Khrishen and I were walking towards the car. The students parking lot is at a distance from the Student Carrels and Khrishen's lab. I ogle at the first car, a BMW coupe parked right in the Faculty parking. I almost want to touch it. But then my eyes veer to silver Lexus posing at a different angle. Oh... and how could I miss the Porsche GT Carerra, purring silently in the other corner. I'm thinking "What sheer propulsion it'll give. Raw, smooth power!"... "Do you want to touch it?" sneers Khrishen in his Mauritian French accent. Not quite Poirot, but pleasant anyway. "Nah... it's the thrust of the engine beckons me" I retort... and we smile.
Khrishen is a year into the graduate student life and I a day into it. Judging graduate student lives is tough. At twenty four, people have set ideas of what constitutes a good day. Khrishen is happy with his Sunday. He did some clean immuno-staining today and gathered three other papers supporting his hypothesis. I was reading papers... one paper... all day. We had to read this paper about the worm C elegans for the Genes and Development thread. I was floored. I know the mouse cortex. The fly is fly, I admit. But this lowly nematode is quite something! Horvitz, Brenner and so on were magicians... Amma and Papa were happy this morning when I spoke to them for half an hour, stupid Noshi was asleep... And we were thinking about these "important" things, happy with what a lot of people would call a geeky, nerdy life!
Khrishen's car is a nice Nissan Sentra. It makes his Schumacher turns well enough. I saw one of those the day he picked me up at the airport. The car nearly flew off the ramp. Nearly. But he doesn't drive rashly. He drives at the normal Freeway speed, 80 miles an hour. Everyone does! We scowl jealousy as Mercedes, BMWs and Audies zoomed past touching 100mph and over as we hurtled home in the Sentra. But we are sane PhD students aren't we? We control the primal urge for powerful satiation, like so so many other desires. The freeway is like a playground for automotive enthusiasts. One's need for speed is fulfilled.
I was hugging my bag instead of letting it rest at my feet. It's a beautiful present from a good friend. More importantly, it holds the newest love of my life: A sassy, smart macbook and an iPod touch. I'm lost in a train of thoughts "I like my computer, just what anyone can want.... looks good, is smart and very cooperative... maybe I should call her... shhh.... FOCCUUSSS... so what was that you have to do?... write to Yun Li about the rotation, have you read her paper?.... on what basis do you think she'll reccommend you to Parada you DiCk?! And the paper for tommorrow? You'll look the dumbest in class"...
And just then this less than glossy white car with a black hood seems to be veering funnily to the left, without showing the indicator. I wasn't even watching though aware of the cars moving around me, though we were in the fastest, leftmost lane. Something was wrong. It happenned in a split second. The white car slammed into the door next to my seat. Khrishen didn't even notice it coming. The loud thud bore a lot of force. We were inches from the waist high solid concrete divider. The crash pushed us within millimeters of it. At 80mph, that's scary intimacy! We swerved and got back in the lane. I looked back to see the drivers. They slowed down and went out of sight. The glasses were all intact. Didn't see a dent on the inside. But we had been hit pretty hard. Adrenaline takes more than seconds to set your heart racing. But within those seconds you feel a V8 engine thudding within you.
We took the next exit off the freeway and parked by a closed tyre shop to assess the damages. The doors the right of the car got glued to the body. They wouldn't move. I was thinking, how much cost would one incur for this. It wasn't even our fault. Frigging Junkies! Now how are we going to pick up the new incoming student from Chennai day after? While the car gets repaired I could volunteer to make the phonecalls to apartments for the new guy's accomodation we were planning. So I'll have to do this between classes. I won't be able to do it in the afternoon. And the papers... Shit!
We headed back home. And then it started coming back to me. What all I had experienced minutes ago. I could easily have been organic smush in a metal and concrete mortar and pestle. Had the car edged into us with a fraction more force, I wouldn't be here! And then all the repairs, classes, reading papers and lab rotations would blow to heaven... or wherever.
I started revaluating what I'm doing, why I'm doing it and if I'm truly happy. I asked myself, if I would have died today, would I have died happy or droned on to an unsatisfied pitiable death.
I think I would have been happy afterall. I'm doing what I like, where I like and at a nice time in life too. Not just the people I'm close to, most of the people I know, have little to complain about me. I don't either! Few, if any would think that my death was a blessing to the world.
But then, time is the critical entity that I haven't been appreciating so much. I need to do all I can as best I can as soon as I can! The phrase "Life's too short" and the words "petty existence" suddenly seem to be in perspective. I hope none of you need a car crash to realise this! :)
Monday, August 25, 2008