There once existed a hydrogen atoms. To be an atom of helium was, so it seemed, infinitely preferable than to live out the life of a measly H1.
Now, this hydrogen atom thought a lot of himself. So one day he says to another:
“Well, I’m really a helium atom, but a little skimpy.
Says the other:
“Don’t try to pull my quark; you’re no more of a helium atom than O2 over there is a metal!”
“Alas!” says the former. “I’ve been lying through my !”
But the other did not spite him, for he too was a measly hydrogen to be blamed for the Hindenberg. So they sat together and knocked their nuclei to try and find out how to become an atom of helium.
Soon enough, though, a helium atom buzzed by!
Says the first hydrogen:
“Why, you’re a helium atom!
And the second:
“Would you be so kind as to tell us how you got to that state?”
The helium atom, who was old and wise, said:
“I would inform you, but it is not a good topic for young hydrogens like you.”
The hydrogens of course assumed that he was guarding against them becoming his equal, and so pestered him for half-lifes on end until he gave in and told them the secret.
“So, to become a helium atom like myself, you two must bump into each other at extremely high speeds, and therefore combine into one helium atom. The bad part is, only one of you will survive. The other will go…to the periodic table and become a .’
And so the old and wise helium left, thinking that he had deterred the two.
Says the first hydrogen:
“Well, friend, it has been a pleasure but I’m afraid it will have to be me who goes on to become a helium. After all, it was my idea to become a helium.”
The other, of course, wouldn’t concede life, though it was pretty miserable. So the two quarreled and fought like mangy dogs over a bone, and soon enough others began to take sides.
Third and fourth hydrogens joined the fray, saying:
“The second’s got a right to live! You, number one! Bugger off!”
“But it was his idea from the start. He should be promoted.”
And so on and so forth until the argument numbered thousands of atoms screaming from each side. Eventually, one of the atoms punched the other and another punched him and yet another punched the other, who was helping the other other get his charges in order and then it happened: one , then two, then three, then five, [then many other numbers of the Fibonacci sequence], and the sun sputtered to life and began to exude heat and light. And so the sun shines now.
Category Archives: essay
There once existed a hydrogen atoms. To be an atom of helium was, so it seemed, infinitely preferable than to live out the life of a measly H1.
My face is buried in the palms of my warm hands….thinking…waiting…deciding. I feel my parents’ eyes on me, stuck, with Tacky Glue.
My father is the first to shatter the intense silence, “So, do you want to go or not?”
An odd silence once again moves into the room. Sitting beside me, my brother sighs.
Finally, I let out, “No, I love this house.”
“You will regret it,” my mother responded.
“I know I will, but we’ve been looking…” I break off in mid-sentence and stand up. “Okay, let’s go…” I say, sounding defeated.
Next thing I know, I’m standing in a real nice house (with my own room).
“Welcome to your new home, Rikki.”
As you step through the red-colored gates, the buttery smell of popcorn overwhelms you. You step forward …. Bubam! A roller-coaster soars above you. Minutes later, you find yourself at the front of a line, roller-coaster tracks dazzling you. As you board the small car, your phobia of heights hits you. You speed through the deep blue sky and scream so hard your vocal chords are pushed to the limit. Again, light-headed, you hear a light ping. A small ice-cream trolley rolls by. “Ice cream!” the vendor yells. You find yourself lapping up melted melted ice-cream off the cone as you saunter dreamingly out the gates you entered from. That day was an adventure. What next?
[A version of this was published in the Almaden Resident newspaper (Aug 14, 2009, page 10) under the title “Ethnic melting pot in middle school? Not exactly” and caused quite a stir. It was subsequently followed by executive editor Dale Bryant’s editorial in the Almaden Resident (Aug 27, 2009, page 12) addressed to the community.]
You have probably heard about the great diversity of the Bay Area, but in my school, diversity doesn’t seem to be the way to go. At lunch, everyone branches off into their racial groups. The Mexicans sit by the cafeteria, the Caucasians sit on the steps and on the walls, and the Asians sit behind the library. I sit with the Asians, in K-Town.
