Rebel without a reason
A rebellion is on
For no reason
No one is oppressed
Or the oppressor.
Only the rebellion is on.
I was lost in the labyrinthine by lanes of Nilachal hills, or should I say, 'If Hrishi were to leave me now, I would certainly not be able to make my way to the main temple road on my own.'
We passed the age-old pucca buildings and the dark twisted avenues. From those mystic galis made out of stones and cement, there emerged priests in blood red dresses, vermilion 'tilak marked' goats ready to be sacrificed, 'jatadhari' (dreadlocked) sadhus of strange appearances - some were limbless, some were moving on their chest, some were even stark naked. A gathering like this is a usual occurrence in this prehistoric temple. As we moved ahead, everything became quiet and we discovered that the trees were getting taller here. Along the way the monkeys started jumping from one tree to the other just to show off their skills…
I was amazed that a forest of this kind was present in such a densely populated hill; just below us flowed the mighty Brahmaputra and there lay a small temple with an age old pond in front of us. We selected two clean rocks to sit on. The place was serene, away from the rush of the temple. Probably very few people knew about its existence. There were no other people except the sadhu meditating. A Tantrik with black robes was moving far away towards a cave; just a few moments ago, the priest of the Bagala temple had told us about these Tantriks, their black magic and about the weird life style and food habits they have. Indeed, there are various people living in this world and each of them is a unique puzzle of its own. Hrishi approached the sadhu; he blessed Hrishi and after applying tilak on his forehead, handed over some herb like thing from his sack.
What did he give him? A garland of offering to the goddess? Or ashes from the crematorium??
Something had happened to Hrishi, but no one knew exactly what. He was doing research on some topic of theoretical physics in a famous university in Delhi, but all of a sudden he returned home without informing anyone. Nobody could extract any answers from him. He spent his time at home simply eating and sleeping. Today he had asked me to accompany him out here, but I have no idea why...
He took a chillum out of his pocket, and filled it with the stuff that the sadhu gave him. It had to be charas, ganja or something like that. So, it seems that he is into these things now.
'What's up? Why are you looking at me like a pseudo?'
I knew I couldn't denounce him. Melodrama is strictly prohibited in our friends' circle since ages.
'Have you become a hippie?'
He shook his head; he lighted the chillum and inhaled a few puffs. Drops of sweat appearing in his forehead started to mingle with the vermillion mark and spread it out, making the tilak seem even bigger. He was looking every inch like a hippie with the chillum, blue jeans, goggles, short kurta and rudraksh beads hanging from his neck.
'Some spiritual bug?', I persisted.
He handed over the chillum to me and said, 'Take two puffs, only then you will understand what I am going to say.'
I flinched as I didn't have pleasant memories of taking the stuff during Maha-Shivratri a couple of years back. What followed thereafter is history. I promised myself not to indulge in such kind of misadventure ever again. But if I refused, I would blow my chances of getting to the bottom of the matter, concerning Hrishi: He would simply not disclose anything. So I reluctantly took the chillum from him.
Keeping a hanky as a barrier between the lips and the chillum, I inhaled deeply. My limbs started tingling.
'The whole world is a pseudo!' he murmured.
'Artificial, fake, bogus.'
'I didn't ask for a literary meaning.'
He looked at me from the corner of his eyes, we had never indulged in psychoanalysis while talking to each other, never had the tendency to prove oneself superior over other. But nowadays, both of us were in the habit of looking for the subtle nuances behind every word we spoke to each other. I hate it, but all these things seem to be customary in modern times.
'Oh! Alright. But it is nothing new; we have known it for a long time.' I said.
'We knew it before, but we have realized it now. Previously I used to think that most of the people, most of the things are fake; now I realize that everything is artificial, fake, bogus '.
'You, for instance…You are pretending to give me company here, but actually you are here to know why I have given up my research and what my problem is. On request of my family, you are spying on me.'
