Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Stem Cell Shenanigans
If you have read Huck Finn (Mark Twain’s novel?), you would probably remember that famous passage near the end of the novel where tom sawyers in reply to Huck’s questioning will say “but what is the fun in doing anything the easy way? Intentionally making it harder to do is the only way to enjoy doing it” I agree with Tom Sawyer, although Huck does have some choice abuse for him, it’s more fun to reach around your head to touch your nose, rather than touch it directly. All my life, I have followed this simple dictum of toms to squeeze more fun out of life, out of even the mundane everyday things by adding a little bit of spice and novelty to it. Case in point, my recent fun time at the most boring of events- a scientific conference dedicated to stem cell research. If you thought scientist were all (mostly) stuffy, old (bald) males, who talk to each other in incomprehensible jargon, you are right, they are and they do. But occasionally, into that small and exclusive club of super minds, someone like me gatecrashes. And what do I do? I milk them for all the fun I can get.
Anyway to start at the beginning, I spent the last couple of days, in a stem cell conclave of India’s best and brightest minds working in stem cell research. And I forgot to add, India’s most boring too. Besides being entirely male dominated filed, there was not a single good looking female to time pass with. I was bored out of my skull, after just the morning/pre-lunch session on day one and was wondering how much more I could stand of this till I either escaped or got some diversion or other to pass the time. And the only way I could get some harmless fun was to look out for some unfortunate innocent to troll. And as luck would have it, I got both my wishes rolled into the one, in the guise of pretty trainee journalist from the Asian College of Journalism, (the journalism school run by the Hindu newspaper group?) who had been sent out to that conference to write an article on it. She and I seemed to zero in on each other like guided rockets and after just a few minutes of pointed questions from her, I picked up the fact that she had absolutely no clue about what was going on in there. She had not done her homework and to turn up to a stem cell conference blindly and start understanding the advanced discussions going on in there, would have challenged the genius of an Einstein. And this girl was clearly not up to that level. Perfect opportunity for me to have some fun, I reasoned and launched into her.
She had picked up a few words of jargon from the morning session and to show that she could talk the talk she let loose with something about how the cells culture together? And that was my cue. I launched into the thickest jargon I could think of at the spur of the moment in explaining to how two stem cells which are fated to meet each other, are drawn near, meet, mate and multiply on a Petri dish. And how it always breaks our heart to separate them into different culture tubes. I could see she was not swallowing this wholly, but hey she stood around for more than ten minutes listening to all of this without moving away or calling me on it and finally I burst out into laughter. I mean, I couldn’t take it anymore. I apologized to her for pulling her leg and as a sign of my contrition offered to get her the soup (from the lunch line) which she had missed by listening to my interesting take on stem cell proliferation. And I offered her my card to call me later if she needed any sound bytes or authentic info on stem cell research and I promised that I wouldn’t play the same prank on her twice. Something else maybe, but not this again.
And then in the afternoon it was time for our presentation. Remember what I told earlier about doing things different? Well, that’s what I did. For a start, if you have seen any scientific presentations, you would have seen serious faced men, impeccably dressed in suits go up there, stand (hide) behind the lectern and deliver their lecture like schoolmasters lecturing students. Me? I went the opposite way. I removed my impeccably tailored suit jacket (yes, I was suited up all morning…and need I say it? I looked awesome in a suit), rolled up my shirt sleeves, loosened my tie, unbuttoned the top button, borrowed a remote to help me change the slides and shunning the corner, for when I used to dance, my instructor Archana Ma’m used to tell me “use the stage, the depth, the length, use it fully” and remembering her training, I did indeed use that stage- I owned it, I was everywhere, in the face of the audience, making my point. Although the Strict professorial types in the audience might not have liked it much, I really woke them up with my PPT slide’s (sample- opening credit included) and had them all staring avidly at the screen.
So that was the highlight of my weekend and to come back to the opening Para where I talked about having fun everywhere? A stem cell conference would be the last place anyone can look to have fun and it challenged even my ingenuity to squeeze a little fun out of it. But that’s the beauty of it; you can look for fun in even the most boring of places if you loosen up your inhibitions. We can’t all be climbing Everest every day or go bungee jumping as part of work. We have to wake up in the morning, head to our routine jobs daily and anything done routinely is sure to get boring pretty soon, so the only solution is to change our attitude (if we can’t change what we are doing) and look to have a little fun- here, there, everywhere. If life gives you lemons, squeeze it to the pips to make juice. And that’s my motto to live life by. What’s yours?