Advanced science, Cultural, International, Life as it is, Political

Science, Society and Politics

Science is a remarkable tool available to humans for understanding what is true about the world. It expanded the boundaries of our knowledge and challenged our preconceived notions of what reality is! Accordingly, scientific research has yielded a treasure trove of knowledge about many previously inaccessible domains of nature. The validity of such knowledge received confirmation from the fact that they led to new technologies that are helping us live longer, healthier and more enriching lives.

Scientific research does not take place in a vacuum. It is a social activity with a political overtone. And scientists are very much aware of the intricate interplay of science, society and politics. Perhaps one of the most persuasive arguments regarding the rightful place of science in modern society was brilliantly articulated by the American inventor and science administrator Vannevar Bush in his report Science: The Endless Frontier prepared in July 1945 for US President Harry Truman. In the report, he noted that the “social contract between science and society allows scientists alone to decide what research best serves the society.”

Having said that, the practice of science is never entirely free of politics. It makes its presence felt in science via money. While philanthropists and private foundations fund scientific research to some extent, most research is inherently shaped by the funding landscape of government, and therein lies the conflict between science and politics.

Since decisions about funding allocation are made by politicians, deciding what type of science a scientist should do is no longer a scientific one, but a political one. Furthermore, there are examples of politicians punishing or favouring scientists for ideological reasons. A case in point is Trofim Lysenko, a Russian agronomist and biologist, whose work was enthusiastically endorsed by the Soviet government under Stalin because his theories supported the principles of Marxism. Hence the term Lysenkoism, used to reference the manipulation of the scientific process to achieve ideological goals. On the other hand, the work of Andrei Sakharov, who holds an honoured place in the pantheon of distinguished physicists, was discredited by the Soviets because of his dissident humanitarian voice.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has so far claimed nearly 1.2 million lives worldwide, the relationship between science and politics is now smack at the centre of the world stage. While the world looked up to the United States to lead the fight against Covid-19, President Donald Trump, defying science, played down the severity of the virus by saying “It is what it is.” Not surprisingly, there is a surge of new cases in the USA, while leaders of countries who are carefully straddling the fine line between science and politics managed to contain the spread of the virus.

Regardless, scientists are working tirelessly to develop Covid-19 vaccines. Trials are underway, testing the BCG vaccine to see if it can provide at least temporary protection against the virus, marking the first time a vaccine is being tested against a specific pathogen other than the one it was designed for, which is tuberculosis. At the same time, researchers in the United Kingdom found that patients injected with T-cells, which are white blood cells that are of key importance to our immune system, responded positively to the Covid-19 virus.

Another example of the conflict between the value-laden space of political decision-making and the factual, objective world of science is climate change. Scientific evidence of climate change has helped to create a robust social and political debate about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, instead of responding positively to the debate, leaders of the fossil fuel producing countries are focusing on the uncertainties of climate models, or rejecting outright the findings of scientists, thereby sowing seeds of doubt about what constitutes “good” science.

Nevertheless, scientists are trying to convince politicians that it would serve all of us well if they use scientific facts as neutral information to guide public policy. Lest we forget, politicians need the knowledge that scientists possess in order to give us a decent shot at enjoying the full benefits of living in a high-tech world. Otherwise, they risk making ill-informed decisions on issues that are highly technical and complex.

Politics aside, scientific research and innovation are principally responsible for decades of economic growth and medical advances. Indeed, scientific discoveries, along with advanced techniques and instruments developed by scientists, particularly physicists, in the past 100 years or so have ushered in a new era in medical science.

The era began in 1895 with the discovery of X-ray, used today as a diagnostic tool to see through different parts of our body. Imaging by X-ray was dramatically improved after the invention of the computerised tomography. Other technologies, for instance nuclear magnetic resonance, are allowing us to recover from life-threatening illness which in the past would have been fatal. Additionally, positron emission tomography, or PET scan, developed after the discovery of positron—the anti-particle of an electron—allows doctors to check for diseases in our body, as well as help them to see how well our organs and tissues are working.

