Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I'd like most right now


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Monday, October 16, 2006

Dark Side of the Moon…

I’ve not thought about it for a long time, in fact ever since I stepped out of the dark room in the physics lab, in 1996, leaving the spectrometer behind. The concept of the prism had been stored somewhere, probably forgotten and the only time any cognizance of the said object had been taken was perhaps while looking at the cover of Pink Floyd’s album.

And then one day, right out of the blue, some one asked – Hey, do you know where I could get hold of a prism? Err…why? Oh for my 8-year-old son, he’s never seen one. Ah…okay, we’ll see what we can do.

Prism – 3 dimensional, triangular-shaped glass or other transparent material through which, when light is passed, its wavelengths refract into a rainbow of colors. A demonstration that light is composed of colours and indication of the arrangement of colors in the visible spectrum.

So where could I source one from? Not available in general stores, stationary shops. Chemists? Nah. I could go back to college, to the lab and ask for one – but where’s the romance? The challenge?

The World Wide Web acts as a panacea. Somewhere in its not so frequented alleys – is a phone number of a scientific instrument dealer – who as it happens doesn’t deal in the business anymore – but does direct me to Neptune Scientific Traders.

Now is that delicious or what!?

Snuggled away in the by-lanes of Princess Street, behind alleys you’d never have any reason to visit, on the mezzanine 2nd Floor of the last dilapidated building two lanes behind Edward Talkies (did not ever hear about it, but it’s playing Shiva right now) – is Neptune Scientific Traders.

It’s a treasure trove, it is.

Mild mannered Mr Pankaj Goradia, sits behind an old wooden table. The window at the extreme end of the room is the sole source of light, there’s a table fan sitting atop a metal chair. His table is cluttered with an old Remington typewriter, pens that my grandfather used to have on his study – those ball point ones with long conical gold plated bodies, a camel stamp pad and thick cardboard box files. Around the room is an inventory stock of vernier calipers, filt roll filter paper, test tubes, starch iodine, petri dishes, litmus paper (red & blue), fractional weights, copper plates, magnetic compass, pinch clips, measuring cylinders, large & wide wooden scales and so many more riches but my prying eyes are unable to read the sketch pen marks on the boxes – there’s not enough light.

I’m probably the only woman who’s entered the shop in a really long time and am the object of curiosity amongst the cat (literally standing on the hot tin roof) and some men loitering about. The 38mm x 38mm x 38mm (equilateral) prism was kept ready for me. I stand around, not wanting to leave, itching to explore this remarkable storehouse. So I make small conversation – do they have lab equipment for all subjects? Well, for physics, chemistry & biology labs, 8th – 12th standard. Do you manufacture all this? Oh no, we’re wholesalers, the equipment gets manufactured in Delhi, Haryana, Ferozabad.

Are you a schoolteacher? It’s my turn to be interrogated. No – I work for Times of India. I want to buy this for a friend. Ok, though we prefer to sell to dealers, you can come anytime you like to buy from here. I’m overjoyed.

Would you mind if I take some pictures of your shop? I ask tentatively, not wanting to offend and revoke my open invite. If you want to. Shrugs Mr Sampat.

I click a few shots and then halfheartedly I walk out, my lunch break will end soon and I have to be back in office.

Neptune Scientific Traders – a dusty, dimly lit old world store that keeps a slab of history & science alive in those swanky new age schools of these days.

Oh, to be back in the lab.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Not About U2

One of the more interesting pieces that I read over this weekend.

Like it says, the odds are slim, but can this piece of knowledge ever hurt you. Well, yes – if it’s only little knowledge and we all know that it can be a dangerous thing! But our motto is - Animis opibusque parati.

It’s common knowledge that it is the easiest thing to learn how to make a bomb – atom, nuke or any other (the menu is up for grabs) in your backyard, but if you need to know the recipe of McDonald’s secret sauce recipe – well, they’ll tell you, but then they’ll have to kill you.

So all in all – I thought this is not just a good to know information – but need to know information.

This brings me to a really serious point. Today in the local train (first class, ladies compartment) – one woman fell and had an epileptic fit. In a crazily crowded train, the women began to panic. Some one screamed for a doctor/nurse (finally in desperation - any medical person?), another asked around for water to calm her down, while yet another rummaged around for a piece of sweet so the woman could bite on something other than her tongue. All through, really no one – and I mean no one really knew how to actually handle the situation. Because none of us, shamefully that included me, had even basic first aid training.

This needs to be made mandatory. With big plans of disaster management that the BMC has, and the Mumbai Police wants to make Mumbai Terror Free (Make Mumbai Unbreakable) – we need to start, perhaps, with baby steps. As citizens – it is our onus to take responsibility and charge when desperate situations arise upon us. It is only us who will be able to help ourselves.

Make a list & implement it:

  • Learn First Aid
  • Managing self & others during - Earthquakes, Fire (buildings/local trains), Bomb Blasts
  • Emergency contact numbers - Railways, Police, Hospitals, Newspapers, News Channels

Here's some links that may prove useful.

National Disaster Managment

Queries on Maharashtra State Disaster Management

First Aid

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I wrote this a long time ago. And it still rings true sometimes...

On a clear day, a pitcher and a half should do. Per person. A crowded room, or a tavern as the patrons might call it. Music those born after 1980 perhaps may well not recognize is a comforting environment. The smoke from Marlboro lights, Goldflake kings, Wills Navycut doesn't itch the throat much as the diesel being burnt on the highway. It could be simply a Friday night glee Or even just the relief of it. The music blares but you don't mind it. Perhaps it's the taste of the dwelling, or maybe you're just tending towards mellow bliss. Either ways you seemingly enjoy it. There's Floyd, Clapton, with a hint of Floyd and Tull thrown in; a dancing in the dark, and some college hangover!?

It's nonetheless the ratio I'm in favour of. On a not so rough estimate, it would be 52 to 6. Male to the fairer species. A school of thought would undoubtedly react to further divisibility issues, but for purposes of imagery I'd stature it suffices. The best part of course being the obscurity of it all. The song changes to 'Careless Whispers'. Around each corner you find someone mouthing the song, tragically. Conceivably, broken hearts aplenty. Though I look around when 'with our without you' plays after a while a few takers for a personal favourite. Lets not then again get predisposed to a theory. As the songs steal away time, the quotient becomes heavier further. When the drizzling outside encourages a refuge. Or a plea.