I had no answer to his accusations. However, I wasn't in the mood for a fight. Anyway, he was only partially correct here. I took the chillum and drew in a few puffs, but I was also worried about the marijuana getting hold of me. The silence had made the hilly jungle more clairvoyant. The hundred year old tortoise popped up from the pond and looked at us - 'Aren't you people bringing anything for me to eat?'
It was midday, but the sunlight could not touch us through the thick foliage; only the waters of the mighty Brahmaputra were sparkling deep down below.
'Truth has vanished from the earth!' Hrishi declared.
'Explain please.' I said
'Look, until a decade back we were in a Galilean frame or in a Newtonian frame. By "we" I mean all of us, the whole world. Society was as simple as a Bollywood film. The hero is good, the villain is bad. He is rich, they are poor. This man is happy and that person is sad, very simplistic. Einstein's theory existed even then but it was not the basis of our daily lives, our values. We lived with a Newtonian baseline without any confusion.'
Now, his scientific language with the vocabulary of physics was becoming incompressible to me.
'Hold on a second! I am not getting you; it's been more than ten years since my last physics class.' I interrupted.
'Fine, I will try to explain it in a simpler way,' said Hrishi. 'Remember when we were children, we knew that a good person in the society was really a good human being and he used to live doing all those good deeds only.'
'Yes, but what is your point?'
'That my friend is a Newtonian frame. But nowadays there is nothing called a good person. He may be a good businessman but with bad character, a good soul but without any efficiency, though he is corrupt but very sober indeed. Everything is relative. That is the Einsteinian frame. There is nothing called a good thing, a bad thing or anything called something.'
Now I was confused. What on earth was he trying to say?
'Boss, can you simplify a little more?'
'Einstein did prove that there is nothing called 'a truth'. As for example - your jeans is blue but the particles moving at the speed of light may see it as red. That sadhu has been meditating out here for a hundred years, but a spaceship might calculate the time scientifically and say -"No son, you have been doing so only for an hour, so your application for enlightenment has been rejected. You and I are sitting here, but that is also relative, because we are actually moving tangentially along with (and on) the lump called the earth'
It was getting harder and harder for me to comprehend the bizarre theories of Hrishi. I was not getting what he really wanted to convey, a young scientist with such a bright future is killing his time lazing around, locking the door from the outside world and smoking marijuana in some far away dark corner. Hrishi had never been a loser. He did have a weird streak in his nature. When he was in college, his parents forced him to attend a coaching class against his wish. As a mark of protest, he bunked the classes and got drunk on country liquor in tribal slums. His protest had an abrupt end in just ten days, though after he got one tight slap from his mother.
'But the same things held true, a few years ago as well.'
'Yes they were, but that truth didn't engulf us at that time, we were living happily in a Newtonian world as the deadline-maniac speed of our daily was life non existent then. But now, as things have changed, everyone is moving at an incredibly high-speed. So V= C*, that means we are moving at the speed of light and the whole earth has become relative. The relativity of Einstein is engulfing all of us.'(*V=velocity C=speed of light )
I studied those things many years ago; forgotten most of it as well. Simply put, it meant that at the speed of light, everything becomes relative: a person moving at the speed of light for an hour might seem like he was moving for a hundred hours, colors perceived may change according to the velocity we move at. The same applies to weights also, and even a mass can be converted into energy. Einstein proved the entire thing by his mathematical calculations. Was Hrishi trying to extrapolate this theory to our real lives? The concept of real and artificial is present only in Newton's world. In Einstein's world existence of every being is relative and mysterious, but that is the truth. When we first came across those great concepts, we were thrilled, but now, as I was out of touch with Einstein for a long time, these theories are harder to comprehend.
'So you are also talking like the people of the old generation -those good old days; everything about your generation is awful, disgusting! C'mon man, give me a break'. I could not resist the temptation of retorting after all when I got my chance.
