Saturday, March 31, 2012

Science for Dummies - Part II

“Just think about it Meena.  14 billion years ago, we were all inside a hydrogen atom.  You, me and this entire Universe” my husband told me yesterday in one of his I am-getting-goose bumps-over-science moments.  Try as I might, I simply can’t get goose bumps over hydrogen atoms.  Or even over carbon atoms or hydrocarbons or intermolecular bonds.  I am so ashamed.

We had just come back from watching a movie and were engaged in some light post-movie conversation.  ‘Don’t you think that the popcorn was too salty?’, ‘Theater drinks are harsh on my bladder, you know?’, ‘Did you see that woman with a week old baby sitting in the front row? -  that kind of light post-movie conversation.  One topic led to another and somehow I found myself yet again in the middle of an atomic subject.  

“Oh Sankar, you know that I think of nothing else on most days.  Explosion of that hydrogen atom on that fateful day billion years ago is the only thought that keeps me breathing” I replied with a solemn face.  I don’t know why I waste my sarcasm on him because he flicked it off as usual with a smile and continued “Just imagine Meena…if that atom hadn’t exploded, we wouldn’t be sitting here today.”  

Grave thought indeed!  If I believed for an instant that I could redeem myself for all these years of pleading ignorance in science, I would petition the UN this minute to build a Shrine in honor of that hydrogen atom.  Do you think it is too much?  A little over the top, may be?  With respect, I disagree.  

If Kollywood  actress Kushbu merits a temple in South India, why can’t this tiny hydrogen atom get a Shrine someplace where people like my husband can go on a personal Mecca each year and prostrate in gratitude?  But as I didn’t see redemption on the cards for me, I didn’t bother with the petition and only said “Not a single day goes by when I don’t offer my thanks to Great God Ganapathy for getting that atom to explode Sankar.”   Of course I meant it.  

As soon as our kids grew up enough to start walking (more like dawdling) on their own chubby little feet, my husband decided that it was time to introduce them to the fascinating world of Science.  He got us renewable annual family membership to a Science Museum and Planetarium in the city.  This place later became a second home to us.  

Every Saturday we would get in the car and go to this Science Museum.  The minute we entered the Museum, I would, by an unwritten rule of the land, assume charge of strollers, diaper bags, picnic lunch bags etc. while my husband would take charge of holding the chubby hands of the kids and walking them from exhibit to exhibit all the while explaining some scientific mumbo jumbo to them with great enthusiasm.  I have crystal clear memories of pushing a stroller full of bulging bags around the many pathways of that Museum making quick, mental notes of emergency exits and restroom locations.  If you think stroller pushing is easy, you should try navigating it inside their atom sized restrooms.  Then, you’ll know.  

Like clockwork, every half hour I would whine about him making me walk too much and we would all wander into an auditorium to sit and watch educational movies on scientific topics.  I clearly remember a show about a bunch of funny-looking carbon atoms that hang out with their buddies, nitrogen and hydrogen atoms, and do some gymnastic stuff together to form long chains.  It was totally weird but looking at the ecstasy on my husband’s face, you wouldn’t think so.

I can’t be 100% sure about it as my memory is not as good as it used to be (???!!!), but my firstborn’s first words in this world could very well have included ‘atom’ and ‘matter’.  But I am positive that she said ‘amma’ first.   At least I think she did.