1900 AD: The colour of the solution in Devdutt’s test tube turned slowly from dark blue to light blue to pale white until finally disappearing as the solution turned clear. “This is it!” Devdutt thought and he could hardly believe himself. He had done it! He had discovered the cure to HLN5, the deadly disease that had gripped London since the last six months. Overjoyed, he repeated the simulation thrice but as we would expect, he had been meticulous. The 22-year-old Devdutt had created history. He shouted out loud and jumped across the room, thanking the gods and laughing his heart out for this triumph. Life will never be the same again! With brisk eager steps, he began walking towards his supervisor’s office.
Dr Reynolds had the air of a man who was not sorry for his actions. A former ‘major general’ in the British army at Bengal, the now retired Doctor liked to dabble in many ‘intellectual pursuits’. These pursuits included, but were not limited to, anthropology, sociology and the increasingly popular disciplines of genealogy and eugenics. He had an avid interest in the origin of mankind and his unabashedly racist mind was willing to jump through as many hoops as required to reach the only ‘just’ conclusion – that Europe had been the cradle of civilization. He often sighed as he sat in his chair, thinking about the responsibility that ‘The Man’ had towards savages around the world.
Take up the White Man’s burden, Send forth the best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.
As he sat brooding in his leather chair, munching absent-mindedly on the choicest slices of mangoes from India, his reverie was disturbed by a loud savage knock on his door. Before he could gather himself, the door thrust open and Devdutt walked in with a glee as wide as Dr Reynolds’ slice of mango.
‘I have discovered the solution Dr. Reynolds.’ Devdutt announced in a quite voice that had been forced into politeness.
Devudutt’s conscious effort and natural difficulty in being polite was not lost on Dr. Reynolds who hated Devdutt more than he hated anyone or anything else. He maintained a blank face and tried to register the announcement in his mind. Dr. Reynolds liked and always tried to keep his face blank and emotionless when speaking with Devdutt. An appropriately civilized stoic, Reynolds fashioned, should not be disturbed by emotions that registered with abundance on the faces of these savages.
‘Did I not tell you before’, the proud doctor inquired curtly, ‘to wait for me to open the door?’
Devdutt stared back in defiance. In the depths of his consciousness, beyond ages lost and forgotten, the anger of a slighted king rang out loud with ferocity.
‘’My apologies, Dr Reynolds”, his mouth said as if it had been separated from the rest of his body, resisting the latter’s urge to flinch.
“Please leave”, the stone-faced doctor declared, turning around with finality as a confirmation of his victory.
Dr Reynolds was unperturbed. The thought of a savage discovering the solution had registered in his mind for less than the fraction of a second before his appropriately civilized constitution managed to abandon it. To be fair, he should exercise restrain and inquire into the matter the next day. He should not let the timing of his sleep be disturbed by this event, as any sense of urgency would betray the conclusion that he cared.
The next morning, Dr. Reynolds deigned to step inside Devdutt’s laboratory and examined the results himself. To say that he was surprised would be an understatement. He tiptoed back home and quietly initiated an inquiry into the matter. It did not take long for the ‘truth’ to come out. Robert, Dr Reynold’s other assistant and Devdutt’s colleague had been working on this problem and claimed very honourably that he had discovered the ‘essential ingredients’ to the solution first. In fact, Robert declared that the ‘big picture’ ideas for the solution had come from Dr. Reynolds himself. It was indeed quite thankless of Devdutt, to try and appropriate credit for this work when all he had done was implement the mere ’details’.
Dr. Reynolds’ mind needed no further explanation. In a true display of his ‘blue blooded’ manners, he expelled Devdutt without interview, published results of the solution with himself as the lead author and Robert as the second author but graciously gave credit to Robert during dinner-table conversations. He shrugged when asked about ‘that Indian lad’ who tried to steal credit for the work. ‘I might have allowed him to get away if it was all my work; after all I am too old to care about these things. But I just cannot!’ and his eyes blazed with righteous indignation, ‘I cannot allow him to do this to Robert’.
Devdutt was quickly forgotten as the conversation turned to more interesting discussions about India. Historians had finally proven that the ‘Aryans’ were in fact Europeans who had originated in Central Asia and displaced India’s native ‘Dravidian’ population sometime around 1500-1000 BC. Dr. Reynolds spoke at length to a spellbound audience, eagerly displaying his knowledge of philology. He was all praise for the ‘Vedas’ and for ‘Bhagwad Gita’– the finest products of that ‘Aryan’ civilization and quoted many verses to show his familiarity:
‘The soul is beyond space and time. It is not limited, it simply exists. It exists on both the shores of time and it exists also in the waves of time. Your duty in this life is to do the right action that is your Karma as well as your Dharma. This is the only yardstick by which you will be measured. And measured you will be, because no one can escape karma – like soul, karma simply exists. Karma is your duty and it is also the reward for that duty. Its judgment is impartial, it is the Yama of existence’