Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Came Around Must Have Gone Around

 [Part of coursework for HS3010: Creative Writing.]
TRING TRING... Just two bells of alarm clock were sufficient to wake Roshan up today. He sprang out of the bed and went straight to his study table. Today was a very special day. He knew in his guts that the breakthrough was just inches away from him. Dr. Roshan Hogaya, world's foremost authority on Magneto-Neuro analysis was on the verge of a discovery which would shake the very foundations of physics as we know it. Having published several seminal papers, Roshan was one of the founding fathers of the field popularly known as Magneto-Neuro analysis. As the name suggests, it deals with analyzing all the aspects possible of brain using magnetic fields. What the name doesn't suggest is that it is also the field dealing with magnetic techniques to alter various capabilities of the brain. Not even 35, he had already developed a technology enabling magnetic transfer of speech and language abilities and information to brain. Roshan was thus a hero for the millions of born-deaf people who could now speak. Since beginning, Einstein played a huge role in Roshan's life. The question of “what makes people super intelligent?” was the driving force behind all his research. Path-breaking research and tremendous devotion to his subject had earned him the privilege to work on Einstein's brain. For past 5 years, it had been his life, universe and everything. And now, he had a working prototype of what he fondly called GeniusGen. Extensive analysis of Einstein's brain combined with his ingenuity was what gave rise to the machine which can make genius of dumb and scientist of clerk.

But this breakthrough had nothing to do with GeniusGen. In fact, it had nothing to do with Magneto-Neuro analysis. It was about Roshan's other passion : Physics. Since childhood, the most captivating and interesting things for Roshan were Einstein's genius and his theory of relativity. Professionally not a physicist, he was an amateur far exceeding the capabilities of well established physics stalwarts. Finally, it was done! He had cracked it! He put his pen down, went to the kitchen and poured him a cup of tea. He thought of his early days when he used to feel sad Einstein beat him just by being the early one. He still remembered that unmistakable 'deja-vu' feeling when he first studied the theory of relativity at the age of fourteen. Sipping slowly, savoring the moment, he remembered how he used to joke about how it would have been him and not Einstein had they been contemporaries. He was so excited and full of enthusiasm that he almost broke the cup while putting it down. Who won't be? After all, he had found a hole in the theory of relativity! Roshan's fixation on the thoughts was broken by the whir of the ceiling fan. Suddenly the realization struck him. What he had just penned down was about to send the whole physics community in a whirlwind no fan could ever be able to create. 

A feeling of relief and satisfaction came over him. All this toiling, relentless efforts had finally come to an epic conclusion. He thought "And that, my friend, are thirty-five years well spent!" He didn't really remember when was the last time he shaved. Moving the razor gently through the foam, for the first time since god knows when he realized how handsome he was. And won't he be? After all, he was the great grandson of the famous Raibahadur Hogaya, a tall, broad shouldered, well built man. A famous freedom fighter of great repute, Raibahadur sported an imperial moustache and a prominent scar on his left cheek. Story goes that he got that scar while fighting a tiger barehanded in a land far far away. People used to wonder what was it that made this man into a Gandhian fighter and not one with revolvers and makeshift bombs. As if his great-grandpa's political exploits were not enough to overshadow Roshan's achievements, his was also the most talked about love story in the whole state of Paschim Pradesh. Examples were given and poems were written about Raibahadur and Radha's love. Legend has it that Radha was a part of a silent protest march in front of the Bhejapur prison when Raibahadur was being released from prison. The young, moustache sporting hunk in khadi walked out and for a moment the ladies in the protest found that their attention was no longer in the protest! He turned left, and lo! That was the moment Radha saw his scar and instantly fell in love with Raibahadur. Raibahadur, one with the ultimate mark of bravery! Roshan hesitated for a moment before shaving his moustache off! Then it crossed his mind “Why not make a movie on Raibahadur and Radha? It would be a great hit all over Paschim Pradesh.” Mind wanders in funny places once you feel like you have achieved your life's greatest goals...