The advances in laser physics have also made considerable impact on medical research. Soon after the advent of lasers in 1960, they found their way into medical applications, namely ophthalmology, dermatology, cosmetic surgery, oncology, dentistry and more. More importantly, lasers allow surgeons to work at high levels of precision by focusing on a small area, damaging less of the surrounding tissues.

We could not do without radioactive materials in today’s world, even if we wanted to. Radioactive isotopes, discovered in the early 20th century, are an integral part of nuclear medicine and are commonly used to treat some cancers and medical conditions that require shrinking or destruction of harmful cells.

The use of nanotechnology in medical sciences is a rapidly expanding field. Originating from the Greek word nanos (dwarf), “nano” describes length scales of the order of a millionth of a millimetre. Although this field is still in its infant stage, there is a growing interest among the medical community to use the technology for targeted drug delivery, cancer treatment, nano-biosensors and nano-medical imaging.

The discovery of graphene in 2004 is among the highlights in materials science and nanotechnology. It is a sheet of carbon atoms just one atom thick, arranged in a honeycomb-like lattice with amazing physical and chemical properties. Graphene has potential applications in a wide range of areas of biomedical sciences. Chief among its applications is DNA sequencing, the gold standard for successful diagnosis of various diseases.

In 1938, when physicists successfully split (fission) the atomic nucleus, it gave humanity access to something extremely potent: the tremendous amount of energy released during the fission process. Immediately recognised as the basis for weapons of mass destruction, it is now used to generate around ten percent of the world’s electricity.

The letter “h” introduced by Max Planck in 1900 to explain the spectra of thermal radiation is the fundamental constant of quantum theory. Because this constant governs the scale of the quantum effects in the subatomic world, it had profound ramifications in technology. For example, it enabled the construction of microcircuits, quantum computers, transistors and semiconductors, lasers, iPods, cell phones and digital cameras that have changed the trajectory of our life from ordinary to extraordinary.

It is now almost impossible to get lost whether we are on land, sky or ocean, thanks to Einstein’s special and general relativity theories, which play a big role in the design of Global Positioning System satellites that give accurate readings of position, speed and direction of an object in real-time. The satellites would fail in their navigational functions if the relativistic effects of time dilation and spacetime curvature in their clocks are left uncompensated.

A final thought on the World Science Day for Peace and Development. In the past, scientists who challenged politicians for ignoring their advice have been accused of behaving unethically. But as we stare down the barrel of an ongoing global pandemic, we should realise that society forms politics, politics controls science and science inform both society and politics. So, as we move forward, a harmonious relationship between the three is ever more important in today’s fractious world.

Quamrul Haider is a Professor of Physics at Fordham University, New York.

Cultural, International, Life as it is, Literary, Travel

Lockdown Love – Part Four

When Adit made the first telephone call to Sudha, he was bit nervous – what would happen if she became interrogative and rude to him. As it turned out, his nervousness was unfounded, she was polite and receptive. In fact, it came out that she was anticipating a call from Adit. Sudha read Adit’s articles which Selina forwarded to her and were very much impressed. She was, in fact, looking forward to meeting personally this writer by the name Adit.

Adit and Sudha narrated their background stories in great details on the telephone. Sudha told Adit her story – her sweet memory of living at the centre of cultural activities back home, her acquaintance with all the great and the good in arts and literature. Such conversations went on for days and days, hours at a time.

Sudha was gradually getting involved emotionally. She never received such attention, love and affection from anybody until then. Everybody used her generosity, her good nature, her willingness to help others, but never received any empathy, any love from anybody in return. Now she thought she got a right man with the right attitude.  

But love, as usual, never flows smoothly. Whereas Sudha was madly in love and wanted even to marry Adit, Adit was not mentally prepared to get into the bondage of marriage. That made Sudha extremely upset, she pleaded on the phone, in her numerous text messages to Adit to take her into his life. Sudha even said with some sadness that all her life men came begging to her to marry, now she was begging to Adit to marry, what a change of fate! Love now made Sudha desperate. Adit asked for patience as lockdown would not allow them to get to each other. Now that the lockdown was over about three weeks ago, Sudha got impatient, almost despondent. The last text she sent to Adit about two weeks ago was the link to the Tagore song “Ami swopayne royechhe bhor” (I am drowned in my dream) and then she stopped communicating with him altogether.

