Friday, April 17, 2009

My funny friends

La tops the list, easily. When computers started becoming popular in our Northeast region, she took to it with gusto. Later, when i got my own machine, La would e-mail me frequently. But, believe it or not, that also increased the frequency of phone calls! “Check your mail, i just sent you one,” she’d say over the phone. And then in a long conversation, narrate all that she wrote.

La’s response to most suggestions is ‘Why not?’ “Come, let’s go swimming,” she invited me one day. “No, you’ll float like a fairy and i’ll sink like a stone,” i replied. “Why not?” she quipped.

And when her husband bought a new car, she kept the older car. “Next time you come to Shillong, i’ll take you out in the car. I’ve learned to drive,” she promised. But added, “i can drive only forward, i haven’t learnt to go backward yet.” She daily drives to work moving only forward.

Pooja is another one. She gave us direction to the new office in Dahisar when we were shifting from Andheri. She drew on a paper as she explained. “Get down at Dahisar station, come out on the west, cross to the east through the subway, walk towards the left and at the forking take the right,” she told us. “And keep going, keep going (jaate raho, jaate raho). When you see a restaurant on the right, ask for Patel Apartment. They’ll show you the direction. Aur jaate raho, jaate raho…”

By this time we were quite put off. We had been told the office was close to the station and this endless jaate raho was becoming discouraging. “It sounds very far!” some of us exclaimed. “Not far, only five minutes,” she assured us. And then continued, “After some time, you will see a bank. Ask around there, and they’ll say ‘aur aage jaao.’ Go on, jaate raho, jaate raho….”

When would we ever reach? The walk felt like at least half an hour from her description. But it’s actually about eight minutes at a normal stride.

Of late, the office computers have been having problems. Pooja thinks she can coax her machine to behave by sweet-talking it. She would press the start button, do a namaste to the monitor calling it sweet names like “mere bhaya, mere lal.” It works sometimes!

Manik, another colleague, is a shy, quiet guy. But i’ve learnt about his secret passion: living creatures, especially those that home in water. The other day he showed me pictures of his new beautiful acquisition—a dragon fish from china. What i find funny about this friend is, he always refers to each fish as ‘he’, never ‘it’. Can’t blame him, though, the creatures are so close to his heart.

I too confided to him that i christened my computers. Now, some people think that funny! The moral: When you think others funny, remember that others may think you funny too!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Who is Dr. Lizette D'Souza?

‘Who is Dr. Lizette D’Souza?’ is one of the questions on Wiki Answers. Well, she is a scientist working in NIO (National Institute of Oceanography), Dona Paula, Goa. She heads the Bio-organic Chemistry group that conducts research on drug development. A colleague and i went to interview her on 25th March.

Despite our former President Dr. Kalam’s reputation, i always pictured scientists as made mostly of brain cells. Reading stories (mostly fictional) of crazy science professors conducting weird experiments doesn’t help in dispelling the image either. So it was with some awe and apprehension that i went to meet Dr. Lizette. But after spending a couple of hours with her, that idea has taken an about turn.

Though she certainly is brainy and has scientific achievements to her credit, she is very human. Like any of us, she has her struggles. Career, home, and other responsibilities bug her too. She daily travels 30 Kms to work and back. She had to bring up two daughters. She managed without a full time maid.

How did she overcome the great challenges? She has a truly supportive husband. He too was a scientist working in the same Institute. But when their children were born, he resigned and started his own business near home, so he could be close to the children. He’s a great cook too. He encouraged his wife to continue with her work. A great man, don’t you think?

Because in our country, it’s the woman who’s always expected to make sacrifices. To leave her job. To see to the home. Do all the house chores. It would seem that a majority of men think that their wives live to serve them. Not the other way round. But there are rare, refreshing exceptions. It’s good to see some husbands (mine included), working to bring out the best in their wives.