Nobel Prize had been a childhood fascination for me, from the days I began collecting trophies in school quizzes and gully-debates. While Mother Teresa and Rabindra Nath Tagore seemed too ethereal, Hargobind Khorana seemed achievable and I began studying medicine. And when I first opened my email account on Hotmail, one of my first emails was directed to firstname.lastname@example.org scripted in a broken english,
“Dear Dr. Khorana,
I had been fascinated by your research from childhood, and wish to join your lab. Though I am in process of application to your university and have taken all requisite tests, there are meagre chances to join your prestigious university. Please accept me as Eklavya if not Arjuna, by just replying this email.
Man never replied. Eklavya turned Devdas. Cursed the old man with abuses gulping bouts of drinks. Years later, I figured out man didn’t know how to reply emails. He didn’t even reply to White House when they conferred him with National Medal of Science. A white house representative had to track him down on foot to make him attend.
Anyway, I figured out, to win a Nobel- you have to become a cynic psychopath scientist with a french beard, an Einsteinian hairstyle, a test-tube in hand, and sitting in a US-lab. And here I was! Sitting in a prime lab in United States, with similar attire and outlook, and joined the most cynic professor’s lab. Man kept snails as his pets, who even followed his orders! My research progressed with snail pace, and I would have taken more Vodka shots in those test-tubes than performing experiments. Well, that was cynic!
One day my professor asked, “So Kumar! How is your research going?”
In serendipidity, I answered, “I am making a mathematical model of snail behaviour.” Huh!
“Hey! That’s awesome. Let’s meet up this wednesday and see it.”
WTF? Mathematical model of snail behaviour!!! What the hell is that?
Greatest solution to all problems existed even those days some 12 years back. Baba Google!
With a good bout of plagiarism and copy-paste Java animation programme, I was ready with a simulation program on snail movement. My professor clapped when the snail model moved dodgily on the computer screen. When I discussed the model with an IITian friend, man wrote his first mathematical paper on some ‘stochastic behaviour’ and scribbled my name in acknowledgement. The snail shit was superhit!
But, I knew Nobel would never be awarded for decoding a snail’s behaviour. It has to be a ground-breaking research which will shake the world. Something like, “The formula to kill the cancer”, “the secret of addiction”, “the special gene responsible for woman’s abnormal behaviour”, “the neuron which excites on seeing the porn”, “why Katappa killed Bahubali?”.
I quit the US Lab, and began my journey to ground-breaking research, breaking a coconut in one of the famous south Indian temples. The priest said looking at me, “You have a bright future waiting for you, all you lack is focus.” Priest was damn right!
Focus! I googled and ordered the famous book by Daniel Goleman “FOCUS”.
I don’t know if I misunderstood him, but to achieve a target, I understood I have to be close to the target. Left the country, weathered the snow, and landed for good in Land of Nobel. Searching for the clerk in Nobel committee who will get things done for me, and assures, “Kaam ho jaayega” (The work will be done!)
Norway! Here I am! Come on Nobel, now lay on me!
In a dinner with Nobel laureate physicist Anthony Leggett (who incidently was my room-mate’s guide) in 2004, he asked, “Doc! You would know it better. Isn’t virus a live moving nanoparticle which targets our cells? Why the hell people are crazy for designing one to target this or that, when its right in front of us? Leave it. I don’t know anything about this.” And he laughed away.
Years later, in 2012, Nature published ‘virus as nano-particles’, what they called ground-breaking research. Beautiful minds toss such ideas on dinner table!