Adit expressed all of these inner feelings in great details to the Police Officer. The Police Officer listened patiently and attentively to Adit’s disclosure. Occasionally the Police Officer interjected to keep the conversation going.

The flight was nearing to its destination. The overhead speaker announced that within the next few minutes the plane would start descending.

The Police Officer said, “When we land at the airport, we will go together through the immigration and customs check. After collecting our luggage as we go out of the exit, I will hand you over to the NJ Police Officer – presumably a female officer. She will take care of you after that and I will disappear.”

Adit realised that he was not free to do what he might like to do. He had inadvertently fallen into the fold of this case. The Police Officer realised Adit’s feelings.

He said, “It is for Sudha’s sake and for your convenience that the NJ State Police has taken over the case. There is no criminality involved in it.”

Accordingly, after landing at the airport, they went together to the immigration counter with the Police Officer in front of Adit. Everything went very smoothly and then they went to the luggage belt and amazingly their luggage was placed in a trolley waiting to be collected whereas no other passenger’s luggage even arrived at the terminal. They got their luggage and went out through the ‘Nothing to declare’ gate. A female Police Officer wearing NJ State Police cap was waiting outside and as soon as she saw them, she came over, had a little chat with the British Police Officer in a whisper, shook hands and then the British Officer went off.

The NJ Police Officer came over to Adit, shook her hands with him and said, “Good afternoon, sir. The Police car is waiting for you”.

Adit was somewhat surprised and scared. He asked whether she was taking him under arrest.

The Police Officer said, “Of course, not. We are only taking you to Sudha’s place quickly. Please get into the car and I will tell you the whole story as we drive to her place. It is someway off from here.”

Adit got into the police car, for the first time in his life, and, as directed, sat next to the NJ State Police Officer. She put the police siren on and started to whiz off.

“Don’t get alarmed. It is only to let us go quicker. There is some element of urgency though. Let me give you the background story on this side, as far as I know.

About 10 days ago, Sudha had a large overdose of sleeping pill, presumably to commit suicide. Luckily, the lady from the next apartment came to say hello to her, as Sudha moved in there only a few days ago. After repeated knocks the door was not opened, although the neighbour knew she was in the apartment. The neighbour then alerted the building manager, who came over and opened the door with the master key. Sudha was found unconscious but gurgling, with mouth full of saliva and food particles. Immediately she was transferred to the emergency ward in the local hospital. They worked very hard for three days to bring her consciousness and back to life. For the next four days, it was a touch and go. Now she is much better, but not yet out of the woods.

In the meantime, Police Department started to investigate the case. It could well have been a murder case or a suicide case. We got Sudha’s cell phone and recovered the whole set of conversations between Sudha and you over the last eight months in Messenger and WhatsApp services. From the texts and emails we have managed to piece together the background story. But we need your part of the story and that is why we sent you the ticket. As far as I can say, there is no untoward event or criminality we can detect; just pure unfortunate sequence of events.”

“Now, she is very weak and traumatised. You need to help us – reassure her, even if they are not true, that the love she anticipated from you, the future she dreamt with you would all be fulfilled. Oh, another thing, tomorrow morning, I will come to collect you to go to the Police Station so that you can make a full statement on the case. It is only for our own records.”

The car came to Sudha’s house. The Police Officer led Adit to an apartment and he saw a nurse wearing a white apron standing by the door. The Police Officer indicated her to take Adit inside.

It was a very nerve wreaking moment for Adit. He never saw Sudha before and after the suicide attempt, she would be very fragile physically, in a tormented mental state. She might be angry or she might be happy seeing him, he simply did not know. He went quietly in the room with the nurse. A harmonium was on the other side of the bed. A frail lady was lying o n the bed with her face turned towards the window. As he went nearer the bed, she gradually turned her head towards him. He sat on a stool beside her. Her face was full of wrinkles, the shadow of pain was still all over her face. Adit held her hand; a faint glimmer of smile came over her face.