He shouted back furiously- 'I thought you had some kind of analytical ability, but you are also mouthing the same. These oldies are biased, lobbyist as*****; they take two or three things to be constant, and prove whatever they want to by that logic. For instance - their music or the thick pure milk of those days… But the truth is, terrible music was present even then, which couldn't survive the test of time, and their milkman used to put water in their milk just like he does today.'
Hrishi was quick to jump upon the chance of criticizing the so-called moralist old generation. He never shied away from such 'old generation bashing' opportunities. He was angry with me too, as I clubbed him with the folks in that age bracket. He snatched the chillum from my hand and started poking its head end; the fire was about to burn out. Fearing intoxication, I was just holding it without puffing, so I was relieved that he snatched it away. He put some more grass in it and started smoking it again.
'But few good men exist even today.'
'What the hell have I been explaining to you all this time?' he yelled. 'Look, I also thought like that till last year, then I began my research on relativity, and gradually I realized that everything in this world is relative and that is the only truth.'
He offered me the chillum; I was looking at the wonders of the Nilachal hills - the twittering birds, the small brooks rippling down to the blue river ... Everything was so exquisite . But I was looking at the scenery only to avoid Hrishi's glare. Now, I had no other option but to take the chillum and take a drag; otherwise he would have gone off the boil all over again. Then I almost thrust it back to him as though it were some bitter medicine.
'Let's leave the physics aside just look at the events of day to day life - The sun rises in the east and sets in west, Universal truth, right? Nothing could be truer. But if you have ever observed closely, in summer, the sun sets on the right side of that bridge and in winter, it moves leftward to set in those blue hills.'
He was right! This was a common phenomenon which was visible from our adda; though none of us took any notice of it then. But I failed to understand how the non- existence of truth made him such a rebel.
'For instance take this research guide of mine; in elementary physics, no one is better than him in the whole country; a man with moral values and as a whole, a very good person. I don't acknowledge someone as a genius very easily, but he really was a genius! A great man indeed!'
He continued 'I was working on a part of my project for six long months; and he really had helped me in my work. When my work was over, I submitted my report to him for his review. He then went to Germany for some conference and there, his presentations and lectures were highly appreciated. He was invited as visiting professor to universities there and even the news papers and television flashed his achievements. Later, I came to know that he was presenting my work only, with his name in the credits.'
'Your name was not even mentioned?'
'Nowhere boss, never! When he returned, he told me that he could not continue to be my guide as his workload was increasing, and as he would be visiting foreign universities most of the time, he could not afford to set aside the time for my work…'
'He commented that I didn't have what it takes to make a career in theoretical physics, so his advice was to give up my project and start all over again, with some new project in nuclear physics. He promised me all the administrative help that would be required in the effort.'
Now, his speech was a little unhurried, measured. The initial madness in his manner was absent. No other options were left for him. And there was no time for Hrishi to give up Einstein and iconize Rutherford. Long ago, he had declared that he was a disciple of Einstein. We developed query mixed feelings of regard and affection for that grey-medusa haired person due to Hrishi alone.
'What was your reply?' I asked.
'What could I say? No one would have believed me anyway! He might have ruined my future if I protested; you also know that I am not Julie's type.' Julie topped in physics, sliding past Hrishi by a small margin. But we had our explanation of the result. After ten hours of practical and one hour of viva, Julie started crying … after ten hours of practical and three hours of marathon viva, Hrishi popped a question, 'Sir, I am very thirsty, may I have a break for some cold drink?'
'She got married to a moron, settled in San Francisco. Last heard, she was teaching nursery rhymes in kindergarten there.' he lamented with a deep sigh 'The fate of a university topper physicist!'
Hrishi stretched himself over the big stone and threw the chillum into the pond. I felt lighter, as if everything was encircling the cinnabar red Ganesh sculpted in the nearby rock - the river, the jungle, the sadhu meditating; everything was moving. The resonating cries of the birds struck my ears. I was relieved that Hrishi had thrown away the chillum; I could have taken no more.
