Pre and Post Agonies and Ecstasies of my trip to Israel

— Dr.KARTHIK


As a designated scientist in a Government Department my spouse often used to joke taking a dig at me saying “Some Scientists sometimes do scientific work”. I used to defend myself with our achievements that were referred to in the media. I drew her attention to the praises and eulogies in various dailies and magazines highlighted by successive Governments. One episode that occurred a few years back remains etched in my mind. I was bundled off to a six week Advanced Techno Management Course in a Management Institute. A cursory remark that ten percent of the forty odd executives and scientists from various other Government Departments and Ministries will be filtered for a visit to Israel went unheeded. The rigorous activities covered extensive classes, field trips, team work and tasks, drafting of project reports assigned to us and often went into late nights. The outbound exercises covered rock climbing, sports competitions, swimming and some indoor competition games. With a paradigm shift we returned back to our respective Departments but the comradeships, bonding and the friendships with fellow participants from other Government institutions and their email contacts remained intact and cemented our bondings with exchanges of Greetings, well wishes on festive occasions.These were well supplemented by mails of jokes, cartoons, anecdotes at regular intervals. After about a couple of years, to my utter surprise an official letter reached me intimating me that I was selected as a team member in the delegation.I was asked to be ready with my passport, permission letter from my employer and other formalities to proceed to Israel for ten days with a delegation of scientists drawn from various fields and disciplines.

The list of the team was a very homogeneous blend of personalities drawn from diverse fields and brought a grin on my otherwise sober face. The persons included Reasearchers drawn from Geophysics, Oceonagraphy, Medicine, Robotics, Chemistry,Energy, Mining, Agriculture, Health,Space Sciences to mention a few.

Least expecting that this was the unfolding of my eye opening events, I obtained the requisite permission from my Headquarters overjoyed that the parent Department does not need to incur any expenses and that the whole trip encompassing the Air fare, Stay and Boarding expenses were met by the Training Institute. I felt a true achiever.

Back home at my office a new Lady boss took over the change in my Division. Known for her tough stand and Professionalism, I anticipated that she will be proud and pleased to learn that a person from our organization was selected to represent us to visit institutions in a foreign land and nominated to provide a feedback report on areas of joint collaboration.

To my utter dismay her first reaction was one of anger and disbelief. “How can you go and that too with no financial implication to our organization?” Blah… Blah… Blah … .

I politely explained to her that it was the offshoot of a course underwent about a couple of years back. I showed the required papers, approvals, sanctions. Her almost tearful look and anguish on her face made me wonder at this unforeseen covetous look of jealousy.

In the meanwhile the management Institution sponsoring the study visit confirmed to the delegation team the booking of Air tickets, stay confirmations and other logistics. The Parent Department was to bear the expenditure of Travel to New Delhi and return within India. This minor issue was to become the bone of contention later on.

What we call as the Government movement order to get me my Air fare from my workplace to Delhi and back was only the pending activity.

The file was kept pending and in abeyance by her and I had to reach Delhi the next morning to attend a briefing session of all delegates selected to proceed to Tel Aviv before embarking into the Aircraft of the flying Air lines.

A few dilly dallying delays made me virtually cry for help. I was commanded to provide some literature hurriedly on a vague subject, then asked to come after one hour every few hours.In the meantime the organizer from Delhi wanted my confirmation and my travel details of the next day of reaching Delhi.

Late into the evening, I saw no response from the lady who was apparently very busy. The personal secretary smiled at me and even congratulated me for being the first employee to be selected for such a study trip that was funded by an organizer from an outside department and an outside ministry .The peon however gave me a pessimistic look and seemed sympathetic to my tensed stance. His experienced eyes indicated that I cannot beat the stubbornness of the Madam.

I OBSERVED HIM CAREFULLY AS HE WALKED TO THE DOOR. I KNEW THAT TIME WAS RUNNING OUT BUT SUPPRESSED THE URGE TO CHECK THE WATCH. I TOOK A DEEP BREATH AND STARTED COUNTING IN REVERSE UNDER MY BREATH,``TEN, NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN,…..``

At the dusk (dawn ? ) of ZERO I hit the rock bottom of all my hopes. I realized only a few seconds later that I had somehow summed up my courage and boldly approached barging into the chamber and found myself declaring, “Madam, as you are the acting boss today I only wish to inform you that I am leaving by the morning flight to Delhi. The papers are in this file. I do not want your permission”. The onward journey tickets to Israel was ready at Delhi. Taken aback at my sudden outburst she agreed to sign but only the next morning.

