Monday, August 25, 2008

Physics or Philosophy

It was during engineering days… when everyone worked hard to lose their single tag (now its more an ‘in-thing’ to be single… but then…it was tumour which had to be get rid of… ASAP)… some spent hours in gym…some at cyber cafĂ©...some at cafe…some at football field (especially in the field adjoining Bio-tech department)…and yes few with books too (even then being a nerd fetched you a girlfriend!)… and some catching up with old acquaintances…like me! It was one of those cycles, in which I had scanned through all the available, might be available and ‘wish she was available’ girls of my batch and concluded that either I had mentally rejected them, or what was more likely to happen- they had mentally rejected me! …And then all of a sudden a school friend who shared her Tiffin with me twice in class 10, gave me water 5 times in class 11 in school bus, started figuring in my list… we called such endeavours - ‘Off-campus placements’!

Yes, so there I was going on a ‘date’ with a school friend of mine (who for the record was a good friend). So my friends armed me with everything I needed- starting from a deodorant to a nice black shirt… but they just forgot luck! And yes it had to run out that day…. So I reached some 57 minutes 45 seconds late (and not 1 hour late as Ria claimed… girls always have the tendency to oversimplify! )..By the way her name was Ria, she was from my school and was doing bachelors in Physics in Kolkata. My ever ending search for ‘the one’ came to sudden halt, when by mistake I asked her:

“What’s your idea of a perfect guy?” (Naah! I wasn’t working for

“Hmm… Honest, caring, intelligent, smart…but more importantly one who doesn’t keep me waiting for an hour! Not even 30 mins. Don’t take it otherwise, but it could have been someone like you, but then you are too careless… you take life too easy… you don’t worry about relevant things… you don’t care for time…you are not organized… are not….”

Need I say more … about how it went!

It was 4 years later, when fate suddenly made our paths cross; I met a friend of her and got her number. Unable to resist my curiosity, I punched in her number….

“Hello… am I speaking to Ria?”


“Hi! How are you?”

“I am fine… thank you…but you are?”

“Any guesses?” (Not that I expected her to)

“Well…… No!”


“Digvijay….umm… from MP Birla!!!??”


“Hey…how are you? What a pleasant surprise!”

And so it went on… catching up on the years that went by. I had my stories to share about engineering life… b-school life…now more recently…professional life! She had hers as well- about masters from IIT and then a year’s rest in Kolkata…and doctorate from IISc… which was in the process. It’s a strange feeling to catch up with old friends and trace the time back to the present…its like going through old photo album and then finally updating it with all those snaps you missed…of yours and your friends.

It is quite difficult for anyone who has passed a considerable amount of time in hostel, surrounded by lot of friends to be on his own… friends who will wake you up for tests…prepare you for exams… carry you back to your room when you were drunk…cheer you up when you are down…In short hand hold you till you are ready to be on your own! And then you are dropped in Mumbai, the biggest, most crowded, fastest metro of India and you realize you are not yet ready. To quote Bacon – Magna citivas, magna solitudo! (Bigger the city, bigger the solitude)…yes…somewhere in all the work, meetings, targets and deadlines… that solitude caught up with me. So we started calling up each other once in a while. Ria was the same, but she had changed too…I just couldn’t point my finger at it. It was kind of subtle, yet strong!

“So have you been in any relationship… (realizing that there can’t be any other answer to it…I added)…lately!?”

“Well…no…not lately…What about you?”

“Naay! Girls still feel the same… ‘careless guys’ still figure at the bottom of their lists!” (Hoping that she would get the satire)

“You really felt bad that day…didn’t you?”

“Naay!...I agree to all that you said”

“Actually those days I was dating Partho. He was in my college…you wouldn’t know. He had this very bad habit of being late…careless…unorganized….which always used to get me irritated. Somehow I had a very idealistic view of the world then”

“Aah…I see…so now has it changed?”

“I have stopped being a perfectionist now! I don’t look for perfection any more”

Coming from a b-school, I have the habit of putting ‘perfectionist’ as both my strengths and weakness, as per examples I remember. But I thought being a perfectionist is still a virtue.

“Well…I think perfectionism is still a virtue…which at certain length everyone should strive for” (I remember my stunts with corel draw, when I used to spend hours just perfecting the boundaries of the cropped part which was visible after 10X zoom in)

“Do you really think so? In all these years, what physics has taught me is that we live in an imperfect, un-idealistic world. But then there is a hint that we can still have a perfect system at a micro level, where Newtonian forces fall flat. But has it ever occurred to you that our entire existence might be a result of imperfection, which we try to negate out with so many formulas and assumptions.”

I was thoroughly lost…she sensed that and carried on!

“What was this universe before Big-Bang? An infinitesimally small mass with infinite amount of energy. Why did it go off all of a sudden? Imperfection in the perfect system. Planets cooling down…evolution…series of ice ages…in the middle of all this how do you explain the evolution of Neolithic man? We don’t … we haven’t been able to… that is what we call missing link, another imperfection in the system. So while our fore fathers formed small civilizations across the continents which were drifting away…they tried to form a perfect system, using rules, religion etc. It was always a 2-D view of perfection- as seen by a single person. But in every such civilisation there were people who differed, drifted away, formed new colonies. A perfect system would have seen all these colonies settling down happily and content, but that was not to happen. Kingdoms…wars…crusades…scientific inventions, in short the result of all the imperfection kept us moving through the ages. Even in most recent times- World Wars. What were those? a result of imperfection in the economic process of the world at a macro level. US and Germany were growing at such high rates that to sustain the growth they needed to wage wars, an economic configurational issue which closely resembles a positive feedback system in physics. But this helped grow people such as Einstein, Heisenberg etc and several other technology which might not have been invented had these super powers not been after technological superiority.

Forget all this; in our day to day lives, so many things happen because of the sheer human imperfection. If harry hadn’t missed his usual local train, he wouldn’t have bumped into Sally. If my superior hadn’t gone on sudden leave my HOD wouldn’t have asked me to assist him on his project, if you hadn’t been late that day, you wouldn’t have met my friend, and we wouldn’t have been talking!... there are so many such examples”

“So you mean, you won’t be angry, if I keep you waiting!” (I was grinning like an ass)

She laughed a little and carried on, “You haven’t changed a bit! I will be angry. I still hate waiting for anyone. I hate it when people don’t respect other’s time. But as you see, our existence has been a constant spiraling out effect of imperfections across ages, with this realization, can I still hate someone for this imperfection. I have realized that its intent that matters more than the result, why else do you think the result- ‘murder’ is punishable by law if acted with malice and is pardonable if done as an act of defense. I try and judge people on intent…not on result”

I nearly asked her – “so will you date me now?”…but I let it be. I realised what had changed in her…not really, but then I knew the type of change…I was happy for her. We all stumble upon such realisations from time to time…big ones which change our lives…small ones…which make it easier to live. So what was my realisation for the day- If a girl hates you today, its ok to try again after couple of years! :)