When the Life Springs

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

When a top scientist blinded by his successful career and plenty of riches understands the true meaning of life. Read through the story to discover the revelation has brought in his life.

The majestic gates of The Harvard University opened as my car edged close. I was having a last minute quick glace through my prepared speech when I suddenly noticed that the then security men guarded University gates were replaced by completely automated ones. I realised a lot have changed since my last appearance at the University, some five years ago. I was invited to the University to conduct a talk on my recent success in the world of science. In the last two years, my reputation in the science community has elevated to an all new height with my prominent role in the Bio-war against the terrorists groups in Libya. Allied with leading chemists from all around the world, I was the Principal investigator of the project. Five years of incognito research and the subsequent outburst in Libya against the ISAAG (Independent States Allied against the Government) resulted in total eradication of the group. It was one of the first anti terrorist project in the world spearheaded by scientists alone with great impetus from NATO. As the PI of the project I soon rose to global fame, earned a respectable demeanour and huge sums. Soon after the success of the mission, I was nominated as the chief scientific advisor to anti terrorist programmes of NATO.
Now, as I arrived at the University building, I observed a surge of students, professors and a bustle of media waiting voraciously to grab my attention. The humble welcome I received made me remember the day when we at last accomplished our mission; with media and well wishers flooding my home and office with vehement remarks and compliments.

I was escorted to the auditorium where I was offered a comfy seat on the stage alongside the University Dean and Chancellor. I pondered in silence for a few minutes to recollect the points of my speech for one last time. The crowd threw me a round of applause as I marched to the podium, and gradually became silent as I started to speak.

“Science was my passion since childhood. Even the simplest of things happening around us sharpened my inquisition and emboldened my scientific thinking skills. I yearned to become a scientist in future. But, been brought up in a society giving primary importance to medicine and engineering I was also obliged to take either. But I resisted, because I have learned the power of chasing the dreams. Like Santiago of Alchemist, I followed my heart. It was totally an outrageous move where my relatives, parents and mentors criticised my choice. But I was optimistic because I was certain that it’s the only thing I can utilise my full potential. Now, here I am standing in front of you all with great pride and reverence, a successful scientist and the guardian of a happy family.” I halted for a while. The crowd offered me a warm ovation. I continued, “Once I was addressing a talk at CalTech, a Grad student asked me a very funny question. “What is the largest thing you can imagine?” I gave him a warm smile and told him its science. Everything that happens, everything that exists comes under the purview of science. So is our imagination, it’s a complex process involving chemical and neural stimulations and reflexes. Even science is capable of explaining abstract qualities like love, sympathy, compassion, envy, jealousy etc. These are nothing but chemically mediated events in our body. Some might even think Universe is the largest entity anyone can fathom but science also deals with Universe and the cosmos in a branch called Astrophysics. Sounds paradoxical, but the blatant truth is anything that you can imagine and beyond your imagination is science. It is that big” I finished with a note of excitement and I was impressed to observe the crowd was also equally excited and petrified. Unexpectedly, I saw a hand rising up from the crowd.
“Yes” I said with excitement.
“Sir, I am Nathan Hopkins pursuing Graduation in Molecular medicine at the School of Medicine and Research. I am not actually supporting your latter statement that abstract qualities like compassion and love are just limited to chemical signals in the body, there are certain things that cannot and will not be explained by science. Compassion, love and other humanly qualities have other dimensions which are not confined under the scientific roof.” He said matter-of-factly.
There was an air of unflinching confidence in his tone and a look of at most sincerity. “Lad, have you got any proof to stress your statement.” I said while correcting my collar mike.
“No sir”
“Then how can you counter my point? How could you say it’s totally baseless? You are a budding scientist and this one is quite a big blunder.” I knew it was insulting but that was the usual response anyone could expect to get during an official talk, when someone on errand speaks baselessly.
“If we could explain human qualities scientifically, why not the science community involving you didn’t even spend a single penny for the betterment of the people afflicted with Ebola, terrorism and all in Africa and elsewhere?” A drop of tear broke the shred of emotions dangling in his words. I understood the sanctity of his words, but before I could say something Nathan rushed out of the auditorium. I was really curbed by the boy’s innocence and in the meantime remained incorrigible with pride. The latter was so strong that I let go off the benign feeling and continued with my talk for another couple of hours. At the end of the talk I was congratulated by the Dean and by afternoon the diligent students of Harvard bid me farewell as I parted.

