November 6, 2002 | Issue 38•41
NEW DELHI, INDIA—Months of research and development by a team of India's top physicists have resulted in an ambitious plan to get them the hell out of the overcrowded, impoverished nuclear powderkeg, sources revealed Monday.
|Dr. Chattopadhyay answers reporters' questions.|
"It has been a long road, but our many nights of hard work have finally paid off," said team leader Dr. Birendra Chattopadhyay, 2001 winner of a Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, the country's top science award. "We couldn't be happier with our findings: It is not only legal, but economically viable for us to leave India by December."
The plan, which includes complex mathematical calculations on the cost of transportation out of India, as well as detailed projections regarding residency and employment prospects in the U.S., Canada, or Europe, represents the fulfillment of a "lifelong dream" for Chattopadhyay.
"I have been working toward this breakthrough all my life," Chattopadhyay said. "India is the second most populous country in the world, with a 30 percent poverty rate, a 52 percent literacy rate, and debts that swallow 80 percent of her gross domestic product. Figure in our continuing conflicts with Pakistan, and you can see why I was so passionately devoted to this project."
In addition to imagining access to modern scientific equipment and adequate funding for his research, physicist Dr. Kolluru Sree Krishna theorized what it would be like to live in a country without a caste system.
"Facts and figures point to many new opportunities for me and my family," said Krishna, loading his possessions into boxes in preparation for his move to Boston, where he will teach at MIT. "Though India is a democracy, the will of the largely uneducated non-voting population has little effect on the decisions of lawmakers, and the bureaucracy put in place by the raj continues to cripple our economy. Correction... their economy."
The team spent a majority of the past three years developing the top-secret plan, dubbed the Manhattan Or Maybe London Project, overlooking no details.
"We met some setbacks along the way, such as getting [team member] Amitabha [Patel] out of his contract at the Indian Institute of Technology," Chattopadhyay said. "But our vigilance paid off. Our findings show conclusively that I am going to live in a city where clean, potable water is readily available."
|Dr. Amitabha Patel works on an equation.|
For all their success, the physicists say their project got off to a slow start.
"We simply could not find an answer to our original research question: 'Now, why exactly are we here again?'" said Dr. Prashant Goswami of the Centre for Mathematical Modeling and Computer Simulation. "After months of studying the subsistence-level existence of the average Indian, who lacks modern amenities like electricity and running water and is ever threatened by drought, flood, famine, and disease, we were at a dead end."
The team, however, pressed on.
"As an astro-particle physicist, most of my work is theoretical," Goswami said. "So I applied abstract thinking to the project, imagining a place where I had access to a wealth of goods and services."
Finally, on Oct. 7, the team had a breakthrough.
"I was in Germany talking to Dr. Li Hongzhi, a physicist who had moved from China, when it hit me," Chattopadhyay said. "Apply the solution that worked so well for Li to my own problem. I couldn't get through to Amitabha, because, as always, the phones were down in New Delhi, but I knew I had the answer: Get the fuck out. Now."
Upon making the breakthrough in Germany, Chattopadhyay immediately began working 16-hour days to complete additional research in the areas of visa application, airplane tickets, and employment opportunities overseas. He also began gathering data on school districts, as well as cardboard boxes and packing tape.
In spite of their success, Chattopadhyay and the others are not resting on their laurels.
"There still remain many questions I wish to answer," Chattopadhyay said. "Is Nature supersymmetric, and if so, how is supersymmetry broken? Why does the universe appear to have one time and three space dimensions? And do I really have to wait another four weeks to get out of this godforsaken place?"