A couple of days ago, I had the honour of meeting Mr. Prince Ganai, a Kashmiri theoretical physicist who is a member of the faculty at NIT Srinagar. He’s a really cool guy! Must be in his late thirties. When I told him about Phoenix, he was very interested, and he said he would like to get some boxes to use in the labs at NIT Srinagar. I told him to get in touch with Ajith sir when he returned.

I was previleged to spend enough time with him to talk about a variety of topics. We talked about the problem with the education system in India, specifically Engineering. He was of the opinion that with the current system, BTech was a waste of time! He stressed on the importance of the need for flexibility and academic freedom in the curriculum.

When I told him about my bitter academic experiences at NIT Calicut, he wasn’t surprised. He agreed with me that too much importance is given to exams – first interim, second interim, tutorials, end semesters – he said it’s nonsense! He also felt that the semester system doesn’t help learning, because re-learning is an important part of learning. In the present system, you just end up with scraps here and there, while preparing for the exams, and you soon forget whatever little you learnt because you have to get on with the next semester. The truth is that at this level, you have to spend some time reflecting on what you have learnt, to savour its beauty and enjoy the whole learning process. The rigid and hectic schedule of BTech doesn’t provide for that.

Well, apart from education, he talked about food, customs, society, philosophy… just name it! It was great to listen to him – such a dynamic person. He talked about the need for our society to rid itself of its rigid outlook and adopt the scientific approach to life. “We hear people complaining about Westernisation of India. Actually, the truth is that India is becoming Scientific, and rational.”

Mr.Ganai told me about his passion for Theoretical Physics. That it is an exciting intellectual adventure. He is at IUAC to carry out some computations for some project in Theoretical Physics that they are carrying out here. He said that when he had some work to do in Theoretical Physics, he usually did it during late night/early morning, because “you need solitude, as you sometimes have to talk to someone who is not there!” It must indeed be an exciting journey to explore deep into the laws of Nature. It’s a pity that we don’t have many such people in our country. Why should the Europeans and Americans have all the fun?