The story of the formation of K-Town is actually quite amusing. At the beginning of the school year, there were two Asian Towns. There was Chinatown, in the shade near the office, and Korea Town, which was by the library.
Chinatown was aptly named based on the ethnicity ratio (9/10 were Chinese), the overpopulation (about 60 kids sat in a space the size of a living room), and because of the horrible littering (after lunch, you could walk on trash for 30 feet if you tried). Kids who were assigned Trash Duty would go directly to Chinatown to fill their trash bucket in seconds.
Korea Town, on the other hand, was composed of only 10 kids (myself included, although I’m Indian) – 8 were Korean, one was Chinese, and then there was me. Korea was always striving to increase the population. There was a bitter feud going on between Korea Town and Chinatown. Our “leader” Kim Jong-Il was always talking trash about the “Chinatown Boys”. We wouldn’t even loan each other lunch money.
Besides the population, there was one major thing that separated Korea Town and Chinatown – the trash. Korea Town was always clean. Every day, we would pile up our trash in a lunch carrier, and one person would throw it away. Chinatown members just put their trash on the ground, and left whenever a yard duty attendant came by to reprimand them. Soon enough, the Chinatown area was declared off limits by yard duty. The Chinatown members had nowhere to go but Korea Town, because we were Asian and we had plenty of space. Our “leader” allowed the Chinatown people to sit in Korea Town on one condition: Chinatown was history, and all the members would unconditionally become Korea Town members. So now almost all the 8th grade Asians in the school sit in this mass of Asians.
Korea Town is now divided into a couple of parts. There is the “Sacred Circle”, a ring of the original 8 Koreans. Then follows the main mass, a jumble of Chinatowners that make up the bulk of Korea Town. Finally, there are the suburbs, which are groups of people that aren’t exactly in the mass, but are a little distance away from them.
All people in Korea Town must be:
- Primary Asian (meaning small-eyed and yellow-skinned)
- Secondary Asian (Indian, Pilipino) with at least 3.5 GPA 🙂
- Non-caucasian (exception: 4.0 GPA with partly Asian Heritage)
- In the suburbs, Caucasians with 3.5 GPA or higher are allowed
Koreans are known as “Originals.” People of other races can be “ambassadors” or “members.” People that were part of the original Korea Town that weren’t Korean (like me or Chairman Mao) are ambassadors from their original country. I’m an Indian Ambassador. It’s pretty funky. Everyone that joined post-Off Limits Act is just a member, but they can rise up to become an ambassador through rites of passage, e.g., writing your name on the library wall with your backside, with at least 5 originals or ambassadors watching.
Ironically, the littering in Korea Town is now very heavy, and whenever a yard duty attendant comes by, we pull an “Asian Migration” and drift away before being ordered to pick up trash.
My original friends remain in the sacred circle, but we’ve drifted apart.
Me – I’m living in the suburbs and at peace with it.
One dark evening…
I woke up to the sound of my cell phone ringing. I turned on my bed lamp and reached for the phone…when my hands met the cold metal I pulled it to my ear. “Hello?” I asked into the speaker. There was no response. “BAM!” A flash of light exploded from outside the room and the house shook like a rattle in a baby’s hand.
The lights suddenly flickered, then turned off. “What the…” I breathed to myself. I walked towards my closet to get my flashlight and the floor creaked beneath me. I pulled the closet door open and snatched the flashlight from my shelf and turned it on. A beam of light ran down the hallway.
I turned the light away from the hall and pointed it at the window in my room. I walked towards my window and I looked out – lightning streaked the black sky and shook the house. I shuddered and switched the main light to the “ON” phase…nothing lit up. “A blackout” I thought to myself. I went into my parent’s room and looked in, they were fast asleep. I crept out and closed the door, and sauntered to my room.
A chill ran up my spine, “Its cold as pie up here!” I exclaimed. I put on a sweatshirt and headed downstairs towards the thermostat. I looked at the temperature “52 degrees!” I whispered harshly. I cranked it up, but nothing happened. I bounded up the stairs and pulled the comforter off the bed. I wrapped it around myself and went back down the stairs into the kitchen.
