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A serious scientific discussion and a mouse in between!


 
asn’t he got up from the bed yet, your dull-headed son?’, enquired Dr.P.G..Iyer for the fifth time, since morning but his wife Kunja didn’t care to reply.
The ‘dull-head’ was none other than his eldest son, Dr.P.G.K
a senior geologist, with more than 100 papers in leading
scientific journals, to his credit. It was already 9.00 in the morning and P.G.K, had to leave for his laboratory by 9.30 and hence the old man’s anxiety. Despite having a doctorate and good standing in the scientific community, P.G.K. is a ‘madayan’ for his father who believes that his son’s scientific knowledge is not worth a ‘chakram’, a small coin in the erstwhile Travancore state, in the absence of spiritual pursuits..
Dr.P.G.K, a nocturnal scientist, works in the Labs, till late night. His mother and wife, are therefore sympathetic to his getting up late in the morning though his father, who gets up before sunrise and performs ‘sandya’, pre-dawn prayers expects his son too to do so
Unable to tolerate the ‘pindungal’ -nagging of her husband, Kunjamami, Iyer’s wife, woke her son up hesitantly. Hurriedly P.G.K grabbed a towel form his mother’s hand and while he was rushing for a wash, his father shouted at him,”Nilluda -wait there and answer this question: One day, just one day in your life, will you get up early and perform sandya, before I die?’
“No way, dad. I have become Kakkassery”, the son replied with a naughty smile and walked away.
‘Madaya siromanai!- idiot of the highest degree”, Iyer whispered and retired to his study.
P.G.K, before leaving for his work, used to arrange neatly the latest copies of scientific journals on his father’s reading table, every day, along with the news papers and magazines. He also covertly ensures that his father’s betel nut box, medicine chest and cash box are adequately filled and his clothes are properly pressed and placed at the appropriate place. While doing so, Iyer asked his son,” Kakkassery aruda Krishna?-who is Kakkassery?”
“Tell you in the evening”. The son replied uncarilngly and was about to leave for his Lab.
“Chappittuttu poda, Krishna-eat and go”, his mother pleaded, but he didn’t wait.
Iyer, who was born and brouht up in UK, had not heard about Kakkassery and had no patience to wait till evening to know who he was. He peeped through the window to see whether his son had already left. He had. Iyer’s grandson also was not to be seen around .He paced the floor nervously , opened his betel box and prepared a mix, brooding all the while who that Kakkassery guy was . Mami was standing nearby. Of late, under some pretext or other, she longs to spend more time in her husband’s room, notwithstanding the fact that she does major part of the cooking though they have a known woman for the job. Iyer spends most of his time before the computer or with the books and he converses with her sparingly. But the very feeling that he is available close by, gives her joy. The compatibility in contrast of the Iyer couple is amazing.They hardly speak but mentally are always together. They loved each other passionately but there was no external sign or signal to that effect. Iyer is short in form, dark in complexion and swift and aggressive in talk and action; Mami is simple, slender and graceful and always smiling, slow in walking and soft in talking, always dignified and composed.
On his return from U.K. with a doctorate and job offer, Iyer met Kunja on his father’s instruction and fell for her at the very first sight. When his sister brought to his attention the non-compatibility in the educational standard, Iyer, raising one eye quizzically and in a language familiar to a scientist, commented: “So, what? she is aromatic and luminous”. Kunja also remarked to a friend who made a similar comparison on their physical disparity, “he has one thing which I lack- intelligence. And that should make up for every thing”
Iyer was observing through a corner of his eye that his wife was rolling the pages of a scientific journal, just to be with him in his study. Though he too liked her company especially after retirement, for longer duration, he used to pretend as if he was least interested in spending time with her. With a mock angry tone, he commanded, ” Vai anghe- keep that book there”
Falteringly, she replied that she was seeing pictures-
” Padam parukkaren”
‘Where are pictures in that book, you innocent -athile padam engehe irukkidi asadea?”
