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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Jack said...

The prism doesn't just refract light... in this case, it split time into many parts and then brought it back together in one mad, tumbling hunt to catch up on lost time.

One colour becoming seven becoming one again. The wonder of Physics or what?

The lab? Why go back when there is life ahead - the biggest, most complex lab anyone could ever ask for.