A Love Story is Born!

I have traversed the seven continents and have crossed seven seas to find the truth behind why most of the perfect women in Kolkata date almost all the wrong kind of men in this city. Why the smart and beautiful Bengali girls are going out with the slimy haired, cigarette smoking, sling-bag flaunting 'Ekta chumu dao na, shonamuni?'-waale Bengali boys. And as you would have it, I have emerged enlightened in this quest. All I needed was to travel by a mini-bus from the archaic Howrah station to the upscale Park Street on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.

After seeing off my uncle, aunt and my cutest, youngest cousin at the Howrah station, I got on the relatively empty bus and found myself a place in the second last seating by the window. Before the bus could find a way out through the routinely heavy traffic that follows once you get on the Howrah bridge, I found the entire bus filled. Including of course, the seat behind me, where sat a relatively young man in his early twenties. Quite possibly of my age.

Suddenly he spoke up on the phone.

Oh but wait, before I start, I will need to call him something. And to make some sense of the one-sided conversation that I overheard from the seat in front of him, I will instinctively complement his verbal locutions on the other side.

Mr. Desperate speaks, 'Hello yes, I had called you the other night and also had sent a message the following morning. Did you receive it okay? Well, I just wanted to tell you again how sorry I am to have called you at such late hours into the night. I'm sure you'd be pretty annoyed that day. The thing is, I intended to call a friend of mine, but accidentally ended up dialing your number. Yes, it indeed was a wrong number.' How is that for a conversation starter?!

Mr. Desperate: 'Achha, may I know from where you are speaking?'
Ms. Despairing: 'Some lane in Bagha Jatin..' (Too much information for a wrong number conversation, innit?)
Mr. Desperate: 'Wow! That's some coincidence. I live exactly two lanes after yours!'
Ms. Despairing: 'Oh how wonderful! But how did you get my number?'
Mr. Desperate: 'Arrey I went on to call a friend but dialed your number instead. Purely accident! I swear, had no idea! I was also a bit sleepy.'

Something told me he wasn't being quite truthful. And I've got a fairly good idea on how he may have come across her number. Read this post here, for further information on that matter.

Mr. Desperate: 'Achha tumi, sorry aapni ki koren?' May I know, what you do?
Ms. Despairing: 'Something in Netaji Nagar College for Women.'
Mr. Desperate: 'Oh tahole toh tumi amar theke onek khani junior! Aamar post-graduation hoye geche, ekhon aami arekta Masters course korchi..' Oh then you're much junior to me, as I've completed my post-graduation but have been pursuing Masters in some other course nowadays.

And I call myself an academic! The horror, the horror..

Mr. Desperate: 'Achha aami ki tomake tui bole shombodhito korte paari? (my sister would stumble repeatedly at that 'shombodhito' word) If you don't mind of course..' He asked if he could consider the whole addressing one another with mutual respect, and bring it down by a few notches. Ms. Despairing seemingly relented.

Mr. Desperate: 'Tomar naam ta jaante pari ki?' May I please know your name?
Ms. Despairing: 'Pooja Something.'
Mr. Desperate: 'Tumi ki Bagha Jatin'ei thako, Pooja? Na aami ekhane thakina, aamar bari West Bengal'e..' His saying that his home is in West Bengal was weird, as where else does he think Kolkata is anyway?! I must have missed something there.
Ms. Despairing asked something related to his work to which Mr. Desperate gave a controversial answer, 'Actually I'm an actor, I was on my way to the studio right now. Night shoot ache toh, tai!' But.. but.. didn't he claim to be an academic, only moments ago?

Mr. Desperate: 'Achha tomake ki aami friends korte paari?' Even though it is seemingly getting harder to translate with each sentence, our desperate friend wanted to 'friends' her - whatever that meant! 'Na jodi mind na koro tahole..' As long as you're okay with that.
Ms. Despairing: 'Yo, I do remember an account on Orkut, homie!' That's me, using my imagination.
Mr. Desparate: 'Tomake aami facebook'e ekta account khule dichhi! Email id ta bolo toh dekhi?' This guy, whom Ms. Despairing is talking for the first time, owing to a supposed accidental call from him, is going to create a brand new Facebook account for her. Him for her. Boy, we have a lady-killer! I wonder where it went wrong for me, when I was growing up?!