Mami splashed her innocent smile. She looked so attractive that Iyer wanted to kiss her. Good that he realised that they were not in their Pittsburgh county home.
Their daughter-in-law just entered..
Suddenly the inquisitiveness about Kakkassery popped up in Iyer’s mind. Though he knew that his wife would never be able to answer his query, he asked her casually,”Kunjamma, intha Kakkssery aarudi-who is this Kakkassery?”
Her hearing capacity, of late, was dwindling and she heard him differently.
‘Kavasserilea aaru- whom are you talking about, in the Kavassery village?”
“Ninte Atchan- your dad”, Iyer replied caustically, patted his wife’s back to reduce the intensity of his remark made unintentionally and moved to the exit gate to see whether some one with better knowledge was passing through.
Next day was Sunday. Mami refused to wake her son up even though Iyer tried his level best to cajole her.
He was pacing before his room and the moment P.G.K came out from the bed, asked him “Konthai, antha kakkassery aruda?”–son, who is that Kakkassery ?
His son ignored him, went to the bathroom and Iyer went back to his study.
On the lunch table, Iyer’s expectant look at his son’s face, was in vain because, P.G.K. was enjoying the sight of his mother, chasing a mouse from the kitchen, holding a broom stick in her hand and making ‘Aa-Oo’ sounds. “Mom, run, run!” Clapping and whistling, he encouraged his mother and turning towards his father, asked,” dad, do you know that we share 90% of the same genetic material with that mouse, after which mom is?”
” Yes, I know” Iyer replied, “and more than 98% with chimpanzee. Man had a common ancestor with chimpanzee about 5.5 million years ago. Nobody yet knows precisely where they are or how they work, but somewhere in the nuclei of our cells are handful of amino acids arranged in a specific order that endows us with the brain power to out think and outdo our closest relatives on the the tree of life”. He quoted a recent science article in the Time magazine and continued,”otherwise, we would have been sitting in the zoo eating banana offered by the visiting children and our brother on the tree, would be doing sandya, like me, sporting a sacred thread, or argue and disobey his father, like you”
Iyer, enjoys lively scientific discussions.
His wife Kunjamami, at times think about God, but her world consists of only her children and husband and her mind gets filled with thoughts of how to make the best food for them and their life comfortable. P.G.K. thinks and talks only about science.
“Do you remember “chundeli chuppani?’, asked Mrs. Iyer, her interest at that moment being restricted to the mouse- chundeli after which she was for the past thirty minutes.
The villagers are expert in giving apt and funny names and our neighbour Chuppani, earned that title for hiding like a mouse, behind rice bags in his kitchen, when his wife scolds – which she does liberally and loudly. While doing so, she shuts the doors, not that she wants to do her act covertly but to ensure that her husband doesn’t escape!
“Women, generally, do their job perfectly”, Chuppani used to declare proudly in support of his wife ” but Komalam is too good a perfectionist”.
“We are discussing about genes and DNA and you want to intrude with your village gossips”, Iyer scolded mami, ”your hearing capacity is not that bad, when it comes to gossips!”
‘That is o.k. dad” P.G.K. supported his mother. “You remember our another neighbour ‘Pathukko Parukkutty’, who was liberal in saying ‘odambai patthukko’ –‘take care’ to anyone and every one without really meaning what she says ?
” Of course, I do” Iyer replied, pushing a liberal dose of betel mix into his mouth. “She had to wait to get that title till her husband’s death; She said ‘odambai pathukkungol innu’, when her husband’s body was being lifted from the house for his last journey.”
Everyone broke into laughter at that joke.
Encouraged by her son’s support mami said-“you will never forget that ‘nonbadai Venkatcham, a short, dark man, circular in shape with a big pit at the center of his abdomen”
“How could I forget him, mom? He ate, at a stretch twenty two nonbadais and was ready for more, if provided.”