For a warm summer morning, the water coming out of the shower was unusually cold. As he soaked in, Roshan's excitement slowly cooled down and thoughts came back to his discovery. Although initially he was surprised that Einstein himself did not notice the gap, now he began to realize what a motley collection of ingredients this recipe of his was made of. The crucial idea itself had struck Roshan only when he started studying Einstein's brain. While attempting to model his brain, he had himself had come very close to think about the situation from Einstein's brain's point of view! He always found it fascinating how neurons transmit and transfer tiny electrical impulses. Always juggling between biology, neuroscinece and physics, Roshan realized that if he applied postulates of quantum entanglement at subatomic level assuming a neuron like transfer mechanism for meson and muon transfers, it would have serious implications on the interpretation of theory of relativity. For the first time, he was thankful that he was here, in 2005 and not there, in 1905.

By the time Roshan was done with his puja, the maid had arrived and soft, steaming idlies were waiting for him on the dinging table. “Sakhu, from today, your salary is doubled! Your DoctorSaab is going to get the Nobel Prize for Physics very soon!” he announced. Sakhu understood that this Nobel Prize thing must be some real big deal for her Saab. Roshan found that he did not like the idlies much today. Trying to pinpoint the reason, he concluded “Damn! I still miss the toothsome food mom used to cook.” For the last fifteen years, his work had always kept him busy and away from relapsing into nostalgia and gloom, but today was different. Tears came rolling down his cheeks before he even knew it. A sudden flood of pent-up feelings inundated him. Realizing that resistance is futile, he let it flow. When the surging emotions subsided, he gathered his senses. He still vividly remembered the day, when, fifteen years ago, the Going 646 plane carrying his parents had crashed and exploded – shattering and permanently scarring his life. Since then Sakhu was the only one he had in this world. He remembered how enraged he was when the “646 goof-up” as they call it, was made public. It turned out that the design was inherently faulty. It was just a matter of sheer luck that the twenty-five flights they had before the fateful crash went well at all. His loss was one important reason he had taken the plunge into tireless devotion to research.

All this while, when trying to complete the theory of relativity, Roshan had not paid any attention to the implications and applications of his contribution. Now it was high time he did. A flash of genius, two hours of furious scribbling and 20 pages full of theorems, lemmas and proofs later, he was sitting in his chair, awestruck and dumbfounded. It suggested a possibility of time travel! The best part was, to test this hypothesis, to build a new time machine, all he needed to do was some modifications to the superscalar transducer machine he had built last year for ISRO. Roshan had all the parts required to assemble another one in his inventory. While his hands were busy mechanically soldering a few circuits, his mind was going wild thinking of all the possible things he could do if he could time travel. Should he go back to yesterday night and turn the heater on so that he can get warm water for bath this morning? Should he go back and make his younger self talk to Maya? “Maya! Boy, was she beautiful!” The only girl he ever liked, and liked so much that words won't be sufficient to describe how much he liked her. He never could muster the courage to go talk to her, and maybe, eventually, express his feelings... Or should he go back and stop his parents from boarding the cursed plane? How about exposing the Going 646 flaws before any harm could ever come? Why not stop Nathuram before he could shoot Bapu? Wouldn't it be awesome if Hitler died in his school years of a curious case of food poisoning by rotten juice? Won't the world be a better place if Jesus were not crucified and spread the message of good and peace far and wide? How about making Rama realize that not trusting Sita is the biggest mistake he could ever make? It would be interesting to see dinosaurs roaming around free and wild, exotic birds singing sweet songs and weird creatures long lost in the mist of time tumbling and bumbling here and there...

HUSHH! Sighed Roshan finishing the assembly of his time machine. By now his head was buzzing and whirring with the infinite possibilities and opportunities time traveling presented. Satisfied with his handiwork, he took time to admire his creation. Full of wires and intricate circuits neatly tucked in and nicely arranged, the 'time machine' looked no different than a waistband in some cyberpunk fashion-ware collection.

Sakhu had decided on the menu for lunch – Shrikhand puri, Roshan's favourite. As she was frying the last few puris, she could not contain her curiosity and asked from the kitchen. “Saab, what is this Nobel Prize? What do you have to do to get it? What have you done?” Roshan explained it over the lunch, “It is the highest honour a scientist can ever get. You know Sakhu, there was this very brilliant scientist called Einstein. He came up with an idea about how light goes from one place to another, and how people in various situation would see it. His idea turned the whole world of science upside down. Many didn't believe it, many many experiments were conducted, some even found it too ridiculous to even experimentally verify it. But you see, finally all the experiments confirmed that his idea was really the fact. Just this morning, I finally found a small improvement to that idea, but if you look at what happens due to this addition, it is much more astonishing and groundbreaking than even the original idea.” He felt nice he could explain it in simple terms. “I wonder how Einstein would have felt had he come across your correction . 'Dammit! How did I not see it'?” remarked Sakhu. “That's it!” exclaimed Roshan getting up from his chair abruptly and dashing to his study table.

