Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Soon father was coming home with little and big packages of gadgets - valves, transistors, cells and so on. Papers and journals and correspondences; the car lay under a tarpaulin cover beneath our banyan tree.
The garage had a work-bench and cupboard fitted in. A padlock was fitted up to the door for security - the keys never left father. We were never allowed in except when he was about. He stopped going to the club.  
He had his project laid out - phase by phase - with him, thinking was doing.
“Well,” he said, ‘this is Phase-1: what do we know about man? What can we do with him and for him?
“First, man can do many things and does them, but inefficiently and clumsily. One of our third rate machines can do better. This is the age of technology and we just do not have enough technical people, do we? Not enough of the really first-class people, at any rate, not just technicians. Of course we have a few top scientists, a great doctor, or engineer, physicist or chemist, one in a million, here and there. If we have really to progress we cannot wait for the great scientists to be born, one in so many years, and then wait till the chap has lived long enough to learn all the mistakes of his teachers, and then till he has learnt the art of getting himself recognised by nincompoops who pay him, avoid accident or injury and infection and of kicking the bucket at the crucial time, and all that, no wonder, the phenomenon of a great scientist  is so rare. Even breeding experiments cannot guarantee against the accidents of life.
“Now, you nitwits, just see what we have done with the few top people we have - we have trodden the moon; replaced the heart; snatched the secrets of the brain; nature’s accidents we have turned into certainties. But look at the labour, the number of different specialists required to collaborate for the simplest of projects: physicist, chemist, physician, engineer and so on just for those two steps on the moon; and then think of the delays in mutual understanding, bickerings, back-bitings and back-scratchings and slidings and butterings and blabberings that are needed to bring these Idiots together; and all this waste in the name of human weaknesses.
“Just imagine the time and labour saved, accuracy and  predictability achieved  if we were to have just one machine, which is at once an engineer, doctor, physicist, teacher and so on; the whole integrated into one compact whole: just one successful model - and the pipe-line would do the rest - a steady supply of multi-purpose scientists.
“Here, then is the summary-sheet,” he took out a paper and read out. We listened spellbound.
1. All study requires proper technique and technology - anything else is bunkum.  
2. Changing things in a predictable is the only way and proof of understanding them - anything else is descriptive poetry.
3. Scientists, especially of this age, are the only ones competent to study anything worthwhile.
4. Being human, scientists possess disadvantages - accidental and inbuilt frailties - frailty, euphemism for stupidity, inaccuracy, unpredictability, inefficiency and so on. Their coming about is now left to the whims of blind nature; and their survival equally dependent on many, still, unknown variables. There is great danger that man will perish before he understand himself; and how can he understand himself if all scientists are dead at one and same time in some holocaust or other?
5. There is, therefore, urgent need for a ‘Total Techno-Scientist, an epitome of all available contemporary science and technology. The brain first, and then the suitable and variable executive apparatus at its disposal.  
6. Study of man by man - how can it be done excepting by multidisciplinary approach - what hope of multidisciplinary integration by dithering idiots with emotions, jealousies and greeds, and who cannot even understand one another at a game of bridge without kicking one another under the table? No, man can only be studied by something better than himself, by a machine that is devoid of his faults, and so:
“Project: Study of Man “Phase: I - Objective - To produce a model of a Total Techno-scientist. “Priority: Produce a model of one specialist, engineer or doctor as a simple basic model.”
He leaned back. The paper was liberally scored in red ink and decorated with exclamation and question marks.
“Well,” he said, “that's the first thing to do. Even an idiot can see it. Don't you agree,” he glared at us.
We took the hint and agreed.
However, Sankar wondered how man can be studied, if feelings and emotions and all that was discarded, and he ceases to be man?
“That is the paradox - verbal,though, thank God!” said father. “The point is accurate observation; these are first necessities for any study, let alone the study of feelings and such other stuff. Real study, I mean, not poetry or social statistics.
“Moreover, we do not have a fully integrated transforming instrument - and all study can only be done in terms of change, controlled transformation of nature and that includes man. One integrated transforming unit is the only way to study change from many angles at the same time.
