Like most middle-class Indian kids, I first completed my engineering and then got around to figuring what I really wanted to do in life. So I’m the first to admit that I know next to nothing about science. The only time I use my education is when my parents ask me to fix some busted gadget, and I, applying what I learnt as a telecom engineer, swiftly pick up a cellphone to call the repair guy.
But as it turns out, I would’ve been clueless even if I’d actually paid attention in class, because here’s a news flash: What we know about science is wrong. It is all a western imperial construct designed to overshadow our original achievements. Simply put, the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Americans have all shamelessly Pritam’d our inventions.
I’m thankful to the various patriots who, of late, have been working really hard to enlighten us about this piracy. The most recent exposé took place at the 102nd Indian Science Congress, where leading scientists had all the logic smacked out of them by the glory of ancient India.
For example, you might think that the first airplane was invented by the Wright Brothers, after they got sick of booking tickets on IRCTC. But no. Captain Bodas, a retired flying instructor and a speaker at the Congress, pointed out that the first airplanes had been invented in Indian about 7000 years ago. Some of them were the size of jumbo jets and apparently they could move forward, backward and sideways, hover in mid-air, do barrel rolls and also bharatnatyam in mid-air.
These planes were also loaded with twenty missile systems. Now I don’t mean to brag, but I too designed similar fighter jets in school, via the technical process of doodling in my textbooks. (I was inspired by scientific materials such as Swat Kats and Centurions, but clearly I should’ve paid more attention to Amar Chitra Katha.)
But that’s not all. We reportedly also had pilots in ancient India, who were prescribed a diet that alternated between buffalo, cow and sheep milk and wore special shockproof, waterproof, electricity-resistant suits made from the fibres of underwater plants. Their names have been lost to history, so let’s just call them Captain Shri Maverick and Goose.
If the pilots got bored of flying domestic, they could take their crafts for an interplanetary spin. No, really. It was claimed that the planes could go from planet to planet. To buttress this point, another speaker, Kiran Naik, said that proof of this lay in the fact that during ancient times – and I wish I were making this up – two kings were fighting on Mars when one of their helmets fell off. This is why you should always take off your helmet before fighting on Mars.
He said that “If you google ‘helmet on Mars’, that helmet clearly shows up”, because ancient India also invented Photoshop. Sadly, all these advances in aviation were squandered because as it turns out, the industry was run by Vijay Mallya’s ancestors.
Mr. Naik then educated the audience about a bacteria that lives inside cows and converts whatever the cow consumes into 24 karat gold. Wow, that has to be the worst Tanishq ad ever. Picture a young, hopeful man going down on his knees as his girlfriend blushes with anticipation:
Guy: I cannot imagine a life without you. Will you marry me?
Girl: Yes, yes, a million times yes! (pause) Where’s the ring?
*they hear a PLOP! in the distance*
Guy: Go get it yourself.
Seriously, I cannot get over the fact that India is home to bovine creatures that crap gold. But enough about Mukeshbhai.
Not all talks at the Science Congress were as eye-opening. The others were woefully bereft of fantasy and stuck to boring ol’ scientific temperament. I wonder what it was like for the scientists – including Nobel laureates and a Fields Medal winner – to sit back and listen to stories that essentially took a flamethrower to their life’s work. It’s like Sachin Tendulkar being told by a baseball player that his stance had been wrong all these years and also once an ancient Indian batsman hit the moon for a six.
I bet they feel smarter now and cannot wait for next year’s Science Congress. If I were them, I’d make travel arrangements right now. Where can I book a one-way ticket to 5000 B.C?
(Note: This is my HT column dated 11th Jan 2015.)