Monday, September 03, 2007

Scientists vs cricketers

Sunday afternoon. Switched on the TV. ESPN was telecasting the India-England ODI. The Indians in the crowd were celebrating every run scored by Sachin or Sourav with wild gestures and loud cries.

During a break, I strayed to the Doordarshan channel. There was a live telecast of the GSLV launch that would put the INSAT satellite into space. The countdown had started. At T-15 seconds, the computers suddenly cried halt and the take-off was put on hold. The tension was palpable. The scientists looked worried, but remained calm. Launch delayed by 50 minutes, we were told. It was already 4.21 pm. Another 9 minutes to go for Rahukalam. Will the scientists take the chance, I was curious to know.

Back to ESPN. Yuvraj and Gambhir were batting now. Yuvraj, in particular, was hammering away. The Indian supporters were having the time of their lives.

50 minutes later, went back to Doordarshan. Further delay. That meant the launch would be after 6 pm. Well past the Rahukalam. Good.

So, back to ESPN. Dravid and Dhoni continued the good work. I was quite pleased with the performance. I was in a good mood.

At 6.20 or so, I surfed my way to DD channel again. The countdown had started. Two minutes left. Soon, there was fire and smoke as the rocket took off. It could be seen for a few seconds. Once it disappeared into the skies, the view shifted to the computer monitor which had two counters, one for the elapsed time in seconds and another for velocity in km/sec. The actual trajectory was projected against the predicted one. Several key milestones were crossed and after about 1000 seconds, the satellite was separated and placed in orbit. A flawless performance.

The scientists clapped as the rocket cleared one milestone after another and when it was all over, they got up and shook hands.

The contrast between what was happening on ESPN channel and DD was quite revealing. In the former, some guys in a funny blue attire could stir the whole nation merely by glancing a ball of 4” diameter down the leg side; the Indian spectators were dancing and hooting as if there was no tomorrow.

On DD, a bunch of scientists who had worked round-the-clock for several weeks had achieved something remarkable. Only a handful of countries can claim to have the ability to launch payloads of this size. These scientists had failed in their last attempt; the quiet determination to succeed this time was quite visible. More than Rs 300 crores was at stake, which could literally go up in smoke in 10 seconds.

Yet, when they knew they had succeeded, there was admirable restraint. There was joy, all right, but they were so undemonstrative. It was another day at the office. There will be more launches in the coming months. Hopefully, there will be more successes than failures.

The Hindu faithfully reported the event on page 1. The other newspaper that I buy, the Deccan Chronicle, did not feel it newsworthy enough to post on the front page.


Karthik Sriram said...

When I was there in India, DC felt more like a masala version of Cnn-ibn, NDTV and Times Now put together... Aish and Abhi were accorded prime space while virginiatech shootout also came in the paper...


Bit Hawk said...

Nice post. Loved it.

Kiran said...

Heyyy, it was Star Cricket..not ESPN!!! And one advice every hyderabadi would tell you...never ever subscribe to DC (if you want genuine news that is!!)

Anonymous said...

Good post.
The best things don't get the accolades that it deserves...sad but factual

Raj said...

Karthick, yes, they have their own priorities.

bit hawk, thanks

Kiran, no, it was ESPN. If I am not mistaken, ESPN telecasts have commentary in English and Star Cricket in Hindi.

anon, there is also another way of looking at it. The scientists need to learn to market themselves better and get more visibility

Vinay CL said...

We cannot say that scientists dont thrill the nation. Its just that media does not cover the people who are thrilled by them.

Each individual is different and might have his own likings one may be crazy about sports, the other may be about music and some other may be about science.

The person who is crazy about sports may get excited for a small achievment in sports in compared to a great achievment in science. Its true the other way also.

If a person who is crazy about science was in your place i think he would not have switched channels when the rocket did not take off. He would watch the whole 50 minutes and at the end would jump off his seat when the launch was successful.

We cannot say sports is important or science is important or music is important. It all dependends on individual interests.