Grey hair and grey matter are non-causal events. Grey hair doesn’t bring grey matter (wisdom). It only brings with itself osteoarthritis and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Grey matter is brought by experience which in turn is a result of action. The latter comes from the intense desire to achieve the impossible which in turn my friends in fuelled by the biggest driver of them all – curiosity.
It was in September 2014, as I placed my dinner order at a restaurant, the man at the billing counter was staring at the news of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on television. The news seemed of interest to him and I took an unabashed interest in looking at his face as the news played. All of a sudden he looked at me and asked, “What is the need to do all this?” I looked around just to confirm that his object of interest was indeed me. Perhaps my intellectual stubble induced that query from him. But deep down I realized the question was a good one. How will the MOM experiment help us? And if it does not, is the expense justified.
They say necessity is the mother of invention. But they forgot to mention the father. It is curiosity. When Eve ate the forbidden apple which in turn got us where we are now, it was curiosity that got the better of her. So the entire creation as such is a result of curiosity and thus curiosity itself is the God of all things. The desire to know is what sets us apart from others. It helps us evolve and adapt. So the scientists at Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) got curious about the realms beyond the earth. And they zeroed in on Mars. But as I had said earlier, curiosity in itself dies an unnatural death if not backed by the desire to achieve the impossible. Had there been doubts as to the outcome of the project, probably the fear of failure itself would have been enough to go back on the thought of launching Mars Orbiter Mission Spacecraft from Sriharikota. But when you need to achieve something you have never had, you need to do things you never did. And so finally on 24th of September, 2014 the spacecraft successfully entered the Mars orbit. So what is the need for all this, I ask again. Apart from the obvious that news channels have been running 24 7 – the supremacy of the space research in India, the cost effectiveness, that payloads can now be seen as a source of revenue, I think the one that we seldom realize is that it just shows the triumph of man, the places he can go, the feats he can achieve to satisfy the questions that make him an insomniac. The MOM signifies what I have always believed. Curiosity alone is what sets up apart from the others. And as long as we keep asking ourselves the whys and the whats, the hows will take care of itself. So be curious about the things around you. Try to find answers to those questions. And then keep repeating the process (like an infinite loop). After all curiosity may have killed the cat but you have to remember it had also provided the cat eight extra lives to live (and be curious).
As the man at the counter kept gaping at me with an expectation of an intellectual answer, one of the other restaurant boys got me my packed food. I realized that an elaborate answer from me would not only run the risk of further debate, the packed food would get cold. I didn’t bother about providing him a long monologue about curiosity and the mission. I paid the money to the man and said, “I guess when the spacecraft sends the pictures of Mars, we can put them on Facebook and that would be kind of exciting.” He nodded in agreement thus ending the discussion.