I quickly took out ingredients for “Hot Chocolate” and headed towards the stove. I had read in a book, that in a blackout you could start the stove with a match, so I tried it and it worked! I placed the mug of Hot Cocoa on the fire and waited. I went back upstairs and sipped the steaming, rich chocolate all night. That morning I woke up on the floor, with an empty cup of coca next to me, to the sound of an alarm.
“School?” I asked myself.
“written for a special native american boy”
I slid my hand against the smooth bark of the Grandmother Oak and smiled to myself, “It is a brilliant day!” The sun leaked through the hole inside the tree while a fresh pine-scented wind lapped past the burrow, sending acorns tapping the ground. The leaves shook, making a sound ever so slightly…Shhhhh! I walked outside, my toes touching the moist earth, and picked an acorn off the grass. Dry leaves drifted to the floor. I slid my hand against a rumpled leaf and closed my eyes. Tossing the acorn in my warm hand, I walked all the way home.
Durga Puja is coming, and so are the memories of my grandfather. I lost him to a brain tumor this year. In 2004, I had visited India and stayed with him during Durga Puja and it was a fantastic experience.
My Dadun was a forgetful, yet loving, man, but he never forgot about us. He would get up early in the morning for a walk. He did this every day, to stay healthy. On his way back, he would purchase many sweetmeats and mangoes from the local bazaar, because my brother and I love Indian mangoes. He would also invite us to lie down with him a little before bedtime, and tell us many stories in Bangla. I never felt more content than that, lying at his side and hearing his soft voice narrate.
Dadun was a man of great talents. By profession, he was an aeronautical engineer. At heart, though, he was an artist. He became more festive during Durga Puja. I remember, the first day of the puja was loud! There were many drums and loud pop music playing, and the smell of Dhunochi hung in the air. Even though it was sweltering hot, all the children in the apartment (for my grandparents lived in a flat in Kolkata) were running about playing active games. The local caterer prepared delectable meals for all, while the temple gave out free Prasad. And everyone danced, including my Dadun! One of my newfound acquaintances, affectionately called Bittu, danced until his socks were worn through. Even I, a profound lazybones, could not help but join in.
This year’s Puja will be a bit tamer for me, the foremost reason being that most Americans would not like to be awakened at 6:00 in the morning by foreign drums, to see crowds of Desis celebrating in the streets. Yet I will still remember the queer, knee shaking dance of my Dadun in the morning light, as the drums and music play. He will also be remembered in the music, singing and fine arts…
I have a grandfather.
His name is Asesh. Asesh Dasgupta.
He makes jokes. He likes dill pickles. He likes to sleep.
One day, he had a brain tumor. He went to the hospital.
I talked with him before the surgery, and played him some piano. He liked it. Then, he had the operation.
He was fine, after.
Then, one day, I find out
I had a grandfather.
His name was Asesh. Asesh Dasgupta.
He made jokes. He liked dill pickles. He liked to sleep. One day, he got to sleep forever.
I wonder if there are pickles in heaven.
A smoky scent fills the crisp air and the muffled drumming sound gets louder and louder as you walk towards the Puja tent. As you enter, people in beautiful saris and kurtas crowd around the idol of the goddess Ma Durga. A priest walks around giving each person flowers to offer to the great goddess. The tent immediately silences once the priest starts the prayers. He speaks the prayers. The crowd copies him, closing their eyes and clasping fresh flowers. After the prayers, young men start to play dhaak, and everyone is dancing or giving sincere offerings to the goddess to thank her for giving everybody a nice year. After the ceremony, the kids gather with their friends and play. Their parents smile and eat the prasad given in the back of the tent while chatting with each other. Everybody has a great time playing and watching dramatic plays.
As the morning turns to afternoon, kids find benches and wait while until their parents buy hot lunch and bring it back to the bench. They all eat tasty khichuri and crunchy papad with delight. Everybody relaxes till evening when the sun goes down and the glistening moon replaces it. When that happens the drum’s beat motivates you to dance and dance. All of the kids seize their chance and rush to the lush field of grass to play tag, football, and soccer. Parents dance to the beat of the music while others pray. As evening turns to night people rush to the food stalls and buy fresh mutter samosa with sweet and spicy chutney. Kids locate their mothers and fathers and eat.