He had found his first 'time-adventure' . He decided to go back in time and discuss his work with Einstein himself. Einstein, the genius whose brain he had studied extensively. Einstein, who redefined physics. Einstein, the sole lighthouse guiding him when he was lost in the void created by his parents' demise. Einstein, his hero and role model since childhood! Roshan had a photograph memory. He remembered the newspaper clipping in the science museum : 'Patent office clerk shakes foundations of physics with his theory of relativity'. He imagined how it could be 'Patent office clerk shakes foundations of physics with his theory of relativity discovering time-travel alongside. Attributes his success to a mysterious Indian'. Just the thought of meeting the man face to face made him jump two feet high. He took the time travel belt from his desk. While he was adjusting it on his waist, he thought of all the time-travel literature by his favourite science fiction authors. Roshan strongly opposed the idea of 'butterfly effect'. He ridiculed ideas which talked about ripples in space-time continuum creating far-reaching and potentially devastating effects. He was not afraid of confronting his old self, nor was he particularly worried about unconsciously destroying the 'future universe' as we know it. He shrugged those dreadful thoughts away, adjusted the belt and set the destination time and finally flipped the switch.

A flexible meso-electronic beam, what he fondly called the 'electron whip' emerged out of the buckle and started spinning, getting faster every moment, till it was a blue, glimmering glow – a disk right in front of him, as tall as him. The next thing he remembered was that he was sitting under a tree, with a severe headache, Einstein's house just a few blocks away. On a nearby bench, there sat a man clad in expensive black suit with a businesslike air around him. He seemed to waiting for something. Most probably for his car to arrive and pick him up. The way he carried and conducted himself made it evident that he was a man of great repute, brimming with confidence and dreamy eyes capable of envisioning great future. Roshan could feel the respect getting built up inside him. He decided he could as well go and have a chat with him while he is at it. He got up and started walking towards the bench, a broad smile on his face. On his way, he noticed two people on the other side of the road coming towards the bench. One was tall, well built, clean-shaven with broad shoulders. Roshan couldn't remember exactly, but that man looked very familiar. His companion, on the other hand, was skinny and a frail figure. Both were Indians. Before he knew it, both of those pounced on the seemed-to-be businessman, snatched his briefcase and started running away.. “Hey! Thief! Thief!” shouted both Roshan and the businessman in unison, starting to chase them at once.

Roshan caught up, and jumped onto the tall fellow making him fall flat on the ground, himself on top. The thief threw Roshan over, got up and prepared for a fist fight. The skinny one had taken steel knuckles out of his pocket and was advancing towards Roshan with menacing eyes and gnashing teeth. Confident of lading a fatal blow on his skull, the thief punched with all his might. Roshan ducked just in the nick of the time and the blow landed on the taller partner's face, tearing his left cheek apart, blood gushing through the wound. A deafening scream later he was lying unconscious on the ground his partner already having fled the scene. Mr. Edwington, for that was his name, thanked Roshan. His car had arrived and he gave Roshan a ride till the block where Einstein lived. Roshan was surprised that Mr. Edwington did not know Einstein.

KNOCK KNOCK. Einstein himself answered the door! With a pleasant smile he inquired about Roshan's purpose of visit. “I comes from far away. Want talk physics.” blurted out Roshan, letting grammar and coherency go for a toss merely at the sight of Einstein. He took a deep breath, calmed his excitement down and spoke again in proper English. “Sure, come on in!” said a jolly Einstein. “He must almost be done with his work on theory of relativity, after all, he is going to publish it next week. Look how happy he is.” thought Roshan.

Over a cup of coffee, Roshan explained briefly how he admired theory of relativity for its sheer genius and explanatory capabilities, and how he always had a hunch that some small thing was amiss and finally how he corrected it. He deliberately left out the time-travel parts. He wanted to see Einstein's reaction on coming to know that someone has such a good grasp of theory of relativity, which was yet to be even published. Roshan was too engrossed in the explanation to notice the blank look on Einstein's face. “Sorry mister, I don't understand a word of what you just said.” came the reply leaving Roshan shell-shocked. Over the next few frustrating minutes with awkward conversations, Roshan realized that this guy is just a patent office clerk with average intelligence!