I detached myself from encroaching further into other people's privacy after a while. Enough of tomfoolery on everyone's part anyway. But just before I got down from the bus, I overheard the crème de la crème of the entire conversation.

Mr. Desperate says 'Tomar facebook'e password iloveyoupooja dilam kintu, dekhe niyo!' Would you believe it if I say, he just asked her out covertly?! It was hard on my ears too.
Demonstrating some very foxy skills, mister Smarty-pants asked out yet another Bengali girl-next-door and of course, the girl said yes! They always do in these parts of the country. Indeed, they're meeting tomorrow after the girl is done with her college. Maybe a Jhaal-muri here, and some Gol-gappas there. Senseless love blooms once again, in the dingy lanes of Kolkata.

Strangle me someone, strangle me! Please! I hereby welcome catharsis with open arms, as an equal..

The Cyborg of the Future...

In the past few years, I have adopted academia as the way of living. And subsequently have I been clarified on a large number of presumptions regarding science and the people who practice it as a religion.

For example, I had always thought that the people of science were a binary lot! The Yes-and-No kind of people. A chemist would pose wearing an apron, holding beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks in his hands, while a physicist would beat his head at the chalkboard that is repleted with complex equations of quantum mechanics. A biologist would be dissecting a lab-rat for nothing while a computer person would spend sleepless nights sitting in front of the glowing screen, punching codes and high on caffeine. That is the general image we have in our heads, right?

But in the past few years, I have been let in on a secret, 'Things are not exactly that simple dummy!' And as we progress into the future with towering banners of discovery, invention and innovation, all the fields are tending on a convergence. For quite sometime now, it is apparent that everyone ought to be a mathematician in some ways to the least. A biologist also, cannot do without chemistry, physics and computers. Physics cannot remain viable without the apparent contribution of computers and the deeper understanding of the fundamental units of matter - a topic, dug up repeatedly as the basis of subjects like chemistry.

In today's world as it seems, not everything is a yes and no. Or a positive and negative. Or a matter and antimatter. Or a black and white. There is a tinge of orange or green or turquoise every now and then, isn't it?

Last year at a TEDxGateway event in Mumbai, many a great speakers came and narrated their fascinating stories of innovation (Available for free viewing on Youtube). And out of all these, the talk of Neil Harbisson got a whole lot of neurons tingling in my brain, almost exclusively!

Neil Harbisson of the Cyborg Foundation was born with achromatopsia, or in other words, he could only see in black and white. But realizing that the world loses half of its meaning and charm if one takes colours out of the equation, he decided to do the unthinkable. Neil started on a project that enabled perceptibility of colours as sounds. Or in a more scientific of jargon, we'd call it sonochromatism. Once he memorized the frequencies corresponding to each colour, he allowed the cybernetic instrument to be lodged permanently to his head. He was now a cyborg, able to perceive colours as sounds.

"There are no white skins, and there are no black skins. Humans skins are of different shades of orange"

I suddenly realize that Neil Harbisson, with his eyeborg, could comprehend the world in entirely new dimensions. Sensing the colours in the format of sound and vice versa would otherwise be an experience akin to the mystic out-of-body experiences and synesthesia. Here was physics in correspondence with biology, involving the wonders of computer. Science of the 21st century.

Neil Harbisson went on to create music and contemporary-art with his extended senses as a cyborg. Apart from creating sound-portraits for the likes of Woody Allen, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Al Gore and Prince Charles, he has produced the Human Colour Wheel, describing the skin tone of people as dark and light shades of orange. The City Colours project aims at discovering the dominant colours of various cities across Europe while using his device, one can now produce a painting out of a song or ringtone or a bird-call. Interdisciplinary science at it's innovative best!

"When you're a little weird, you aspire to be normal; when you're very weird, you aspire to be recognized for it."

If word hadn't got out of inspirational discoveries and inventions each time, the world would have remained poor, untouched by the brilliant ideas and the brilliant minds that conceived them. Ideas are, and have always been the best investments for a better tomorrow. 'Groundbreaking' is the motto we all should look forward to.

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.