“Now, take one example; our street and what happens to it: One day some fellows make the road; next day another set of chaps arrive and dig it up to lay the cables; after a few days a different set for digging up for drains and water pipes; then before the road repair chaps arrive, the pot holes are full of water and mosquitoes; by the time they have bitten enough people and spread disease before the DDT spray chaps arrive; and then the doctor and his pills - just the story of one street and what we do with it - all because we do not have in the pipe line a total techno-scientist who can do all these things simultaneously, see!
“Take the doctor's work - full of incoordination and personal errors, clinical conferences and bunkum, and for producing one nincompoop we spend seven or eight years and then, too, not enough of them. But if we had one model - a Toto-Doctor; and a number of toto-doctors, as many as you want in a matter of days; and then their further improvement; you see present teaching involves one good doctor teaching his students not only the accurate things he has learnt but many of his errors and stupidities, too. But the Toto-Doctor would be the best thing to train and make further improved editions. So why not we take up this as our first model!
“It is simple. The Toto-Doctor’s brain will incorporate all the best in contemporary medicine and surgery - detecting and demolishing infection; biochemical analyses and simultaneous homeostatic induction and so on. Avoid this jumble sale called doctoring by chaps, some who cannot see clearly, others who can't hear, others can't count, and all doctors trained by other equally faulty mentors. A Toto-Doctor can clean up a street, in a few minutes, of all infections and their sources!
The Toto-Doctor will avoid human errors - inefficiency, leaving things unfinished; lack of simple-minded thoroughness and so on. And then the Toto-Engineer and so on and their integration into the Toto-Techno-Scientist! No! Man is unfit to be put in charge of studying such a complex thing as himself: he has no capacity to follow things to their logical conclusion - I bet that not a single doctor eats or drinks the way his physiology book teaches him: So, that’s settled!
I looked at him: an ape was interlocked with a laughing child. And now the ape was getting to be fully in charge: It had come to become known by me, and I looked and let kindness look on.
Father sank himself into his papers, absent-mindedly squaffed his coffee, and bade us good -night.
He was not raving and he was dead serious about it all and he had the competence. Inventive genius was in the family, though it did not flower out to the degree of success, exuberance and recognition which father achieved. Grandpa not only minister to a local ruler of the old days; he was also known for some very remarkable ideas and innovations that did not fully fructify, because of court jealousies and so on. Once there was acute water shortage in the villages. Grandpa advised the ruler: he had a method of saving water - water comes out of water and goes out of water; all that was necessary was to see that not a drop of water was to be allowed to evaporate; all cooking utensils and storage pots were to be fitted with copper helmets and coiled tubes to collect back all the water. Since articles like rice and vegetables used for cooking had also a water content, there would be more water collected than when cooking started; Each house would be perpetually self-sufficient in water; complainers should be fined; and with the fine collected more copper helmets can be made. Excreted water and so on can be separately distilled by simple means: now, but for the fact that grandpa was born at the wrong time and wrong place he would have won as much recognition as Scientist for having been the first to think of this ingenious method of water conservation now claiming attention in space travel. Ah, well, such as luck. But there was red tape, back-biting and mulish, illiterate obstinacy of the villagers and reluctance of the ruler, who wanted to know why fines could not be imposed for infringement as a sort of preventive protection. All in all the scheme fell through; and grandmother sold the experimental copper helmets and cooking vessels for good profit in the junk market, the ignorant women.
Another idea of grandpa requires special mention; the fore-runner of the modern lie-detector. Grandpa suggested the palms of a liar became hotter at the time of speaking lies. So many tax collectors lying about the amounts they collected, minor torture producing no results, major tortures getting unpopular, the ruler heard grandpa with respect. Grandpa suggested that a flower placed in the hands of liar will fade - and that would be the infallible test. A hundred courtiers were given the test and a hundred flowers faded in no time at all; so the test was given up as a hundred percent failure. The matter was almost considered a criminal failure when the flower not only faded in the royal hands but also withered to a crisp brown. It literally crackled in grandpa’s hands. The test was a total failure; but it gave rise later day improvements as we know. As I said these things run in the families.
Now I looked at father, as I left the room. He was chuckling to himself. A laughing child was riding the ape. Mother felt happy to see him so much at home, and so early, and was overjoyed when she heard that father was taking a three-month leave due to him, to devote his full attention to his invention.

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