Yesterday I felt what is it to be disabled.
You see I was working at the anaerobic work station.
What is that contraption you may ask.
For many a time, many others and I,
Have been in search of a place,
Where oxygen lacks its presence,
So that we can conduct our experiments,
In its absence.
My forearm was housed in a glove,
Like a cloth, but made with a polymer,
Acrylate, claims the manufacturer,
Alas, it too cannot keep oxygen entirely at bay.
“I shall enter through the tiniest crack,
And bring life to its fullest”
O2, the life’s elixir,
Only a surrogate to carry the electrons.
Inside that chamber,
I had many flasks and vials,
Of various shapes and sizes.
Tubes and racks,
Pipettes and tips,
Needles and stoppers,
Magnets and cylinders,
And that one seed that can propagate life.
For the next two hours,
The gas mixture displaces
Oxygen with much confidence,
And with a bit of Palladium catalyst too.
Even oxygen needs to get high,
To be in a different state,
To create water,
Earh’s another elixir.
At a Laboratory in Campinas,
In a room where everything
Even the light shall not see
What the companies are doing;
Else the photons might
Carry the message
To places elsewhere.
Jose and I toil for many hours.
Our hands did not see much oxygen
All that time,
Suffocating its own sweat;
Accomplished using a vacuum pedal.
We felt like Martian Earthlings,
Invading The red planet.
For the first time in my life,
I realised what it I means to be frugal.
It was one of those questions
When one is asked:
‘What will you carry
When you are stuck in a desert.
Neither can i I choose Prokofiev or Bach
Nor Andrade or Camus.
PS: I am not namesdropping.
chamber had limited space.
We need to keep the lab ware
Close to our arms reach;
All that goes in
Shall be doused in ethanol.
At my university, we can not drink
But here we are allowed to bathe in alcohol!
After three hours of work,
Including a time,
When the buzzer went off,
I could feel that my hands were choking
For the ambience was without oxygen,
Even Resazurin, the indicator,
Became white from pink,
Yes, pink, the color for gay.
After Zaira, and Jacqui
Moved heaven and earth
To change the cylinders
That feed the a mix of gases
At 25 L per minute.
The buzzer stopped and
Experiment was resumed.
We inoculated the flasks
With our choice of yeast
We torment these obedient beings
With many a test,
With the hope that they
Give us the clue
We hope and hope,
We take samples to measure the progress,
We inspect the samples for cross contamination,
We store samples filtered through
0.22 um filter,
The metabolites will be analysed
In a machine with a passing fluid,
Delivering us many a peak.
We employ excel, R, and word.
Not Dreyer’s ordet – word,
But Microsoft word.
To make sense of the peaks
Everything has to be significant
Else, nothing can be published.
Such is the predicament…
Millions of researchers like me
And Ze Pecano,
Toil in the lab for nights and days
To get sense of such data,
Devoid of human contacts
While performing experiments,
To compete in this world, all alone.
Have I obtained the clue
From these microscopic
Not sure though,
All we know is to toil.
The funding agencies
Are the slaves’ new masters.
The experiment is still going on.
Thoughts linger in us,
Would we get enough data
To publish in FEMS Yeast Research
To get our citation and h index,
the measure of success,
In the academic world:
Like money in our parallel world.
Those who get good enough numbers,
Get rewarded too.
Nobel prizes and ignoble ones,
TV interviews and celebrity shows;
But where are the students,
Gosh: we have almost forgotten them.
In our quest for research and ideas,
We forget to nurture those young souls.
Even Chico Buarque protested
With his play of words;
The modern educators,
With their lofty ideas on learning,
And become self obsessed,
in their cocoon.
How will the students protest I wonder.
Postdocs, Phds and Master’s and Bachelors.
Have to search, search and search.
They do experiments day and night,
But one day they would like to get
Off this rat race,
Amd also live life,
Hope though dangerous too,
Is all the humanity has.
It is better to have hope in hope
Than have no faith in faith.
We will carry on,
Like our ancestors,
Not with hard labour,
But with mental workload.
The education which does not the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy and the courage of a line – is it worth the name ? Vivekananda.