Sunday, October 24, 2010

Old and New

                 I sit quietly where I always do waiting for someone to come into my room. The hum of the airconditioner is somehow not soothing today and the cold is uncomfortable. But I need it for my system and am glad they still let me have it. I have had a long and tiring morning. The way I like it. I worked on a dozen samples dishing out the familiar black and white pictures they expected. A few of them jumped up in joy because they had finally gotten the results they wanted, one was really depressed that yet another attempt of her's had failed again. She had been working hard but only a few results turned out to be acceptable. I wished I could console her and ask her to keep trying harder. But I wonder if what I feel would matter anymore. Now that he has arrived my service would no longer be the golden standard. I would be 'what we had' and he would be 'but we this have now'. He would be the talk of the town. they would show him off to everyone and for good reason. I cant deny the fact that he is better.

I was their poster boy for a long time now but I guess things change and expectations change as well. I remembered the time that I first started working here. I was a prestigious catch back then and everyone was pretty exited. Like they are about him now. I was absolutely terrific with what I did and became a favourite pretty soon. I was offered exclusive care and protected like treasure. I had my own technician and both of us had celebrity status. I was off limits to anyone who didnt know me well and was a symbol of pride.

As time went by I settled in and people settled around me. There were more hands controlling me and still more inquisitive to. My job grew demanding and I was working at full capacity everyday. somehow even that was sometimes not enough. I took it to be the consequence of the world spinning faster everyday and science having to spin twice as much. Dozens of students wanted to avail my expertise and the volume they wanted analysed grew like the pile of dust accumulating in an unattended lab cabinet.

Sometimes my convinction and need to please has gotten the better of me and I remember once that I broke down due to over work. But samples found me immediately when I was up and about and I understood they had missed me. Which later I learnt was only because their reports were due. I had been wondering ever since if I mattered only as a source of data or if my potential was truly appreciated. I consoled myself that I was still the only one they relied on to proceed with their work because I was undoubtedly the best. Which is why it felt like a lightning bolt had landed on my detectors when I heard of his arrival. There had been a constant buzz about it for a long time now and the excitement has reached a feverish pitch since he arrived finally. I thought he was one of my own, a second but then I learnt he was better infact unmatchable in every aspect. I felt inadequate. It wasnt something I could change about myself. I am who I am. They would crowd around him now and be told that he is the best. He would get looks of admiration and they would feel the immense power vibrating through him. Yeah...been there done that. But he would experience all that anyway. Once he begins working my workload would come down. I would've thought a year ago that was a good thing but now it mildly hurts when I think I wont be the centre of attraction anymore. Afterall I am only second best.

I wished I could tell him all this. Look at his snobby face and that overconfident smile he must be sporting and feed him with the truth that he might be better but not irreplacable. I wished I could tell him that its the jinx of being new and that it would fade away eventually. But I couldnt tell him that his people would come back to me one day. That wouldn't happen unless he shuts down. I sighed. I didnt want to wish bad things for him. This was inevitable afterall. They would take me apart and put me back in a room next to him. I braced myself to witness the queue outside his door and the squeals of admiration he would be recieving. I wondered if my technician would leave me too. I realized I would indeed be alone. I couldnt afford to become upset over facts.

The door to my lab opened and in walked the girl I had seen in the morning. The one that needed a deliberate dose of luck with her work. She looked around checking if anyone else was inside. Inspite of my reverie I knew she shouldn't be here alone. She hadnt signed the log either. She walked barefoot on the cold floor and came up to me. 'Hey' she said. 'I am probably mad for coming here and talking to a machine like you but I just wanted to let you know something. I dont know if you heard about the new Transmission electron microscope they've purchased. Everyone is so hyped about it. They are going to teach us about it and all...and maybe you know ask us to analyse our samples with it...Iknow its really superior and high resolution and all that but...when I came here I was really nervous about my work and I remember the first time I ran a sample with you. The sphere size was nowhere close to what I wanted but I was fascinated with the image you gave me. It was something I had never seen...only read about and watching it for real was amazing. In some mysterious way my fears were gone and  I was intrigued and pushed myself to work deeper into my topic. You were my first contact with microscopy at a really cooler level and no matter what higer version they bring in my thesis will contain pictures that you took for me and you'll always remain special to me...okay?'. She looked around nervously again making sure no one else had heard her and left after giving me a meanningful look.

Technically I am not supposed to cry because water is dangerous to my system but metaphorically I did. I wasnt just as assembly of  nuts bolts and displays. My ability had actually meant something to someone. To a lot, I told myself. They just didnt come in here and speak out like she did. Happiness swelled in me and if you had a keen eye you could see my LEDs glowing brighter because I was smiling. I heard a voice outside saying 'I will be with the SEM for a while. Got two samples'. More work and I was willingly game for it. A guy entered pushing the door open and as it closed back a ray of light caught the white lettering on my door - Scanning Electron  Microscope