Later they go to the tent to pray to Ma Durga, Ganesh, Lakshmi, Kartik and Saraswati. The are embellished in shining gold and the glistening jewels look marvellous. All of the gods have a different personality and by looking at them you can tell what kind of personality they have. India has a beautiful personality so let us let our personality show as well as the gods do.
DURGA MAI KI JAI!
Have an awesome puja.
My summer so far has been relaxing, but boring; even so, it is better than the alternative: school. Albert Einstein once said “Whatever you do, don’t let your schooling interfere with your education.” While my unhappiness at the thought of school is not as radical, I think he was correct. This talk about school reminds me of one of the funnier incidents in school – we could forever change schooling.
My social studies teacher, Mr. Goldberg, had told us the day before to study for a “pop quiz”, ten questions long, about the Catholic Church in Europe. I, who never bother to study and still manage a 4.0, disregarded preparing for this quiz, as did many others. The test was impossibly hard! The following day, when he handed out the papers, I looked at it and quite literally blinked. The best score in the class was a horrendous 6/10 achieved by a few smart students (me included), some of the luckier ones, as well as a few of those that had studied very hard (that’s 5 students). Next, Mr. Goldberg told us that it was worth one hundred points. Even the most robust A+ could not survive a blow like that. Needless to say, students who cared at all about grades were dying inside. Ten minutes later, he said there was a notice from the principal:
“A new suggestion has led to the available purchase of academic points. For ten cents a point, students may buy an unlimited supply of extra credit.”
Needless to say, a large debate ensued; the children who had bad grades and who were ethically uneducated about merit claimed that this was a wonderful change, whereas the children who had good grades, and cared about merit argued that this was downright bribery. Our consternation increased when Johnny Marreta discovered that he had $3.00 in his pocket, and purchased 30 extra credit points, enough to bring his grade up by one letter. Students like Kevin Shong (assuredly not Chinese despite his surname) talked about how much “money I will bring tomorrow” and how “great this is”.
The next day, our teacher assured us that we could contribute money to “support the school”, and people produced money up to $20.00. Soon, only a few devout scholars had not paid money for a free grade. Luckily, we discovered that the only teacher in the school supporting this horrid activity was Mr. Goldberg. Many of our teachers told us that they would not support this, but this was a bitter pill to swallow.
At the end of the week, Mr. Goldberg told us that this was all a joke designed to model the available purchase of pardons/indulgences arranged by the Catholic Church. All money was returned, and to some relief, and some extensive disappointment, the class was dispersed. A good thing that came out of it, though, was a laugh and some knowledge… we all knew who the cheaters were!
One time we were at the Monterey Bay aquarium. It was when we saw some tuna that I asked my Dad why he didn’t eat any. He said that while fishing certain kinds of tuna, fishermen killed dolphins. It was then that I started thinking about conservation.
From the age of four, I was always saying “Don’t leave the water running” or “Turn off the light”. I was a little kid then, and didn’t know any other ways to help. But now I know that persuading friends to walk or bike instead of driving cars or motorcycles can help stop pollution. I recycle paper as much as I can, and continue to conserve water and power.
I don’t think people are conserving much these days. They are poaching, chopping down rain forests, and polluting the air. Due to Greenhouse gases, the polar ice caps are melting, causing fish and other sea life to die. Many animals have lost their homes and some are close to extinction.
I love animals and don’t think that they matter any less than humans! We won’t just be very lonely without animals – animals are really important for our own survival. I hope that people get moving to help species live in prosperity, and that animals get the respect they deserve.
I like zoos and aquariums with beautiful wildlife, like the Monterey Bay aquarium, because they help educate people. My Dad helped by being a member of the WWF since he was in high school. I’d like to help too. If I become an Official Explorer I will do my best to spread the word to other kids like me.