Daniel, my American driver was continuously speaking about the spectres he saw inside the University gates, which were otherwise closed to outsiders. “The buildings are huge, the garden and lawn were finely trimmed and maintained. I wonder which craftsman could orchestrate such a spectacular fountain.” I nodded continuously to his jibber-jabber but was only partially aware of what he was telling. I glanced at my new Rolex and thought how correct James Watson had once said, “Science is a big money making business”.
My cell phone gave a beep at around quarter past three and I opened the Whatsapp to see my son Siddharth with his friends at South Africa. Siddharth was twenty three and was my only son. He was a post graduate student in mass & print communication at Yale University. ‘At twenty three I didn’t even had a passport, and now my son is flying from country to country like a bird’ I reckoned with a gentle smile.
Siddharth was gone to Africa for the last four months to pursue his PG project. I kept on thinking about my childhood, my parents, my research, money and my family for a very long time that I didn’t actually remember when I dozed off. It was well past seven in the evening when I woke up from sleep to find that we were nearing my home. It was a tiresome six hour long road trip from my home to Harvard and back home I saw my wife, my love; Lillie waiting at the doorstep. She collected my coat and hanged it on the door, and straight away planted a small kiss on my cheeks.
“How was the lecture?” she said as she prepared for the dinner.
“It was pretty good and Harvard has changed a lot since my last visit” I said as I managed to switch the TV channel to Fox News.

Lillie was always punctual like the bird chirping from the clock. Exactly at eight O’ clock the dining table was all set to dine. I used to tease Lillie ever since I met her, for she never skipped a thing. But silently I pretty much adore her attitude.
“Sid is in South Africa.” She said as she sliced a piece of meat.
 “Yeah, he messaged me. He said it’s pretty cool out there.” I said.
“I don’t like Africa, it’s a savage with people afflicted with trauma every now and then. You know, I wasn’t actually supportive to his idea to fly to Africa. It’s because of you he fled or else my kid would have been home now.”
It’s been four months since Sid’s flight and till day this is one of Lillie’s regular complaints at the dining table. Perhaps, the vacant chair around the other side of the table made her think about Sid and it was my Herculean task to console her until it’s time for the next meal.

 About five months after Sid’s departure, the daily complaints of Lillie continued and I became more and more busy each passing day. So does the loneliness of Lillie increased and her problems also became severe. She began to nag at me more furiously and so does her complaints about me for Sid’s trip to Africa.
Sundays were the only days I found the bed comfortable and I would usually stick to it till late afternoon, skipping breakfast. My cell phone began to ring at the most unusual time of the day. I indolently fumbled for my phone in the darkness of the room and when I at last managed to pick up, it was 5:15AM.
“Hello, this is an emergency call from Libya. I am Arthur Stevens, working as volunteer in an NGO serving the afflicted in Libya.” The tone of the caller was too hoarse and quick. I was sleepy that I couldn’t even check the number flashed on the screen. “I found this number of you from Mr. Siddharth’s pocket. We are really sorry to inform you that he is no more.” Continued the caller.
“Alas, what did you say? Did you just say something about my son?” I said with annoyance. I was suddenly awake when I heard about my son.
“He was diagnosed with Ebola yesterday and was very critical. We tried our best. But we were helpless. The proceedings have started and we apologize that we have no provision to embalm and send your son.” The line was dead abruptly. I tried calling the same number back but wasn’t connecting at all.
Suddenly, I looked Lillie who was still sleeping unaware of all that happened right now. The moment was unbearable for me. I felt like weeping my heart out, but then I realized that I should be the one consoling and imparting strength to her. I was dying in and out, inside I was struggling to accept the fact and to tell my mind ‘it’s not delusion, its reality’. Outside, I was wondering hard how to tell and console Lillie. The realisation hit me hard soon and I was no way prepared to resist my emotions. A sudden loud weep emanated from my mouth involuntarily and that broke the torturing silence of the night.
Lillie woke up suddenly wiping her eyes. “What is it?” She switched on the lights and it streaked inside my eyes. I felt my eyes burning with tears and heart burning with emotions. The memories started to haunt me as I lost control of my mind. “HEY. HAVE YOU GONE NUTS? WHAT HAPPENED?” she roared and abruptly shook my body. I hugged her tight without saying a word. My face was all red and wet with tears. I tried to speak but failed. Again and again it happened and at last; “Si.. Si.. Sid, our Sid is gone, he is no more. There.. was a call from Libya.” I stammered. I didn’t have the strength to explain her everything. I slipped my cell phone to her hands. She immediately opened the recorded calls. I thought the news would be heart breaking to her. But instead she remained stoned without even flicking her eyes. The moment was too painful and unbearable. I began to feel something heavy at the bottom of my heart. Lillie never cursed me nor shed a drop of tear after hearing the news. Suddenly, Lillie fainted to my hands. I cried for help. But the heaviness I felt at the bottom of my heart became more and more severe and at last I began to feel the reality slipping away from me and lights around me dimming. All I could feel was the heavy heart and finally that too began to fade.

