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When I Lost My Marbles

posted Nov 22, 2016, 3:19 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Dec 31, 2016, 1:33 AM ]


My husband (referred to as Papa in my blogs, because that is what I often call him, since our daughter christened him Papa in spite of all our efforts to get her to call him daddy) and I met in degree college, whilst doing our B.Sc in physics. I had hoped to join IIT's Physics department, but I did not get through the second round of JEE
(IIT's prestigious Joint Entrance Exam). Having spent 2 years working tirelessly on getting through the JEE, I had hardly considered what I would do if I did not get in.


I had no intentions of pursuing engineering at IIT. I wanted to learn Physics. So, most unenthusiastically, I joined the Physics department of St. Xavier's college, Mumbai, all the while formulating a plan about taking the JEE again the next year. I was already familiar with a lot of the first year B. Sc curriculum. I focussed on studying for the JEE.


In the mean time, it seemed almost pointless to make any friends in college. Almost as soon as I befriended someone, they would exit, jump ship to some engineering college, whose wait list they were on. But there was one odd ball in class, a rather arrogant fellow, an annoying, know-it-all, teacher's pet, who insisted he was here to study physics and had no desire to join an engineering college.


At first I wondered if he was studying for the JEE. Apparently, he had not made it through and had no intentions of trying again. “Hmmph! Quitter!” I mentally snorted. I also assumed he was full of himself. After all he too had not got through the JEE.


But as time went by, I could not help but admire some of the elegant solutions he proposed to problems in mechanics and electrodynamics. Could he really be as smart as he thinks he is, I wondered. Then came the day, we were both at a Physics retreat in Khandala. I was getting ready for my talk. I had a few marbles, that I was going to use to demonstrate a physical phenomenon. But this was my first physics talk, and I was nervous. So I was fidgeting around and dropped all my marbles. What a mess!


Papa was getting ready for his talk too, which was in the same session as mine, and he wasn't nearly as nervous. Or at least he did not do anything as dramatic to make it obvious. Anyway, he helped me pick up my marbles and asked what they were for. I politely showed him my demonstration, and he suggested a tweak that illustrated the concept more elegantly, and made it less likely that my marbles would escape again.


I thanked him and was most surprised to find, that he wasn't the least bit condescending. Later, I learned, that his reputation for arrogance was a misinterpretation of his shy and reticent nature. I was careful to credit Papa for the improvised version of my demonstration during my talk.


That evening we had a bonfire at the retreat, and Papa was standing behind me. I felt an inexplicable attraction for him. Much later he told me he felt the same. It was weird because all we had talked of was marbles. Not exactly the stuff romance is made of.


A week later, we had to do a make up practical, the one we had missed because we were both at the retreat. I was still not sure how I felt about Papa and was battling conflicting feelings of attraction, while still harbouring some doubts about his arrogance and bloated self estimation. But the professor paired us up as lab partners for the experiment we missed.


During that hour Papa and I talked with ease. I don't even recall an awkward opening statement. It was all so natural. Having been to a girls school, I usually found it difficult to talk to boys, but somehow Papa made me comfortable from the word go. It was the first of many long enjoyable conversations we would share.

Months later Papa told me, he really appreciated that I acknowledged his contribution to improving my physics demonstration with the marbles, in spite of my nervousness. He said, to him, that was an indication of my integrity.


We have been together for almost 16 years now, and married for over 8 of them.


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