Adit said quietly, “Sudha, how are you now? Soon you will be stronger again, then we will go back to our country together. You will have literary life again; we will have musical soirees. You will sing and we will all listen.” Her face glowed a bit, a tear of joy trickled down her cheek and she twitched her hand a bit inside Adit’s hand. Then she said very very slowly, almost in an inaudible whisper, “Please, don’t leave me, p . l . e . a . s . e.”

Cultural, Human Rights, International, Life as it is, Literary, Travel

Lockdown Love – Part Three

“But for somebody whose fate was unmistakably written in tragedy, how could one expect normal joyful life? Her husband back to his country found a niche in the writers’ corner and gradually started to prosper. That made Sudha happy endlessly and she even started sending money to him so that he could devote his whole time uninterrupted in writing. Sudha’s dream of a cultural hub, a centre of attraction of poets and writers in her house is gradually coming into reality. But, as it is said, “Man proposes, God disposes”, life started to get sour for Sudha again”, said Adit.

“What happened then?”, asked the Police Officer.

“For the first few years, things were going more or less as planned – Sudha was rearing her children in Princeton and her husband was pursuing his career back home without contributing anything to the family finance in New Jersey. Then news started percolating to Sudha that her husband was seen many times in the company of a young female news reporter. Initially Sudha refused to believe that, but the news became more and more persistent and even Sudha’s mother told her on the phone that it was not a rumour anymore and they were living together. Sudha was devastated by this betrayal of her husband. She stopped sending him money. That prompted her husband to take a retaliatory step and a few months later they got married.”

“The plot is thickening. Now the divorce would follow”, commented the Police Officer.

“Precisely. Following a flurry of letters between Sudha and her husband, it was agreed that a divorce proceeding would be initiated by Sudha and her husband would not contest, as he was the guilty party, who married someone while being married to someone else.”

 “Even then it took a couple of years to settle the dispute of custody of children and financial matters, however little asset they had. By late 1980s the divorce was finally granted”, said Adit.

“So, Sudha was then free to get married.”, said the Police Officer.

“Yep, in theory. But she neither liked to get married nor did she get someone she fancied. Her husband’s utter betrayal made a huge big dent and a deep scar in her heart from which she did not recover for quite a while,” said Adit.

“So, where do you come in?” asked the Police Officer.

“I will be in the scene soon. But we will have to skip through a long period of 30 years of her life”, said Adit.

“Wasn’t she looking for a man she liked all those years?”, asked the Police Officer facetiously.

“Not really. Sudha had numerous approaches from her colleagues and even from her bosses. Incidentally, she changed her nursery job to a newspaper editorial job. The money was good and that gave her some financial stability. But she resisted approaches from males, primarily because she could not trust male folk after the betrayal of her ex-husband for whom she sacrificed so much. How could one leave his own children and his wife and go after another woman, particularly when his wife was not only looking after his children but also supporting him to fulfil his ambition?” Adit said in exasperation.

“You seem to be very much in sympathy with Sudha. But where do you exactly fit in?”, asked the Police Officer.   

 By that time dinner trolley came close to their seats. They unfolded their tables and got ready for the dinner. Dinner was served. The flight was nearly half way through when they finished dinner.

After the dinner, Adit continued, “My married life also came to a sudden halt. After more than 40 years of married life, my wife suddenly decided to leave me and the matrimonial home. I did not know where she went. As far as I could say, there was no third party involved. I only saw her few times at the Magistrate’s Court on divorce hearings. I had no intention of getting involved in any romantic affair whatsoever after my divorce. But I must admit that living alone in a house without any companion was not very pleasant. Apart from tackling day-to-day matters, loneliness could occasionally be over-powering. So, when Selina joined up two sides across the Atlantic together, there were no impediments for a morally acceptable friendship between me and Sudha.”

“As I said I am an investigative officer, I looked into your affairs on a request from New Jersey State Police to see if you had any role in Sudha’s present predicament”, replied the Police Officer.

“What do you mean by Sudha present predicament? Is she not alright? Are you suspecting me of some wrong doing? Is that why you are sitting next to me?” a flurry of questions blurted out of Adit.