The coherent memories of Siddharth grappled my sub-consciousness and his unseen cadaver was a nightmare for my overwhelmed mind. I regained my consciousness in a desperate attempt to push aside his burning memories. I observed the well lit hood with transparent glasses equipped with sophisticated machines to which I belonged. In the shade of light I could see a woman emerging towards my bedside. The nurse with the white apron pushed me gently towards the bed and instructed me to take rest. Immediately, “Where is my wife?” I enquired in a rather hushed voice. She tried to walk away as if weren’t aware about it. But, I held her hands suddenly and strongly. “What happened to her?”
“I am sorry. We couldn’t save her. It was a massive cardiac arrest.”
My hands loosened from her’s as I began to feel the same heaviness in the heart. A few days ago, I was probably the happiest man on Earth with enough riches and a loving family. But now suddenly I felt completely alone with all the comforts. Money could neither save my son nor my wife. Even Science felt like a complete trash to me. Technology is nothing but a big bluff, consuming and helpless at times. ‘Love, compassion and other humanly qualities have other dimensions….’ Nathan’s unflinching words echoed continuously in my rattled mind. I closed my eyes tightly to suppress the insurmountable pain, regret and pressure. I didn’t know when I dozed off or didn’t even know, if at all.

It took me more than a week to recover from the colossal tragedy and to regain my piece of mind. Lillie’s and Siddharth’s memories stopped haunting me at least. But, Nathan’s words was a continuous echo ever since. The scientist in me started collecting information about Africa from various sources and it all pointed to the fact that it’s a stricken continent with maladies and terrorism. Two- thirds of the population struggle for their survival. The disaster management system is seriously dysfunctional and there is a blatant ignorance of human lives. Considering the pity and offensive conditions of normal African populations and the way in which science scaling heights each passing second, I began to feel Nathan was right. Indeed, human qualities have other dimensions unscaled by science. ‘Just because something is not been identified doesn’t mean its absence.’ I felt. Then, for the first time in my life I accepted a fact that’s not been scientifically proved.

Information was passed to Nathan Hopkins to appear at the Dean’s office. As he arrived, I earnestly guided him out of the office for a walk in the lawn. Nathan kept an expressionless look on his face. I embraced him and said “You are right. I am sorry.”
“No sir. It’s not like that. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I told what I think is right.” He was stammering because sometimes the reality is far incredible than fiction.
I told him all that unfolded in my life during a short span of time and how his words changed the way of my perception.
“We have a team of five here willing to work for the betterment of humanity and we have been thinking all these days on how to go about things. Sir, if you are really planning to serve the crippled in Africa we step with you sir, with all our heart.” For the first time in my life I saw his face glowing with respect and love. “We have done extensive research about the NGO activities in Africa. Currently, it is headed by Arthur Stevens, the one who informed you about Sid. But in the recent two years the activities are very limited due to lack of financial and medical aid. WHO has unanimously withdrawn from the continent three years ago and the reason is not still clear. The death rates due to maladies are on a hike.” Nathan took a complete breath and stared at my face for a response.
“Let me see what I can do. Meanwhile, you guys do more thorough research.” I said patting his shoulder.

