields of energy that are supposed to fill all space and time, yet they are not locatable. Although they are present everywhere. When there is enough energy, matter particles are formed. Some people even say that they indicate God’s presence’

I felt that Faraz sir was as spellbound and dumbstruck as I was when I had heard this thing. And the uncanny thing about it was that, it had an inkling of something incredibly revealing, like the whole universe unlocking before us and still we could not feel farther from the truth.

‘Listen Anny’, he said, ‘before you proceed, I wanted to tell you about the grand unified theory’

I did not know what he was talking about, ‘Now?’


‘But can’t we study a little later?’

‘Stupid. It’s not study. I am going to tell you something new, like everything else ofcourse.’


It’s a theory…well let me explain. Ok look, I told you about the theory of general relativity and the theory of Quantum mechanics, right?’


‘I also told you that they could not be merged together into a single theory, and thus the explanation of big bang could not be done satisfactorily. What I did not tell you, but which you already know, is that in the environment there are four basic types of forces. They are: the gravitational force which attracts you to the earth and makes apples fall (like on Newton), the second one is the electromagnetic force that causes the attraction between the magnets. Now these are the forces that you can see around you. Now comes the third force called the strong nuclear force. This force is the one that binds together the protons and neutrons inside a nucleus. That which is inside every matter. And the fourth is the weak nuclear force, the force that enables a neutron turning into a proton giving off radiation in the process, the same force that was responsible for the genocide of a million thousands of people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.’

‘The atom bomb?’

‘Exactly. Now the point is that, since the time of Einstein there has been a continuous and diligent attempt to unify these forces.’

‘But why?’

‘Coz the scientists believe that the whole universe works according to a single theory or law, and I mean everything.’

‘How is that possible?’

‘It is or it isn’t. But they think that it is coz back it the 19th century, even electricity and magnetism were thought to be separate however a scientist called Maxwell showed they were one and the same. And Einstein totally believed in it. The last 20 years of his life were spent in finding a way of unifying these forces. And today, it’s one of the biggest challenges in the world of science.’

‘So what I wanted to say is that just like one God in religion, there is Gut in science.’

‘What’s Gut?’ I enquired.

‘Grand unified theory ofcourse. It seems they are on the same track.’

I did not know what to say. Then like a flash of lighting, it came to me. ‘No they are not.’ Sir looked surprised.

‘They are not on the same track. You see this is what Charles Darwin did. He showed logic, an explanation of how the world began but what it actually did was that it defied the role of God. It limited the powers of God in creating the world. In fact, what followed was a vehement opposition to the theory by the Christians.’ I said and recalled how happy I was the day I had discovered this. But today I felt bad thinking the same about GUT, coz it kind of disrupted the beautiful symmetry between science and religion.

‘No, it does not disrupt anything. Remember I told you about the quantum fields which are present everywhere yet not locatable at a fixed place. There are probabilities. This limits the powers of physical laws’, said Faraz sir as if he had read my mind. He was smiling now which meant he something that I did not. ‘The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is the essence of quantum physics’, he said as if he had found the Holy Grail. ‘The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that if you know about the position where a particle is, you cannot be certain about its velocity.’

I knew the statement but I had never grasped what it really meant, until that day.

‘How do we see the moon?’ apparently he asked me. I knew this since childhood.

‘It reflects the light of the sun that falls on it.’ I said bravely.

‘Hmmm. So whenever we see something, it’s because the light is reflected by it towards our eyes. That’s why you don’t see things in the dark. Right?’


‘Now, the same thing is with the subatomic particles. You shine light on them and try to see them. But here’s the fix; since they are so small (a million times smaller than a hair) and so the falling light particles called photons (which are comparable to them) change their position and makes it accelerate. It’s like you are following a mouse using a torch. The more light you fall on it, the faster it tries to escape. So, if you want a precise location of the particle, you can’t know its velocity because the light itself moves it.’

I understood his point but not what he was implying.

‘You see? Everything in science is restricted by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Nothing is certain; in other words, which many people say, there is room for God to intervene.’

‘Using the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle?’ I joked.

‘Why not? Even Einstein once asked the question: “How much choice did God have in constructing the universe?” This may be the choice. It’s not like the Darwin’s origin of species where everything was absolute. In fact the entire Quantum Physics is based on probabilities. Nothing is certain; it’s a whole new world of uncertainties. He was beaming with his own sense of revelation. ‘This principle shows that the observer (we) and the observed (particles) are not different, but both influence each other.’

I remembered what the pundit had said. ‘Nothing is separate from God, He is in us and we are in Him’…

‘And you know what Miss Atheist? Even the greatest scientists like Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton and so on—were all serious Christians. Even Einstein said, ‘Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.’’

I did not say anything to him.


At 10.15, I leave for home from Faraz sir’s home; my mind is full of insane questions, and there’s an overwhelming feeling that wants me to believe something I have denied all my life. I think I have a headache, just want to get home fast and sleep. The sun has vanished. As I walk, I am staring at the hazy clouds that are drifting quietly. I realize I haven’t seen the clouds in years. The moon behind them seems to be shrouded with a diaphanous layer of fog. No star is visible, no twinkles either; the rest of the sky is dead black, still and silent. Down on the earth the road is deserted by any motion or sound, except occasionally by barks of dogs on the ground. I enter into the lane that leads straight to my house.

Again, I see that little kid crying but this time his mother is trying to calm her down. I think the boy is shivering from cold; he is barely clothed and very thin. His mother is looking at me; I see she is weeping.

I want to help them. But again that something is stopping me. And now this dilemma is intolerable, stronger than ever before. I am irritated with having to deal with such an unpleasant situation, especially at this time. What’s this earth after all? This religion and science bullshit! God is this, God is that? Who the hell are we? And who the devil cares? Who give a horse-shit? I don’t. Everybody is asleep like corpses. And I feel fucking dead too. I ignore them and move on.

I have barely moved a few feet but I feel suffocated. I can feel the weight of my heart that is beating like a heavy stone inside my body. It hurts. My body feels stiff and I can’t walk anymore; I feel like crying. I am crying. And for the first time I don’t want anyone to calm me down. I just want to cry till I have no more tears left… The pain in my heart now is so relieving…I know I am defeated…all my pride of being a self proclaimed righteous person has melted and I feel so pure. Nobody is there around me but it’s like they are all watching me, these trees, the skies and the little stars on them, the air, the pages that are flying around; someone or something that exists in and out of this world, is laughing at this little piece of shit who lives in her small world. NO; the little piece of shit who LIVED in her small world. There is an invisible feeling of forgiveness that nothing but my heart can sense. It’s like my heart has been connected to that fleeting feeling of love, that’s so big, so beautiful… The air smells of life and is dancing and so am I…

I go back to them and say to the woman, ‘Aunty, agar aapko koi pareshani nahi ho, to kya aap mere ghar chal sakti hain? Hamare ghar mein ek extra room hai.’ I did not say it as nicely as I had thought but she has started to cry harder. I feel overwhelming gratitude in the air and feel ashamed of myself…