“No, you are not a suspect nor of any wrong doing. However, you got the ticket from the NJ Police Department, who is investigating Sudha’s situation. That’s why you got the MoD allocated seat in the plane. I don’t know Sudha’s present condition, but they wanted you to be in their office to clear up few things. I will transfer you to NJ State Police official when the flight reaches JFK airport.”

“Am I under arrest?” asked Adit.

“Of course, not. It is not a criminal investigation. We are just trying to find out if there is any foul play by anybody. As far as I can see, you are on the right, so far. By the way, coming back to the question of third-party involvement in your matrimonial affair, I have to tell you that your wife left you to live with another man, who was married and his wife was away to live with her grown-up children. When his wife and their children came to know about this affair, they descended on the house immediately and he had no option but to evict your ex from the house. She then rented a house, in fact, a single bed apartment. She had to file a divorce case quickly to settle financial matters with you before the scandal broke out. She kept her address hidden from you under the pretext that you may harm her”, said the Police Officer.

Adit was totally stunned and shaken. How could that woman whom he trusted so long become so dishonest and vulgar? He even agreed to give more than the share of asset the Court wanted him to give. He wanted to let her lead a life as comfortable as it could be. Now the scandal was coming out behind her abrupt departure. Adit was shaking his head in agony.

“It seems that it was a good thing that your ex kept her address hidden from you for her safety. Otherwise, things could possibly turn nasty”, said the Police Officer.

“I am devastated”, confessed Adit.  

(to be continued)

Cultural, International, Life as it is, Literary, Political, Travel

Lockdown Love – Part Two

“When we were exploring each other’s background, we found that there were lots of common likings and dis-likings, common attributes between us. We were students of the same university, but she was one year junior to me. We had lots of students’ tittle-tattle to share,” said Adit. “Although the name Sudha was familiar to me from my contemporary male friends, as there were always so-called Romeos among my friends; but I never saw her and probably she never saw me. I gathered from those Romeos that she was a stunning beauty, but she was also very proud of her beauty and very conscious. She would not even talk to a male student whom she did not consider smart enough, or not interested in contemporary arts and literature and, of course, in contemporary music; just being a very good student and academically brilliant did not cut ice with her.”

“Was she one of those girls on high pedestal looking down on boys?” queried the Police Officer.

“Only, I guess, on cultural issues; that is what Sudha led me to believe. Financially, academically and socially she was just an ordinarily girl. Probably her family background had influenced her in molding her attitude. Her father was a prominent journalist. Her house was always journalists’ meeting place – editors, reporters, writers, poets and so forth used to throng in the house. On top of that, her father was a keen musician and used to organise musical soirees in the house on various occasions. Life was very pleasant and enjoyable for Sudha at that time. However, good days came to a shuddering halt when she was about 15”, said Adit.

“What happened, then?” asked the Police Officer.

“Her father suddenly died of cardiac arrest, although some suspect foul play. But no untoward elements had ever been found. That event was nonetheless extremely painful, heart-wrenching experience for her and an end of an era of cultural life in the house. That joyful home atmosphere left a lasting impression on her that would last all her life”, said Adit.

“In the university, the good and the bright boys in her department and in other departments approached her, with roses in their hands, so to say, but she would not budge except for an outwardly smart, culturally inclined boy. She fell in love with that boy, who was even one-year junior to her. Her presumption was that he was a budding poet and a writer.”

The whiskies and cashew nuts were served at that point and they had a little sip. They were only couple of hours in to their journey.

Adit continued, “Although Sudha studied political science at the university, she embraced cultural life whole-heartedly. Her boy-friend was a rather pretentious poet with hardly any accomplishment. He projected himself as a poet of great promise and associated himself with established and semi-established poets and writers of the day. That pleased Sudha to no ends. She welcomed the budding poet with warm hearts along with his writer friends to her house in order to create an atmosphere of cultural life, which the untimely demise of her father drew to an abrupt end. Not long after the completion of her university education, they got married.”

“Sounds like it is heading towards a happy ending”, said the Police Officer.