Relentlessness; the quality that helped me to achieve all I dreamt. The scientist in me had awakened. A tiresome flight from NYC took me to Geneva, the place where the WHO headquarters is located. It was my first visit to WHO headquarters but still the architectural brilliance gave me déjà vu.  The beautifully crafted stairs led me to the chambers of the Director General of WHO. Dr.Alexendra Gillong, a lean white complexioned woman probably in her early sixties invited me to her chambers. We exchanged pleasantries as both of us comforted around the desk. “Dr.Vyshakh, we are really honoured by your visit. But there are certain things that our association has been following and we cannot simply change according to others’ whims.” She spoke in the boldest of her Greek accent.
“But there has to be a reason for your retrieval from the zone right? What is it? If there is anything I could do about it I can. But WHO should be operational in Africa. We cannot let more lives to death.” There was matter-of-factness in the atmosphere and I knew it was only a beginning and there’s a long way ahead.
“Three years ago, we stopped our operations in Africa. Two of our teams working in Libya were kidnapped. Still, we got no clues as of who did it nor where they are. We put pressure over NATO but instead of finding our people you just blasted off all without mercy. We cannot any longer co-operate with NATO in that issue. We are sorry. Who knows what will happen next if we start once again. We cannot take unwanted risks.” She flipped her spectacles up.
“If that is the case, I have nothing else to say. Sorry for bothering.” I said as I managed to walk out of the chamber.

I was completely submerged in thoughts during my return flight to NYC. The complete disapproval of my requests by the WHO left me without clues of my next move. The talk with Dr.Alexendra Gillong has proved the rumours of a silent dispute between WHO and NATO right beyond question. But as the Scientific Advisor to NATO, I firmly believed that I could do something to at least melt the ice.
NATO headquarters was isolated from the bustle of the city and always remained a place of top confidentiality. I was escorted by an entourage to the building in a military caravan from the gates. I had requested for an appointment with Sir Lee Cunningham, the Commander in Chief of NATO. Sir Lee was present at the main entrance of the building for welcoming me. It was my first visit to the NATO headquarters in the last six months. Sir Lee, a tall statured man standing more than six feet with a well manicured beard was a stern and straight forward officer. He threw me a warm hand shake and I felt the coldness of his hands.
Inside the vastness of Sir Lee’s cabin, I observed the walls; it was decorated with Italian frescoes on one side, which were reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance and the other side exhibited medals and shields earned by Sir Lee all during his eventful career. I was so enthralled by the beauty of walls of his chamber that I couldn’t resist staring at them. “But, we cannot risk our people.” Sir Lee said as he made a slow sip of the hot coffee. There was a growing report of the threat against scientists in the Bio War from two years ago. Ever since, I was asked to admit the security protection by NATO, which I always refused. “Conditions in Africa are getting worse each passing day, WHO had stopped their activities, no medicine, no financial aid and nothing. I believe if we could do something about it, we can better their lives.” I said.
“What do you propose to do without WHO aid?” He poured another round of coffee to his cup.
“Sir, I believe if you let our scientist team reunite one more time, we could work for the crippled, this time not by killing but by nursing.” Sir Lee Cunningham was a man too hard to convince. `He figured out questions, objections and excuses to whatever I said.
“Since, you are pretty much aware about an active threat to all your lives, we cannot risk formulate such a team at the moment.” He said. One thing about Sir Lee was, once he said something; that’s it. I glanced at my watch, it was more than an hour of conversation and still the meeting hadn’t reached anywhere. “Meanwhile, NATO cannot let you leave to Africa as long as you remain as our Scientific Advisor.”
Suddenly, it turned out to be certain that my position at NATO wasn’t meant for taking serious decisions but for simply dancing to the whims and fancies of the officers. “If my position at NATO is a constraint for doing what I think is right, I am happy to renounce all the titles offered to me by NATO.” I said sternly.

