During the week, I did two near-impossible things, i.e. watch a movie, that too in Gujarati. But, on watching the movie, I felt that my endeavour to do the impossible was as insignificant to that of the movie makers’ as Earth’s gravity is to even a small magnate!
The young movie-makers of the first sci-fi movie in Gujarati appear to be inspired by the White queen who imagined six impossible things before the breakfast; as they have imagined at least three impossible things, i.e. Gujarati is a language to try sci-fi, Gujaratis would watch a movie when they are told that it is sci-fi and a science fiction movie means that it is fictional movie based on science and not a movie based on fictional science.
While I incredulously enjoyed their earnest effort to explain interesting scientific ideas, what really struck me hard was emptiness of the theatre, as it looked like an ominous sign for Gujarati culture.
If we look for image of our culture beyond Dhokla and Garba (as promoted by Bollywood), it is an undisputed fact that a Gujarati may be caricaturized to look like a cartoon, but can never be depicted as a poor businessman.
Unfortunately, this could change before we realise what has hit us. Unnoticed by us, with information-gaps shrinking fast in the new age of science, trader-culture of Gujarat that understands nothing but arbitrage of money can be on the verge of bankruptcy.
While my pragmatic advice to the young sci-fi movie-makers is to position their next Gujarati sci-fi as a love story instead, my bigger question is to us Gujaratis.
How long can we live with the illusion that we don’t need to know science to make money?
As a die-hard Gujarati interested in science, I have really tried understanding our mind-set. I have given talks at a “science club” of my city with only three people in the audience. I have seen same “science club” invite an astrologer to talk “science” to a packed house that applauded him for “proving” that “Einstein accepted astrology to be true”; and lot worse, I have talked to the people who really matter in Gujarati culture, i.e. rich businessmen.
My tryst of attracting rich Gujaratis to science has mostly met with “Bhahu bhanela to aapne tya nokari kare” (More educated people do jobs under us). When I talked to a Gujarati tycoons to invest in tech R&D, his claim was that it is smarter to buy a tech company instead of going through pains of nurturing one.
I am sorry to say that what Gujarati businessmen are thinking today is dinosaurian wisdom from a bygone era when capital was the king and knowledge was its poor serf. Now we are in the golden age of science where disruption is a norm and not an exception. If we don’t embrace science as a culture, we are doomed.
The only way to instil science in our cultural DNA is through exposing our next-gen to science through a deliberate action-plan.
The most important transformation required today is to stop looking at formal education as a path to spread science. As internet has already disrupted education as we knew it, we now need to insert science through mediums other than classroom education.
Government needs to find science communicators (like these young sci-fi movie-makers) who can explain science in simple words and if need be in Gujarati and provide them platforms to reach out.
All science needs is a medium and an audience. After that we can leave it to weave its magical spell on curious young minds. Science is, by its very nature highly infectious, so provided some support, it will catch on and bring the change we desperately need in Gujarat.