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Shahul’s father was a prosperous merchant in Rangoon, Burma.   He had four wives, three of them Tamil Muslims,  the ;fourth and the youngest from Burma.   He was very fond of his Burmese wife, Shahul told me.   I had not seen her but I could imagine she must have been fair and pretty judged by the looks of Shahul’s younger and handsome brother born of his Burmese co-mother.  Shahul’s father was in Burma most of the time of the year with his Burmese wife and came to Ramnad once a year for a brief period.   

Shahul; was good in his studies and always stood first in the class.   I wasn’t jealous of him because I was happy to maintain my 3rd place in the class.   We both were taught by Mr. Ramakrishna Iyer of whom I have written in “KEEPSAKE - A MEMENTO”.   He was our Maths master and a very lovable teacher.   He also tutored Shahul at home along with his other brothers.   Shahul had good memory.   He could repeat all the Euclidian theorems and their proofs fluently.   Dates in History, and details of geography were at his finger tip any time we asked for them.   I usually sought his help in solving difficult geometrical problems or complex equations in algebra.

Apart from our contact in the school I had visited him at his home once or twice but under severe restrictions.   I was received only up to the front hall of the house and not beyond because the area behind the hall belonged to the zennana and was only accessible to women visitors.  Strangers, even boys were not allowed to enter the inner court yard.

Shahul smelt of tobacco because he was a beedi smoker.   Once he drew a lung full of beedi smoke and exhaled it through the folds of his handkerchief.   The caustic smoke made a hole through the fabric leaving a brown stain along the edge of the hole.   “That”, he said, “Is what is happening to my lungs.”   But he did not give up smoking.   We parted company in April 1937  after our final examination of Form V.   I went to Madurai to continue my studies in the Union Christian High School, my father having been transferred from Ramnad to Madurai.   And I never saw Shahul again..

Bangalore:  16 Dec. 2004  

65)   “Theory of Everything”     (from  “Stephen Hawking” by Kitty Ferguson)

“ Is the end in sight for theoretical Physics?”, Stephen Hawking was asked.   He thought it was.   Said he, “Theory of Everything  (a unified theory of all forces: weak force, strong force, electromotive force and force of gravity) when found, would leave little for theoretical physics to do.”   He believes that the set of rules and equations - Theory of Everything - may be within reach.

A theory explaining the universe, like the Theory of Everything must answer the question, “What was the universe like at the instant of its beginning; what was it like before any time whatsoever had passed?” The Zero time.   With this theory in our hands, we’d still be a staggeringly long way from predicting everything.   Even if the underlying principles are simple and well understood, the way they work out would be enormously complicated.

Not all physicists believe there is a Theory of Everything, and if there is, weather it will be  possible for any one to discover it.   And if someone does find out the said theory, what next?   Doing research in  physics after that , according to Hawking, will be like attempting to scale Mount Everest after it had already been conquered once.

The Theory of Everything would tell us how the universe works and why it functions the way it does. .   But the theory would not tell us why  the universe exists at all!    It would be just a set of rules and equations.   One will be left to wonder , “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and make the universe possible and why the universe goes to all the bother of existing?”   Mathematical models cannot answer these questions.

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