'For six months I worked liked a dog, never went back to the Hostel after work.…the laboratory, then the library followed by work on the computer. I practically lived in the lab for six months….I used to take a nap there itself, if I was drowsy, grab a bite from the canteen in case I was hungry. Sometimes there was no time even to take a bath. There were so many things left undone...That f***ing rascal finished everything.'
This might have been an effect of Einstein - the person talked about with such esteem just a while ago was being referred to in this way now. Of course, gross injustice was done, and the worst part was that he couldn't protest... Most probably Hrishi was behaving this way because of all these factors.
With a frown on his face, he murmured that he didn't want to be shown any sympathy. I looked at my watch, three hours had passed by in this conversation, I was worried that it would soon be dark and we had better turn back quickly.
'Let's go back.' I said.
We started walking towards the main temple. The stone-steps seemed to be moving along with us… the effect of marijuana? Hrishi was not saying anything; he was only humming a guitar piece by Pink Floyd.
'Still, your problem wouldn't be solved, just by sitting idle and smoking grass.'
'What makes you think I am on grass?'
'I have seen it today.'
He exploded, 'Don't you have any grey matter or have you lent it all to someone? I have taken the stuff only today and that too just to make you understand the effect of Einstein on this social system.'
'You better focus your mind on proper physics for the time being, man.'
I was feeling dizzy and seeing everything in double or triple. We had been climbing the stairs for about ten minutes, it felt like more ten hours. Blame it on Einstein's effect on time, as the techni-coloured devotees seemed to be moving towards the temple in slow motion, one step appeared three, maybe four in number, I couldn't count. Hrishi gave me a bemused look. I grasped Hrishi's hand as everything was spinning now.
'What's the matter?'
'I'm feeling dizzy.'
'Sit down and rest for a while.'
Three of my buttocks placed themselves gingerly upon three stones. There were three Hrishis laughing at me! Uncountable suns were encircling me, playing hide and seek in the trees and hills.
'Seeing everything in threes or fours, I am not able to make out which is the real image and which is false.' I said.
Hrishi perked up and triumphantly declared. 'That is the real thing man - there is no truth. That's why I got you high on grass; otherwise you tend to run away hearing the theories of physics. Einstein has proved it scientifically that existence of any physical thing is relative and you are experiencing that truth at this very moment.'
As he kept staring at me, a mocking grin in place, he slipped over and fell down the hill. Shouts were raised and, a group of devotees from Nepal made a hue and cry, seeing the accident...
He was lucky though, as there was a flat area just below the place from where Hrishi fell and it was leveled out for some construction, so except for a few abrasions he was unhurt. One gorkha went down the hills and helped him climb up, a few of the spectators showed unnecessary concern - two of them fetched a bucket full of water from a well to clean his abrasions full of dirt, one offered him an antiseptic; everyone treated him like a small child for sure. Hrishi hate this kind of treatment. But he couldn't be annoyed with strangers or shout at them for helping him. Thank god, we didn't have too much of marijuana. So no one could make out that we were intoxicated. We started for home after thanking all of them. A few of the women folk advised us to drive carefully.
Hrishi started the engine, claiming that he was alright.
He was driving silently; negotiating the bends down the hill. The greenery outside the city as well as the rotten avenues within it were visible through the curves of the hills. Whether I was still high or not, I couldn't tell.
'So this rebellion is in protest against the injustice meted out by the research guide?' I asked.
'No? Then what's the reason for all these?'
'It's a journey to realize the lost truth, a rebellion is a thing of idealist protagonists only.'
Hesitantly, I said, 'May I say something?'
'Is there anything left to say?'
'Newton is still valid in this Einstein's world.'
'Oh yeah! Can you tell me how?'
'Boss, you fell down just like Newton's apple; you couldn't fly away even if you wanted to. '
'Your statement is relatively true,' he acknowledged with a smile. He was not able to give up relativity.
I remembered the portrait of Einstein in Hrishi's room and felt that this man's theory had carried all of us into an anonymous all encompassing black-hole.
Translation: Bhaskar Thakuria and Dr. Kingshuk Lahon