One of my old acquaintances (he is now 85 years old and still quite alive) from where I grew up in the city of Bombay (I am perfectly aware of what it is now called) is an endearing man by the name of Dr. Anil Basu Chandra. He had achieved his PhD from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay when he was only 22 years old in Physics specializing in Quantum Mechanics.
I simply haven’t the guts to ask what that is. I have a hard enough time keeping track of exactly where my handkerchief & socks are from one day to the next.
Dr. Chandra was among other things a voracious reader and once he came across a book he liked; he would devour it on the spot regardless of where he picked it up. He once found a copy of Homer’s Iliad on a vacant bus seat and rode that bus 6 times around its entire route until the bus was finally parked in the yard for its nightly cleaning & maintenance before the next day’s routine. The bus cleaning & maintenance crew had a bit of a negotiation with him for a good 20 minutes but they finally succeeded in getting him off the bus. To this day, Dr. Chandra maintains that one person sitting inside the bus should not have prevented the cleaning & maintenance crew from doing their job. He really is an endearing man I assure you.
We were once at a New Year’s Eve dinner party and the conversation flowed towards Dr. Chandra’s daughter who was at that time on her way to becoming an accomplished performing artist; specializing both in singing Indian classical music and also in playing the violin. Dr. Chandra was seated with his wife beside him and my parents & I were on the sofa opposite them. As we sipped our beverages (mine was coffee naturally) and ate our dinner, our host; Mr. Karan Sharma and my parents began Dr. Chandra’s daughter’s praises by recalling what a gifted student she was even in her early years. They then spoke of her various trophies in several music competitions at different levels of participation over the years and also how the young lady managed to balance her studies & her deep interest in music without overemphasizing one over the other at any time.
After around an hour or so of this saga of relentless admiration during which time the already slightly corpulent Mrs. Chandra further swelled with pride, Mr. Karan Sharma and my parents finally ceased their momentous speech to catch a breath or two. My father then asked Dr. Chandra what he thought of the subject matter that had completely swallowed one hour of my life.
Mrs. Chandra nudged her husband to revive him from what appeared to be a bit of a reverie. Dr. Chandra slowly but surely lifted his head out from a book on Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity; gave us all a beaming smile with a page full of neatly written equations with one or two circled at the very bottom of the page on his lap and said, “I’ll tell you; I’ve always done some of my best work at night…” He rested his hand on Mrs. Chandra’s lap; tapped it twice and gave her a grin.
None of us had ever seen (nor do we believe we ever will again) Mrs. Chandra’s complexion turn a distinct shade of crimson as it did that night after that comment from Dr. Chandra.
The clock struck twelve and we all wished each other a Happy New Year.
My mother tells me that even today, Dr. Chandra has no clue as to why his wife blushed that night during what he recalls as being a thoroughly routine dinner. He doesn’t think that she knows anything about Physics.