Nonbadai is a sweet preparation, generally made once a year, when the women offer that sweet snack to Mother goddess and wear an yellow thread around their neck, praying for the longevity of their husbands.
Mrs.Iyer was about to say another nickname, when Iyer cut her short.’Nee vayai moodikkindu eliayai pidi.(shut your mouth and be after the mouse)”
He turned towards his son,” Krishna, tell me about kakkassery”
‘Why don’t you read Iythihyamala or go to Google.com, dad?”
“Can’t you spend one hour in a week, with your family?”, Iyer had no patience to search for the story and he was anxious to spend some time with his son, whom he loves and even respects for his scientific knowledge, though they hardly agree on any subjects discussed.
“Jnan parayam- I shall tell that story”. There comes our friend Vishnu Namboodiri, clad, as usual, in his new unbleached, golden color -bordered double veshti, a similar melmundu and with a bright silver casket in his hand.
Where ever he is, he electrifies the seen with his voluminous laughter and sparkling jokes. Vishnu sat on the floor, opened the casket and taking out the betel leaves one by one, started narrating the story .
“Okkaruda-sit down,” Iyer commanded, when his son tried to escape and P.G.K. obeyed.
Kakkassery Nambudhiri, was a child prodigy, who mastered Veda, Vedantha, Tharkasasthras and defeated all his opponents including the indomitable Uddhanda sastrigal, from across the border, in scholarly debates on scriptures conducted periodically in the King’s court, in a very young age.. In fact, it was for that very purpose the learned Namboodhiries, who were unable to dislodge the indomitable scholar, from the nearby State, prayed and did incantations to beget a child smart enough to restore their pride by defeating the Sastrigal. As a child, he was gifted with acute observation power which helped him to identify one crow from the other and earn his name, Kakkassery, ‘Kakka’ being crow in Malayalam. With the passage of time, the very person who redeemed the lost pride of the community, became a burden to the orthodox society, when Kakkassery started mingling with every one, irrespective of their caste or status. The society deep rooted in orthodoxy could never accept that. “You are the most learned amongst us”, the Namboodiries complained and pleaded to him.’Why do you bring disgrace to us by eating with low caste people and sleeping in their huts. You don’t even perform the daily ritual of Sandhya which is the basic duty of a Brahmin?”
Kakkassery had transcended the stage of performing rites and rituals and looked upon all things and events as ever bearing the stamp of the Supreme Goodness. Having realised his oneness with that Super consciousness, he was enjoying the freedom and bliss of the Eternal.
“The sun doesn’t rise or set in my heart” Kakkassery replied, with his eye lids half- closed.” When the Cosmic Consciousness shines in my heart through out, with no rising or setting, how am I to worship sandya?’
“Hridakase chidaditya:
sadabhati niramaayam,
Udayasthamanow nastha
katham sandyam upasmahey?”
Iyer was moved by the story and it was his turn now to close his eyes and think of the Supreme Power.
“In the morning and evening, when I look at the sun and pray for the stimulation of mind,” he said, “what I am seeing in the sky, is a personification of the supreme Divine power, which opens up the sealed shutters of the seed and bring out the hidden tree from out of it, which enlightens and energizes the entire world. “Haridaswa sasrarchi, sapthasapthir mareechiman”. I visualize that benevolent monarch of the Universe, ascending the universal theater, in his golden chariot driven by innumerable green horses in the sky at dawn and at dusk, after doing good for the whole world quietly returning to his abode, his face glowing with satisfaction and peace. For you Krishna, the Sun is one of the billions of stars made of hydrogen, helium and metals. What a pity! How much you miss in life!”
‘’That is what my science tells me, dad”, P.G.K replied, turning the pages of a book to avoid the direct look of his father.