“Far from it. That was the beginning of the tragedy. After the wedding reception at a local hotel, the couple had nowhere to go for the night. A relative attending the party, out of pity, offered them a place in his house for few nights, they had no honeymoon. Married life could not have started worse than this for a girl like her”.    

“Did she say all these things to you on the telephone?” enquired the Police Officer.

“Yes, everything and much more. The vagrant husband would not do any work to earn his living. He would beg money from Sudha so that he could pursue his so-called literary career, but more likely to continue with his vagabond life! Sudha took a job at a local college to maintain some semblance of a married life. But the money was not enough to have a separate abode and so Sudha and her husband had to move in to her mother’s house”.

“You are right, it is getting worse and depressing”, said the Police Officer. Then he said, “I am going to the toilet and be back in a minute.”

Adit then looked around. The front two rows were empty as well as the back row. This separation from other passengers gave Adit a feeling of privacy in the plane. He started sipping his whisky again.

The Police Officer then returned to his seat and said, “Sorry for the interruption. Would you please continue with the story?”

“Are all Police Officers good listeners like you?” enquired Adit.

“Who knows? Investigative Police Officers always like to hear interesting stories. They can detect any gaps, mishaps and mis-statements.”

Adit was somewhat surprised by his statement but continued unabated.

“Life for Sudha was going from bad to worse. Her husband had no job, no earning. But he used to go out of the house in the morning and not return till well in the evening. He would not disclose even to Sudha, what he did throughout the whole day. Sudha also did not press hard and intrude into his personal life for the sake of family peace. Around two years after the marriage, Sudha had the first baby. But her husband would not change his lifestyle at all. His vagabond lifestyle continued while Sudha had to assume the role of the bread winner for the family.”

“That was a terrible situation. How long did it continue?” asked the Police Officer.

“When the baby boy was about three years old, her husband started coming home very late at night and sometimes not at all. Sudha was obviously very distraught. In one-night, past midnight, there was a knock at the front door. Sudha was alarmed. Anyway, she opened the door and there were a few policemen in front of the door with a search warrant and an arrest warrant for her husband. Her husband was declared a terrorist. However, he was not in the house and so he escaped arrest.” Then Adit continued, “Few nights later, in the early part of the morning, her husband came to the house totally dishevelled and said in a hushed voice that he would have to leave the country and when he would be able to come back, he did not know. Sudha broke down in tears, she begged him to take her and the boy with him. He could not do that. Eventually, with Sudha’s mother intervention, it was agreed that the family and friends would try their best to get visas to a foreign country for all three of them.” “A couple of weeks later, all three of them flew to Bangkok en route to New York. That was mid 1970s”, said Adit. “How they managed to get the visa for the whole family so quickly was a mystery to me.”

However, in America, in New Jersey to be precise, they found a tranquil life for some time. Her husband found a job as a courtyard attendant at a patrol station and she as a nursery teacher. So, life settled down to a rather peaceful non-turbulent life. They had a daughter in early 1980s. But her husband was getting restless and disheartened that his writings were of no value in America, there was no appreciation whatsoever of his work. Sudha also was not getting the buzz of a cultural hub in her house. Her dream of a centre of cultural activities, musical soiree etc were in tatters. So, it was agreed that her husband would go back to his native country and Sudha with children would stay in America until they finish their education. Once her husband established himself as a poet and a writer in his country, Sudha would join him and lead a life full of song and music”.

(to be continued)

Cultural, International, Life as it is, Literary

Lockdown Love – Part One

Adit was then allowed to get in to the Virgin Atlantic flight to New York. Although the time was post-pandemic and air travel should be relatively hassle free, but it was not completely out of COVID-19 tentacles. There were lots of lingering formalities to go through to ensure to the security authorities that a passenger was not knowingly or even unknowingly carrying the virus in himself. Adit had to give his body temperature, his genetic material in the swab from which the authorities could trace, if they liked, his ancestry right up to the Homo sapiens stage and, of course, his body possessions in case he was carrying a suicide belt in his body.

His exasperation was palpable. But he thought that all these hassles could have been due to the fact that he got this air ticket to New York suspiciously from somebody whose whereabout was unknown. However, he assumed that it must be the work of his girl-friend in New Jersey implicitly asking him to come immediately.