She agreed to send by Fax the next morning to the office where the briefing session was arranged. With my own personal money I reached Delhi the next morning and pleasantly found the Faxed order with the signatory stamp which had reached just minutes before my briefing session.

Needless to stay, the ten day visit to various cities, institutions, industries and meeting the scientists and officials was one of a kind of experience for years to cherish.

As my feet touched the Ben Gurion Airport at Tel Aviv my alighting on a Foreign land made me emotional. We were given accommodation in the posh Dan Panorama International Hotel. Sitting in my 13th floor verandah of the suite I glanced down at the city below facing the Beach. I looked at my watch which was urging me to go to bed. This time the same watch looked different and seemed to say,`` Hey buddy, Time and tide do flow in your favour on some odd days only if one has the courage to confront for a just cause.`` I chuckled to myself with the luck on the 13th floor.

The visit to Jerusalem, the place of Crucification of Christ was touching.This twin city of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is a mix of three religions.The evening visit of the Wailing wall was unique.

The Bahai religious Headquarters in Haiffa and its beautiful lush green sloping gardens was a sight to see.The background of the Sea Port view was spectacular.

The city of Acko reminded me of Lord Krishna and his birth when I heard our host /guide as he showed us and explained about the Bahai Chief Bahaullah in the prisons that took us around. The drive to Bethlehem shrine on the city outskirts evoked a spiritual experience and made me recall our own city of Mathura and the birth of Lord Krishna. Jesus seemed to whisper into my ears, Deerghayushmaan Bhav and Tathhaastu to my wishes and quest to learn from the very creative Israeli hosts.

I guess the creative intelligence of the Jews can be attributed to their learnings and educational medium being the Hebrew language. If only we Indians had adopted Sanskrit as the medium of instruction in schools and colleges our India would have been way ahead in all spheres of life. Needless to say the Israelis were also very proficient in English Language but it was the second language after Hebrew in this country.

Sites like the Zion Gate were analogies to my mind of Kamsa Dwar, Lanka Dwar, Ravan Lanka and the likes. During our long drives to some industries across sandy roads and desert lands, village names like Rama din sounded as if they were named after Lord Rama.

The Dead Sea was very lively. Floating and Bathing on the dense waters was amusing to us, the Indians. The mud collection activity was reminiscent of the customs and rituals followed in Banaras/ Kashi and Rameshwaram waters.

Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the port city of Haiffa, Acko were the cities that our team spent memorable periods of learning. The sandy pathways, the long drives, interactions with elite of Israeli industries and institutions were very fruitful, enjoyable and informative.

On return, I was asked to give details, feedback and presentations on the observations in Israel which went off quite well.

The thorn in the flesh seemed to have been removed I surmised. Trouble brewed again when I submitted my reimbursement claim for the expenses of Air Fare to Delhi and back. For frivolous concerns the reimbursement was not made which happened under her direction as was echoed by the staff who hinted me of their predicament. At the end of the day it felt worthwhile to ignore the financial loss as what I had gained in the bargain was very much informative, innovative, educative, knowledgeable, experiential and a life time event.

This made me only recall the words of Abraham Lincoln who had once said, “Don’t expect the world to be Fair”. Human behavior and Psychological patterns are often hard to predict and foresee. “Alas ! An angel seemed to give me a sermon,” Public image is precious for people but self image is poor .Peer groups are aware of your true nature. All that is publicized about so called noble hearted leaders may not be always palatable.`` My spiritual and learning lesson as a takeaway was very succinct.

I only became wiser with the inference that when viewed from a distance people, personalities and even things often look gorgeous, of impeccable qualities, character, nobility and glitter but like the proverbial iceberg are different and in total contrast under water. In reality as you approach nearer one may be shocked at the sudden outburst of vindictiveness and emotions.

About the Author
Dr. T.V. Karthikeyan is a Senior Scientist with the Advanced Systems Laboratory, Defence Research Development Organisation, Kanchanbagh, Hyderabad.

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