“My science too tells me the same thing”, Iyer replied, “but my wisdom, my upbringing in a spiritual surrounding, my mind which absorbed the spirit of that atmosphere tells me something more-‘don’t look at the sun as a mass of gases; see the Supreme power behind it, which gives its brightness and power, which elevates the souls and spirits, in it’, Iyer continued,”and how old is your science? a few hundred years, a few thousand years? Has it said everything about the life and universe? Will it ever be able to do that? No. Because science, is only one of the branches of knowledge- and remember knowledge is never complete- it is ever growing”
“Including your spiritual knowledge”, P.G.K cut in, forgetting for a moment that he was talking to his father.
‘Yes, Krishna, including the spiritual knowledge-mine or yours or even Kakksery’s”. There was a tinge of anger in that reply.
” I believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, dad”
” I too did so till yesterday, till I read an article in the journal Nature, challenging the earlier theory that humans evolved one after another like a line of dominoes, from ancient Homo habilis to Homo erectus and eventually the present Homo sapiens.
Darwin’s theory has been questioned; Newton’s theory has been questioned. It should be like that; that is how science progresses”
“After teaching the students about Saturn’s orbit, rotation, low density, rapid rotation, and fluid state etc you want me to wear a blue cloth and worship in the temple–“
‘’Wait, wait” Iyer cut in. “We are discussing about fundamentals and you are talking about practice. And I have already replied to your query, in the beginning of our debate, much before you raised it. I am repeating: when I go to a temple I don’t see a dark granite stone; I see a throbbing heart, which suffers when I fall, a pair of hands which lifts me up from the deep cavern I have fallen into and holds me firm till I have reached the safety path. I see the driving force behind the universe.”
“God is a delusion” P.G.K was outspoken.
‘’Make it real” now Vishnu interposed.”And start seeing God in mud and stone, plants and trees and clouds and wind”.
” Don’t You experience the existence of the unseen blood flowing through every capillaries within your body, every moment you are awake?”, Iyer asked,”don’t You experience the unseen air which fills your lungs and come out every second?
Similarly, you will start experiencing the Divine power which is within every cell of your body, within you and outside as well, if you have faith. And Krishna, as St.Augustine, the Archbishop of Canterbury said, ‘ faith is to believe in what we do not see and the reward of faith is to see what we believe”
“And moreover”, Vishnu intervened , “You will find a good friend , who will hear you patiently when others run away from you; who will give you a helping hand when you slip- and slip, you will definitely, when you walk, sometime or other- and a companion who will accompany you till the end of your road- without any condition or demands”
‘Yes”, Iyer endorsed Vishnu’s statement and continued. “And, when you want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to your life, something that will relieve a chronic loneliness or lift you above the exhausting, relentless toll of life or when you need an assurance that somebody out there cares about you and is listening to you- that you are not just destined to travel down a long highway toward nothingness,” Iyer said, “then you will find a real friend, ready to help you, having no demands or expecting anything from you in return, as Vishnu said”
“Dad, forget your poetry for a moment and talk in our common language, the language of science.”
“Yes, I shall. Let me ask you a few questions, purely on science”.
“The Sun’s energy output is about 386 billion billion megawatts, produced by nuclear fusion reactions. Right?’
‘yes, dad”
“And Each second about 700,000,000 tons of hydrogen are converted to about 695,000,000 tons of helium and 5,000,000 tons of energy in the form of gamma rays. As it travels out toward the surface, the energy is continuously absorbed and re-emitted at lower and lower temperatures so that by the time it reaches the surface, it is primarily visible light.
For the last 20% of the way to the surface, the energy is carried more by convection than by radiation. right? “
“yes”
“What is the surface temperature of the Sun?”
“10,000 degrees Fahrenheit”
“If the sun gave off only one half of it’s present radiation, what will happen?”
“We would freeze.”
‘And if it gives as more?”
‘So, the earth is positioned in such a way that it is just far away so that the sun’s rays just warms us just enough so that neither we are roasted nor frozen .Right ?” Iyer continued.
