Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ohm's law or Shukla's

I distinctly remember that 6th form (Class 12) classroom. As usual I was sitting on the last bench, doodling on my notebook. My nemesis was standing at the head of the class. Our physics teacher, Mr. Ranga Reddy. We used to fondly (or hatefully) call him Ranga. Ranga was a serious man. The lines on his forehead were always distinct. He was tall and dark but sadly not handsome. Everything about him was dominating, except his pencil moustache and the bushes (of hair) on his ears. They gave him away, made him look damn funny. But make no mistake. Runga was not one to make or take humour. Ranga was a serious man. He wasn't one to tolerate kids making doodles in his class. Ranga was alway Reddy (ready) to bash such kids up. 

Anyway, this story suddenly came to my mind because its an outlier, a never before, never after incident. I don't exactly remember the date or the day. More importantly I don't remember which direction the sun came out from that day. As usual Ranga entered the class and we all stood up (good moring sir!). Thats how we do it in India. A teacher is only next to god, sometime before god. So, Ranga, our god for the next hour walked in, took off his coat and hung it on the back of his chair. He picked the chalk (remember the cylindrical chalk) and wrote on the blackboard, 

Ohm's law

Yes, we were in Ohm territory. Not the Sanskrit Ohm though. That particular Ohm was my nemesis until class 8 when Sanskrit was compulsory for us. God knows how tiered I got of failing every exam. Thank god Sanskrit was out of way now. But this Ohm was no less scary. This was some German who had made some kind of law in physics that apparently now we had to learn and mug up. Dam Ohm! As usual the topper of our class (sitting on the first bench) stood up and asked,"Sir! Will this be in exam?" Ranga who would have otherwise got angry of such a question, mildly said, "Yes, of course". God knows what the astral positions were today. Ranga was mild. 

Anyway, he proceeded with Ohm's law. 

Where I is the current through the conductor, V is the potential difference measured across the conductor and R is the resistance offered by the conductor. All, irrelevant stuff for you (and me). But if you know Physics teachers (I hope some of you remember your's), they go on to explain the dreaded units of the equation and sometimes in the exams you are supposed to derive the units. All mumbo jumbo. So, Ranga took the familiar road and went on to explain that "I" (not him or me) i.e. the current is measured in Amperes (named after French André-Marie Ampère), V in Volts (named after Italian Alessandro Volta) and R in (surprise! surprise!) Ohms. So, the unit derivation here becomes

the tweed jacket in question
i.e., if you put Volt upon Ampere, you would get Ohm. And thats when it happened. Ranga's pencile moustache twitched, his ear bushes shook and the lines on his forehead realigned (just like planets and stars would). And Ranga said,"how funny it is when you imagine us adding, dividing, subtracting and multiplying real people's names as though we are fusing real people together." For us just hearing the word 'funny' from Ranga's mouth was funny and his logic was doubly funny. We all smiled, still a little scared to laugh. After all it was Ranga. But he wasn't done yet. He went on and said,"just imagine how funny all this would be if we were to use Indian names. Sharma upon Verma equals Mehta." Now, this was too hilarious for us (especially that this was an auspicious day, Ranga was making jokes). The class erupted in laughter. I still remember the seen. And after 15 seconds of laughter and jokes, Ohm was back and so were back Ranga's usual forehead lines. The planets had realigned. But this joke went on for the rest of the year. We kept bringing it up among each other and having a good laugh.

Now, why am I telling you this story. Because this is my blog and I can do whatever I like. No No, seriously, I remebered this incident today because a friend said something similar. Life presented us with an equation. We were in the US at a conference, a couple of months ago where we met Mr. Shukla (Shukla jee as we would call him in India). Mr. Shukla was a lecturer at a university, still very young. He was from Mumbai and had a distinct style. However, he was very kind and friendly. I curse my memory that I did not remember meeting him. I had met him a year earlier at another conference in the US. Then he was a postdoctoral researcher. He remembered me, a lowly PhD student and also my tweed jacket (yes, I do wear one, mostly to blend in). So, Mr. Shukla proposed that we meet at a pub and chat a bit about our work. We agreed.

Next evening we reached the designated place at the agreed time. There he was, sitting in a tweed jacket, sipping tea (in a pub!!). We went over to him and sat down. We asked him if he fancied a drink but he declined. Some of us get high on tea. We could only have a brief chat as Mr. Shukla had another appointment to keep. However, during that brief encounter I noticed that he was wearing some stylish glasses with a blue frame. I looked at my friend. She had already noticed. These were the same blue glasses that she wears (Same design. He had not stolen her glasses). So, what finally transpired was like an equation really. Mr. Shukla with the tweed jacket and the blue glasses was in a way a combination of us. So, an equation as proposed by another friend came:

Gupta (me) + Sinha (her) = Shukla (him) 

(Courtesy Chandni)

Take that Ohm, we have our own law now. We call it Shukla's law. I am sure if Ranga was here he would have been very proud of me. How I have upheld his name (although I have just described the law, not proposed it really).

Hail Physics! Hail Ohm! Hail Shukla!
similar red glasses (photo courtesy: Chandni Singh) 

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