“Butterfly effect! Space-time fabric ripple! Grand father paradox!” all these scary words started echoing in Roshan's head. He must have done something terribly wrong to alter the universe this way. He had just made one of the most brilliant minds ever lived on the Earth into a dumb clerk. Frustrated, helpless, he banged his finst on the table, shattering the glass which just added even more to his frustration. Was this because of his involvement in the fight? Was this an inherent property of time travel? Roshan had no clue. And then it struck him. He thanked goodness that he was carrying his backpack with him, GeniusGen Inside it! Confidence reborn, he decided he would mend what is broken. There were still three days remaining till the publishing date of theory of relativity. He expalined the situation to Einstein to the best of his capabilities. Although Einstein did not believe in a word of it, he agreed nonetheless to be treated with GeniusGen. It looked innocuous enough. Also, this was an entertaining twist in his otherwise boring life. A lot of magnetic huffle-ruffle and 4 hours later, Roshan found himself sitting with Einstein as he knew him – brilliance incarnate!

Another side-effect which worked in his favor, Einstein did not remember any of the time-travel talk! Now, all that was needed was to get him to know theory of relativity. Again, all Roshan had to do was to give him his own publication and time to read. Six hours later, Einstein was as familiar with the theory as he would have been had he come up with it. He was so delighted with the newfound wisdom that he totally forgot to inquire about the stranger who gave him the book, what he was doing in his house, where he came from et cetera. They talked as if there always knew each other. After Einstein retired to bed, Roshan prepared for the epic conclusion of his well thought-out plan. He would modify GeniusGen to alter Einstein's brain such that he would believe that it was his own mind that came up with the theory of relativity and that he had been working on it tirelessly. After altering his brain while asleep, Roshan would then propose the modification to Einstein and discuss about its significance and implications. Then the world would get a more accurate version of theory of relativity and Roshan would return to see the repercussions.

Things worked out as planned. Einstein did not seem to understand the proposed modification to its full details, but was very impressed with the overall idea. “Dammit! How did I not see it!” came the words. “Deja-vu?” thought Roshan. Roshan would cherish the pat of appreciation he received that day forever. “I don't fully understand the details of your proposed modification though. It would be great if you write it down. I will be back from office in the evening. I hope you will be done with the details and proofs by then. I must accept that your proposal is beyond my intellectual grasp and for all practical purposes, it would be useless unless I fully understand it.” Roshan gracefully accepted to write it down.

It was still two hours till Einstein came back. Roshan was done already. With a heavy heart, he decided it would be best to leave the papers there and leave for his 'home-time'. Roshan wanted Einstein to arrive at the time travel conclusion independently, not by listening to Roshan's story. He was pretty sure that Einstein would, and maybe ever come to meet him once he figures out how to build a time machine! Roshan kept the papers on the table, wore his time travel belt, set the time. He had a final look all around the place of his role model, and flipped the switch with great satisfaction.

But fate had something different in mind. The belt had suffered some damage during the fight. The 'electron whip' came out all right, but started lashing uncontrollably in all directions. Having set the papers on fire, the beam grew in severity and activity. Roshan watched in horror as the beam disintegrated his own body, part by part, into the primitive molecules and atoms, leaving but a puff behind...

And yeah, for sure, the day after, there was the news in the papers : “Patent office clerk shakes foundations of physics with his theory of relativity” Little did Roshan, may he rest in peace, know that in the same newspaper, on the inner pages, there was another story much more interesting...
Going Inc. chief designer saved from attempted robbery
[snip snip]... the briefcase which was almost stolen, had state of the art plans and designs for futuristic flight codenamed 646. It is estimated that it would take around eighty years for the technology to be advanced enough to actually build such a craft. Going spokesperson expressed his sincere regards to the Indian stranger who helped catch the thief. The design documents were all the more important because the original creator had just passed away. Had those documents been lost, it would have been impossible to come up with such a design again – said Going in an official announcement issued today morning … [snip snip] … Although one attacker managed to get away, another was injured and caught. Going by the name Raibahadur, an Indian, he is suffering from a mental disorder. He will be deported to India after undergoing mental treatment. Doctors are confident that they will be able to cure Raibahadur … [snip snip]

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