Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Life at the beauty and beast campus

Sometime early this year, I received a selection letter from the Indian Academy of Sciences to which I had applied last year for Summer Research Fellowship. Though I was excited about the selection, I got nervous as soon as I understood that I will be working on a monstrous topic in Physics at a rigorous Theoritical Physics institute in India. The letter in bold letters said that I will be guided by Dr.Sudhakar Panda, a String Theorist at Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad. That is a subject about which I know nothing except for a bit of its History and I had to make up my mind for this little challenge.

Loads of anticipation and planning went on for the next few months. I tried reading the basics of String Theory and Gravity but ended in vain. It was finally the day for the dance. I was accompanied by mom and uncle to Allahabad. Things started getting on my nerves and I couldnt enjoy anything on the way to the campus including the majestic Ganges. The very first sight of the campus panicked me further. Guards with large guns and stern faces dotted the entrance and the eeriely calm realm started ceasing out the life in me. The next minute, we were in the reception area of the Guest House and a pot bellied man approached us with a key.From his unfriendly grin, I could decipher that we had disturbed him from his sound sleep. He led us into a large furnished room that looked super comfortable. After a little nap, we got ready to meet the professor.

I was walking slowly towards the professor's room along with my dear moral supports. I opened the door and saw an old man sitting behind a humongous sized Apple PC and that was my professor. His serene smile and soft words washed away all the panic in me. After discussing the agenda for the next two months, he gave me a 220 page course notes on General Theory of Relativity that forms part of my project on Cosmology . One look at the tensorial equations again put me back into peril. Mom and uncle left back the same day and I was now staying with two other Summer Fellows in a flat. The whole night was spent thinking how I would go about this project.

The first thing I did was to make a count down chart and score off a day as soon as I wake up every morning. Though things looked hectic, I got accustomed to the place very soon. Thanks to my professor, who kept my enthusiam always high. Every Physics discussion would end with some story of great value. I listened to him with awe at all that he said and those words still keep me going. One story that haunts me almost everyday is his encounter with Feynmann.

The serene campus had a rich bird life- Peacocks, pelicans, sparrows, storks and a lot more decorated the campus with their bright plumage. There was not a day when I didn't laze around the campus with my camera. While bird life embellished the campus at broad day light, it was the jackals' turn at night. Time started whooshing past since then. I was amused at people's interests- someone liked eating frogs but not chicken or mutton, someone wanted to do screenplay after getting Ph.D in Physics, someone is a pen enthusiast who doesnt mind spending the whole salary on buying pens and the list goes on. Every week,the project presented new challenges and every week end presented more fun.

Shooting pictures at 'No to Photography' zone at Anand Bhavan, devouring Blue Lagoon ice lollies and momos at a nearby mall, visit to Triveni Sangam, watching the Ganges gleefully from the terrace, naps at the library lounge, late night chats, torrential rain falls and the horrendous thunders made my stay beautiful and a bit adventurous. I used to wake up at 4 in the morning to hear those chirps and watch the sun rise majestically and I spentsome time with just myself under the starry skies at night.

My time at HRI was coming to an end. It appeared as if the end came quicker than expected. The project was done and my mom and uncle were back to pick me up. My guide wished me good luck with another interesting story from his life. As I was ravelling back home, I could do nothing but recollect all those beautiful moments at HRI and I wish I go back to that place sometime.

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