The following post has been occasioned by a two-year old story which I had put up on my Facebook Wall while I was in attendance at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) 2018 in Brazil on this day in August 2018. As I have also observed on previous occasions during my participation at the ICM’s, there are in witness unmistakable similarities between the Oscar award ceremony and the opening ceremony of the ICM where the winners of Field Medals in mathematics are announced. In either case, whereas the winners are already in the loop having been told in advance of the award being conferred upon them, the audience is, as is to be expected, completely unaware of who the winners are going to be till their names are announced at the event. And equally intense is the extent of the accompanying excitement and expectation underlying these two events.
Another striking similarity comes from an altogether different world involving the breath taking scenes one encounters at the Arafat during the Haj pilgrimage in Mecca. And this pertains to the spectacle of getting melted away-literally- in the sea of humanity that turns up at the Arafat where one is left to fend for oneself in a state of ‘Nafsi Nafsi’ while even momentarily losing track of those accompanying the pilgrim as co-travelers.
On the same analogy, here at the ICM except during a brief spell of (media) limelight being focused on the Filed Medalists during the inaugural function, one soon witnesses an Arafat like scene where all the participating mathematicians, both big and small, including the award winners are soon seen to be lost in the milling crowds, standing in long queues for coffee, meals at the venue and travelling to the hotels in overcrowded buses, invariably even without a seat to sit upon.
The point is that it takes all kinds of people to make a world and that it makes no sense to evaluate one’s role/position in life by drawing comparisons with those who are seen to be among the movers and shakers in their domains of expertise. What indeed is of immense significance, is to realize the importance of making an honest assessment of one’s strengths and weaknesses and to get oneself to do all it takes to give one’s 100% and to deliver to one’s fullest potential, regardless of the returns/consequences.
This applies as much to the normal times when the sight of milling crowds on the roads, in the malls, and hospitals, at the airports and on railway stations used to be as ubiquitous as is the currently visible spectacle involving the absence of human souls from everywhere, including during meetings, classrooms, conferences and all sorts of congregations. What is remarkable, however, is the realization that this never ending will and the inveterate human longing for unraveling the mysteries of life and the world around us, ranging from science to the humanities and elsewhere has not waned by a whisker, despite Covid and Quarantine. That’s amply evident, both from the quantity and the quality of breakthroughs that have been recorded in various domains of human thought over the past six months since Covid came calling, threatening to change the world, and perhaps for good.
In this, are lessons for those in my own Vale of Kashmir who have to contend with a host of nerve wracking, back breaking conditions made worse by the double whammy of a year-long lockdown following Aug.5th, 2019, and that occasioned by Covid-19. Given the will and the desire to deliver, I’m sure they have it in them to rise to the occasion and excel against such heavy odds. Early signs of this optimism are already visible by the surge in certain creative endeavours of our young boys and girls who have shown great promise in recent months and years in the midst of such a self denying ambiance in Kashmir created by the enemies of peace, progress and humanity.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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