I had mixed feelings when each door of possibilities closed at my face. After a very long time I began to feel like a normal citizen without painstaking responsibilities. But, I couldn’t be content with the current roll of events. The string of my deep thoughts was broken as Nathan started to speak; “Sir, we talked with Mr. Stevens about your plans to work in Africa. He is very much happy to include us in his team. But now, since all our plans have met a dead end, what are we going to do sir?”
After a moment of total silence I said; “It doesn’t matter who are with me or who are against me, I have a good fortune left with me to live my entire life lavishly. But, here for the first time in my life; not for the damn sake of science, not for the selfish sake of my career, not for the sake of money, but only for the love of humanity and for the love of a harmonious world, I am going to spend the rest of my life and all my fortune for the afflicted lives in Africa. That is my word.”
I reckoned the solemnity of my words inspired Nathan and his friends and gave them a fresh source of energy to accomplish the indomitable task ahead.

Two months of intense discussions and planning over Skype with Mr. Stevens and among our team gave us a vivid picture of the real lives in Africa. Moreover, it helped us a lot in understanding where we should spend money and on what. As a first step, I hired a team of fifteen doctors from around the world for medical assistance in Africa. It was really a difficult job. ‘But sometimes there are things only money can get.’ I smirked with utmost happiness as our flight took off from the NYC International Airport.

Twelve long hours of flight took us to Libya, the land where my son rests. A toll of emotions rattled my mind. For a while I was taken back to my good old day; the fruitful days with my family and my innocent childhood all forced a drop of tear from my eyes. We were welcomed at Airport by Mr. Stevens and his accomplices. He offered me a warm hand shake. I whispered “For the love of humanity.” He gave me a warm smile and embraced me “Indeed.”

Long fifteen years of hard work, struggle and sacrifice changed my way of life and the way I perceive completely. I became too old looking and unattractive. Years of hardship turned my hair almost grey and my skin with scales.
There was complete silence as I walked towards the podium to receive The Nobel Prize for Peace. Varied images of life and the struggle for sustenance flashed through my mind. I felt a lump form at my throat as I readied to deliver the message to the world.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, you may know me only as a scientist who blasted off people to preserve harmony. But I did that just to gain money and fame. When I was a kid, I dreamt of achieving The Nobel sometime in my life. Science was my choice. I loved it and it loved me back. I became a successful scientist, earned money and with that I became a successful husband and a dad. But I grievously failed to be a human with ‘E’. All my intentions were to make money and remain successful. I believed money could get me everything I want. But I realised my mistake very late in life, when I lost my family and when I became alone in this world. With all my fortune I couldn’t save the life of son and wife. Neither money nor Science could take off the loneliness I felt. At that very unfortunate moment in life, two things gave me the strength and peace of mind to excavate the humanity in me. One of my colleague and student Nathan Hopkins taught me human qualities like love, compassion et.al have other dimensions which are unexplainable by the science we worship. Indeed I strongly believe it is true by virtue of my experience. His words kicked me off from the epitome of pride and made me realise the purpose of humanity. Second, Mr. Stevens never motivated me with his words. Instead, the smile that flashed on his face every now and then said me the story of a man who sacrificed everything to uplift his fellow beings. I owe this Nobel to him. His smile made me understand the wisdom of love, compassion and care. These are values that no scientific journals could harness. You have to inculcate the values in your heart. Love and compassion are not just complex neural and chemically mediated events. They are simple; for instance compassion is the smile you give when one is down and helping hand you throw at him. With compassion comes love that is unconditional and divine. Neither money nor scientific knowledge was successful to teach me the simplicity of life. Now, I take pride in identifying as a humanist, not a scientist. Today, I would like to say all the people in this world just one thing. Just love without conditions and care without expectations and this is what my sixty eight years of life taught me. Thank you.”
The crowd delivered a standing ovation as I finished my speech and through the crowd, quite distinctly I saw the hypnotising smile of Mr. Stevens.

Submitted: July 04, 2017

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