“Yes, dad”
“4600 million years”
“And all these 4600 million years, the earth has been rotating non-stop, 24 hours a day and night, right?’
“Of course, it has been “
“And it rotates on its axis, right?”
“Yes”
‘At what speed?”
“1000 miles an hour at the equator”
“If it turns, let us say, at one hundred miles per hour, what happens?”
“Our days and nights will be 10 times as long as now and the hot sun will burn our vegetation during the long day .And in the long night, any surviving sprout might freeze.”
“How far is the moon from the earth?”
“The average earth-moon distance is about 1,75,000 miles”
“If the moon, let us say, were only 50,000 miles away, what will
happen?”
“Our tides might be so enormous that twice a day all continents would be submerged and even the mountains will be eroded away”.
“What gives us our seasons?”
“The slant of the earth, tilted at an angle of 23 degrees”
“If it were not so tilted?”
“Vapours from the ocean would move north and south, piling up
continents of ice.”
“If the crust of the earth, let us say, had been ten feet thicker ?”
“There will be no oxygen and animal life will die”
“Had the ocean been a few feet deeper?”
“Carbon-di-oxide and oxygen would be absorbed and no vegetable life could exist”
Are you convinced” Iyer asked his son,” that It is apparent from these and a host of other examples that there is not one chance in billions that life on our planet is an accident?”
There was no reply.
“Take your time to reply”, Iyer said.”Tell me one thing now. You call this intelligent designing?”
“Yes, dad”
“I call it “GOD”.Iyer got up from his seat, removing his upper garment from his shoulder and looking at his son’s eyes sharply said,”your name is acceptable to me though.
” Some of history’s greatest scientific minds, including Einstein and Ramanujan, were convinced that there is an intelligent life behind the Universe.
“As Greene said, ‘Science is very good at answering the ‘how’
questions. How did the universe evolve to the form that we see?”, he continued.
‘But it is woefully inadequate in addressing the ‘why’ questions. Why is there a universe at all? The universe is incredibly wondrous, incredibly beautiful, and it fills me with a sense that there is some underlying explanation that we have yet to
fully understand.
“If someone wants to place the word ‘God’ on those collections of words, it’s OK with me.”
P.G.K, got up silently and went to wash his hands.
As if speaking to himself, his father said, “A pebble cast in the
water, may seem insignificant, but it creates ripples.Some ripples become waves, and some becomes tsunamis. I hope, one day, such a situation will arise in your mind.then you will realise that science, which is only a
few hundreds or a few thousands years old, is only,a path in the
discovery of the inner secrets of the nature, a path to know the God”.
Vishnu, watching the debate between the father and son, sang in a melodious voice, a sloka from V.C.Balakrishna panikkar’s poem titled,’Viswaroopam’:
“Paravarm kareri, karakal muzuvanum mukki moodaththentho,
Tharajalangal thammil swayamurasimaringathra veezhathathentho?
Neryaranju nokkeeduka madamiyalum marthyare, ningalennal
Arall kandethu mellttinumupari vilangunna, viswesaroopam.”
Why are the ocean waves not invading and submerging the entire land area?
Why the stars do not collide, collapse and fall?
Men, ponder thoroughly;You will realise the Superpower shining above everything.”
“Eliyai pidchaiya, kunja?—Have you caught the mouse?”
Handing over a towel to clear the sweat from her forhead, Iyer asked his wife affectionately, seeing her returning from the backyard, with a broomstick in her hand.
“Antha saniyan engayo odippochu ennu,—that devil escaped-“
“It is there,mom.” P.G.K. said,” hiding behind the rice bag”
“Like our Chuppani” Iyer commended.
“Whether Dr.Iyer is a good debater like Kakkassery or not”, Vishnu joked while getting up with his silver casket,
“one thing is certain: the mouse in the kitchen is still there, hiding behind the rice bag–like atheism in P.G.K’s heart.”
Baltimore
Aug 22, 2007

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