Very few people who know me, know that I wanted to be an astronaut when I was 10 years old. I had spent my childhood watching Discovery channel and National Geographic channel while other children of my age group were busy with cartoons. My favorite shows included ones hosted by physicist Michio Kaku explaining about space-time wrapping and Morgan Freeman taking about wormholes. And this was when I was just 12 years old. I was extremely fascinated by astronomy and found the skies and stars much more interesting that my science text books. Sometimes I would spend my summer nights lying on the cot and watching the stars figuring out all the constellations I could see and if I were lucky, I would spot a meteor or a comet. The sky was worth gazing a decade back. When I was 14, my father bought me a wonderful star dial. It could help you identify stars, constellations, planets etc with the help of coordinates and time of night, month and year. It could help you track planets and comets almost daily, but I could only partially learn how to use it. Around the same time I also issued a book from my school library(which was very surprising as my school had all except relevant books) which had compilation of all historical data about science known to man. It was no ordinary book, it had the tiniest details including dates of birth of scientist who made littlest contribution to science.
I read The brief history of time by Hawking when was 15, my classmates and teachers made fun of me and sometimes even discouraged me from venturing into the knowledge that was supposedly not meant for a school kid. But I continued and thanks to my parents, they never stopped me from going beyond the subject and always kept the fire of curiosity alive in me. But suddenly things changed. My bond with astronomy and theoretical physics snapped. I had to study for JEE. I had to get into a good college and for that I needed to invest myself to bombard myself with information at a rate which I couldn’t process so that I can compete with those brighter than me. Obviously, I broke down in the middle. Not that I didn’t enjoy what I was being taught but neither did I loved it much. But there is not much to blame on anyone, it’s just that way Indian education system has been. The spirit of inquiry and curiosity is crushed by money-making coaching centers who are obsessed with results in the name of greater good by pushing rot knowledge down the throats of students. They make problem solving animals out of students, I must say!
By the time I got into college, I had already given up on my interest subjects. Studying pure sciences in India was not economically feasible and I had not written SAT(nor was I mature enough to be on my own at 17)! In the top-tier college, I tried to find interest and meaning in Chemical Engineering which I did but always something was missing. Something that has gone away with time and can’t be changed. I know, what has happened has been the best but I wish I had a chance to make it better. I wish I had kept that spark alive!
Seems like space and time did wrap this moment of realization. I hope I find a way to pull out of the horizon or maybe get inside in one piece without being stretched like a spaghetti if for the better.