He got into the plane and he found that his allocated seat was at the second last row of the plane. There were quite a few rows ahead of him empty. Anyway, he took off his top coat, put that and the small briefcase in the overhead locker and settled down in his window seat. A few minutes later, a middle-aged gentleman dressed immaculately came to the back of the plane and, as it transpired, his seat was next to Adit’s. He put his top coat and other belongings in the overhead locker, but kept a small queer looking laptop in his hand.

Before settling down, that gentleman introduced himself to Adit. “Good morning, sir. I am a Police Officer flying to New York on an official duty”, he said but he did not give his name. Adit, being a thorough and thorough civilian, gave in response his name to the Police Officer and disclosed that he was a retired civil servant.

“Are you going to New York on family business?”, asked the Police Officer.

“You can say that”, replied Adit. “Actually, I am going to see my girl-friend in Princeton, New Jersey, from whom I haven’t heard for the last 12 days, except receiving this air-ticket,” said Adit.

“Sorry to hear that your girl-friend is keeping herself away from you. I am sure she would be delighted to see you in person.”

“I hope so. But first she will have to recognise me. I have not seen her ever in my whole life, nor has she seen me ever.”

“How then did you develop your friendship?” asked the Police Officer.

“It’s a long story. But first tell me what do you do as a Police Officer?”, asked Adit.

“Oh, nothing much, just usual mundane work. I am an investigative officer, dealing with family matters and family issues, marriage disputes, large insurance claims, inheritance claims etc. They are all desk-bound work with only occasional site visits,” said the Police Officer.

“What made you to go to New York now?” asked Adit.

“You will come to know about it in due course. But you haven’t told your girl-friend’s story yet.”

“Our love story is the by-product of the pandemic lockdown. A couple of years ago, when my wife abruptly left home, I decided to concentrate on writing to take my mind off from the mishap on politico-economic issues, social issues, scientific topics etc as a free-lance writer, contributing to newspapers, journals, blog-posts etc. I used to write occasionally even before my wife’s departure.”

Adit paused for a while, composed himself and then said, “One of my old girl friends from my school days called Selina sent me an email saying that she finds my articles interesting and informative. But she feels that they are at times too difficult for her to grasp. She, however, thinks one of her bright school friends, by the name Sudha, who was a political science student, would enjoy and appreciate my articles, if I allow Selina to forward my articles to her. I readily agreed. A few days later, Selina asked me that if I don’t mind, I should contact Sudha on the telephone – she is a divorced lady, lives on her own in a New Jersey suburb. And during the pandemic lockdown period, she is desperately lonely and suffering from depression. It gradually became clear to me that Selina made this plan to put me in touch with Sudha, so that both mine and Sudha’s loneliness can be alleviated.”

“So, you contacted her and then you became friends, is that right?”

“Correct. What surprised me most is the speed with which we became close friends, very close friends indeed. Probably we were both primed to seek companionship in our loneliness. I was lonely in this country and she was lonely in her country!”

“Very interesting. It has got all the right romantic ingredients”, said the Police Officer and occasionally fiddled with his queer looking laptop.

“It is only the beginning. Pandemic may have devastated the lives of many, but at the same time it can implicitly bind together many lives far and wide. We did nothing other than talk, talk and talk on the telephone for the next few days. Modern technology offering Messenger, WhatsApp etc services facilitated endless use without incurring any cost. We never used the video facilities like Skype, Zoom etc. Don’t know, why. But I guess. it was Sudha’s reluctance to appear before a video camera.”

“Let me get some drinks to moisten our throats. It seems you have lots to talk about”, said the Police Officer. “After all, we are at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) allocated seats and we should get priority treatment,” said the Police Officer.

Adit was totally taken aback. “I did not know that I am seating in the MOD allocated seat. How come Sudha managed to send me this ticket in the MoD area?” Adit enquired in complete surprise.

“You have to ask that to your girl-friend.” Then he pressed the overhead button to attract flight attendant’s attention. He placed orders for two whiskies with ice and some cashew nuts. “OK, please carry on with your riveting story,” implored the Police Officer.