March 28th, 2008

The world and I

March Memories

Its that time of the year again when the weather makes me wax eloquent of the memories it evokes in my mind. There are weathers which remind you of other cities at different times, and places. There are weathers which remind me of a state of mind and body.

March. No matter where you are in India (almost) March has this distinctive feel and flavour. By March I mean not only the month, but the weather which usually signifies March. Its the onset of summers, and we are made aware of the heat and oncoming humidity all at once. After the mild and comfortable February, March brings dread of the oncoming months - the severe summer that is about to set in. It is the month that makes you realise the sultry heat (and its heat with a capital H) in India, the beginning of a season. It is also the month which makes you happy in a subversive way.

It is the month that as a child have always been associated by me of exams. Final examinations for the year and the summer holidays just after that. That sweet promise of vacations after a bitter week of being stuck indoors preparing for year end in School (and College).
Evenings pertain a typical langorous air, stillness all around, faraway sounds, slightly humid evenings, a slight cool breeze blowing in after a hot dry day... and the realisation of all this happening makes March a signature month.

Mingled with this realisation is the distinct feel of the city I am in. After a year spent in any city, the weather repeats. And brings back memories. Right now, I remember the feeling of being here last year. A ghost of the emotions I felt. Of the new discoveries I had made, of how my mind and body felt with each touch and fluctuation of an external stimulus. Of the sea from the guest house, of coming to this office for the first time, the tangy feel of conversation with my new colleagues, delight of the discovery of Fruit Cream at Haji Ali Juice Centre, friends who are no longer in Mumbai but were here to give me company then. The feeling also, of talking on a mobile phone still on roaming. And that of looking for a house, and finding one. A host of memories almost like a physical feeling. Tangible, yet far away.

Mornings and evenings, dawn, dusk, the warmth of the sun, the smell (albeit pungent) of the polluted sea, the hopes and uncertainties - all not felt a year ago in the flurry of activities. The memories remain, stronger than the actual incidences. They pile upon years and years of memories, intermingle together.The feelings experienced this year will remain with me to remember next year along with those of last year. Just like all the past ones.

The fear and uncertainties of examinations mingle with that of coming to the 'big bad Mumbai' and the anticipation and certainties of upcoming holidays with that of the liberation of moving here,to a new city and job.

I can remember almost every feeling I ever felt on a particular day of March through my twenty six years by the touch of that damp cool air in the evening when I stand by my window looking out at a city whose lights start twinkling with the onset of night. All in a single second, all individual, distinct, yet all so similar.


Sometimes I try to think of today, 2008, from the perspective of sometime far in future. Like we look back to eh 1600's now. And sit and think about those great chemists and general ignorance. And wonder about how people lived before then.
What was life like before you knew about incompatible blood types? Dangerous. A blood transfusion could cost you your life. What was life like before antibiotics? Or plastic (steampunk nowadays?)? Or before you knew about microbes?
Kind of difficult to imagine, though we have documentary evidence people survived and lived. They tried blood transfusion among relatives to reduce chances of death (ie higher chances of same blood group), washed hands with soap after going to an infected site (reduce chances of microbial infection) etc., but did not know why.

Similarly, centuries from now, people will (hopefully) wonder at a few things. I would hope that there will be advancement in Science and living standards. I would hope, that dystopia will not be true because of the hope-for-the-better nature of human beings.

People will wonder how TB or polio or malaria or jaundice existed
Of how vaccines were so difficult to make

But what I would like are thoughts like:
How did people think "Global Warming" was so bad? It submerged all those overpopulated places and controlled human population didn't it?
How primitive those liquid fuel based cars seem now. What a cloud of smoke and noise!
Oooh! look at all these quaint images they made of the future!
There was actually a time when they didn't have internet? O_o [Though I think this has already come up - they will have a different equivalent of the net then - telepathy?]

But yes, the point is, there will be always some level of progress which will make what we consider "cutting edge" or futuristic seem obsolete and even funny. No matter how much we progress we will still be objects of interest and wonder to future generations.

In some cases the time taken is smaller, and in some others it may take longer. Internet seems to be a game of yesterday but aeroplanes took their own sweet time. But in chemistry, in biology, it may be a while that we catch up with what our preceding generations did. A discovery a year, a pathbreaking development once every so often, a wondrous invention - they seem to have given way to price wars and sterile chambers. To strongly followed processes which kill all chances of true experimentation. Of a battle with competition so strong that patents rule the day and legality and documenting take the time of creative thinking over common small yet unsolved problems.

A time when it is more worrying to have an experimental clone sheep in a lab because of public interest and views and funds, than its scientific points and progress. When making money is so important that you'd rather come out with three different versions of the same drug at higher prices (Statins) than make a technology which could probably address some other disease. A time where progress seems to have slowed down compared to the earlier centuries.

Is that because of a lack of things to 'find out' or simply too much legality and better money to be made from other sources? Will centuries later they look at this time of history as anything except some technological development? Will there be any significant development in Science as we know it - the life saving, people helping kind of science? Or will this time period be remembered as the time for Softwares and Global Warming.