Arundhati Roy and the sub-Continent!

Perhaps I see the world in a different light than some because of my exposure for so many years to people from different countries.  While working in a medical school department devoted to tropical diseases, dozens upon dozens of strangers became close acquaintances and some good friends.  The Department Chair was thought to be one step away from a Nobel back in 1982 and the focus on malaria research brought eager postdoctoral aspirants to the laboratory to glean the import of the  magic sporozoite under a microscope.

But what often occurred was each of us examining and testing each other, peering not into the microscope but over it.

Who were we really?  What did the name on our lab coat mean in a less hierarchical environment, nearly egalitarian, or at least at the coffee machine.

The young scientists most often came from South America because the Chair was Brasilian, but nearly as often the trainees came from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Thailand, Japan, the Peoples Republic of China and Papua New Guinea.

Who we really were evolved over time as most of the trainees held two or even three year visas.   Two or three years, and in close daily contact made "knowing" more possible than even traditional living arrangements.   Research sounds like fun at a distance, but to dig deeply many hours may elapse and while watching and waiting for a machine to run its course, or a timer to go off, intimacy begins and grows.

Arundhati Roy, interviewed for a piece in this week's New York Times magazine section brought back those days and early evenings among team members from India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka.

Indian Empire, prior to 1947

While in the lab, or at a party, or sharing a meal in the library or even a restaurant, we were all the same, with similar goals--a vaccine, a cure, a breakthrough.

Divisions within the sub-continent after 1947

But even with intimacy, friendship and camaraderie, the land mass we came from separated us philosophically, pragmatically and even spiritually.

I am keen to see what Ms. Roy does write and who will publish it.  Times are getting more not less conservative, and global commerce has changed radically, both expanding and contracting possibilities. 

And in the intervening years since I worked among the many, malaria continues to infect millions while research scientists co-mingle at the coffee machine.

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