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SUMMARY OF THE ADVENTURE BY JAYANT NARLIKAR

 


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Professor Gaitonde, a historian, is going to give a lecture on the implications of Catastrophe Theory in the Third Battle of Panipat. On the way his car collides with a truck and he goes into coma. But he experiences another world where history is different from how we know in the real world- in the Third Battle of Panipat, in reality, Afghans defeated Marathas killing their leader Viswas Rao. But in the parallel world, Marathas win the war as Viswas Rao escapes narrowly from the bullet. The victory of Marathas brings about diverse changes and reforms in the country. He gains consciousness and his friend Rajendra Deshpande rationalizes his strange experience on the basis of two scientific therories, viz. Catastrophe Theory and the lack of determinism in Quantum Theory.

The Parallel world

Professor Gaitonde is on his way to Bombay from Pune. It is the pre-independent Bombay where he finds Anglo-indians and Union Jack. He goes to a library and reads four volumes of history starting from the period of Asoka upto the Third Battle of Panipat. The fifth volume of the Book (Bhausahebanchi Bakhar) tells a different story where Marathas win the war against Afghans in the Third Battle of Panipat. After their victory India moved towards democracy. Absent mindedly, he tucks into his pocket a copy of the book. He reaches Azad Maidan where a lecture is going on. The absence of the chairman for the meeting makes it strange but the crowd doesn’t want one though the Professor protests. He gets on to the stage, snatches the mike and starts speaking. The crowd showers eggs and tomatoes on him and finally throws him out. He is lost in the crowd.

This is where the Professor’s strange experience ends. Next we find him talking to his friend Rajendra in the real world.

Rajendra’s explanation

Rajendra explains the bizarre experience of the Professor on the basis of two scientific theories, viz. Catastrophe Theory and the lack of determinism in Quantum theory.

Catastrophe theory states that a small change in circumstance can bring sudden shift in behaviour. If we apply this theory to the battle of Panipat, we can find that there was a crucial moment when the Marathas lost both their leaders-Viswas Rao and Bhausaheb. So, the Marathas lost their morale and lost the battle. But in the parallel world Prof. Gaitonde saw the bullet missing Viswas Rao and Marathas winning the battle. A crucial event gone other way can change the course of history(the bullet missing/hitting the leader). The Professor produces a torn page of Bhausahebanchi bakhar from his pocket. This is nothing but the notes he had prepared for his lecture where he had imagined the fate of the battle to be otherwise. The bullet hitting Viswas rao was the catastrophic incident in the battle. The present state of affairs has been reached because of such catastrophic incidents in history. We can apply this theory to any other battle or historical incident and see how history takes a different course.

Lack of determinism in Quantum theory

The behaviour of electrons orbiting the nucleus in an atom cannot be predicted. There are different states of energy-higher and lower. It can make a jump from high to low energy level and send out a pulse of radiation or a pulse of radiation can knock it out of state no.2 to state no.1. These states can apply to the world too. The transitions are common in microscopic systems. If it happened on a macroscopic level, it could be an interesting food for thought.

Professor Gaitonde made a transition from the world we live in to a parallel world. One world has the history we know, the other a different history. He neither traveled to the past nor to the future. He was in the present but experiencing a different world. At the time of the collision with the truck, he was thinking about the catastrophe theory and its implications in war. He was probably wondering about the battle of Panipat. Perhaps the neurons in his brain acted as a trigger.

Like the electron jumping from one state to another, he made a jump from this world to the parallel world. Any catastrophic situation will provide various alternatives for us to proceed. But only one can be accepted by us at one time as we live in a unique world with a unique history. But why did he make such a transition? An interaction is must for any such transition. The collision and the thoughts at that moment brought it about.

The incident at Azad maidan is just to show how meetings can be arranged without chairman unlike in the real world.