I'm at another conference these days, and in the past afternoon a rather interesting event occurred. The last keynote speaker, who gave a brilliant talk on role of gut bacteria in promoting obesity (her last project funded by National Institute of Health, USA - no surprise there), was caught mid way by my curious self who found her lecture quite inspiring.
"It was great to hear about obesity. But in your data did you find any correlations with extreme leanness?" I asked her.
She looked at me briefly, cleared her throat, and began in an emphatic tone, "It's quite sad that people started to focus on probiotics and gut bacteria, only when obesity became a concern. While in countries like India, where starvation has been a major issue, nobody cared about it. And I think starvation is an equally if not more important issue than obesity. But yes, I actually did find some correlations - but nobody is interested in them."
"Ah yes, I understand. And don't you think we've overcomplicated our life with bad food. If we eat good food, we won't have any such issues. And in India, we have these special herbal powders (churna) which we consume everytime our stomach goes bad - and they work well!"
"Yes, yes I know. There are indeed many herbs which are proven to have beneficial effects for your stomach. And I must say that Western thinking maybe too narrow minded in health research. I mean, India’s Ayurveda is thousands years old, and I have sometimes browsed that online for fun – I’m a biologist you know – and it really has great potential. Those people working with Ayurveda have observed people and their diseases for so many years, their cures must be definitely potent. But it’s quite sad, that it is all dying. I’m not able to find funding for my own research – we’re trying to gather money too – but things are too commercial now. Industries want to directly study human targets, but the science is not ready for that yet. And then the general public takes all sorts of risks with their health. Young men who take steroids for bodybuilding often end up with bulk and fat in unwanted places, and almost always in their cheeks.Yes, it is getting complicated ..."
And so I stood there, for about fifteen minutes, talking to this old, crazy, passionate biologist - trying to see life through her eyes. But simultaneously, her work and of many others, brought this state of depression in me that my own research is quite insignificant. I feel stupid you know. I'm not that smart, not at science. Perhaps I ain't good at anything. Because later in the evening, we had these competitive games. Our team came 2nd in the game of Scrabble out of 4 teams. We didn't come 1st, and thus didn't make to the finals. We lost it. I'm supposed to be good at English. Apparently not. Fuck, I hate being so average at everything.
But in the end, when I look back at my average life in retrospect, I console myself as follows: When you can't do great things, you should take solace in the fact that you can appreciate great things. And that's all I can do perhaps.
In the meanwhile, I'll keep fighting. My last month's copy of Scientific American is waiting to be read beneath my lamp.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Current Book: "Silas Marner" by George Eliot Current Music: "Castle of Glass" by Linkin Park (LOVE YOU LP)