It is a rare honour sharing study rooms with Maths people on one side and Plant people on the other.
Mathematics people are one of their kinds. They will accept reality as real only when they break it down to a million tiny pieces first and prove that each one of them is real enough to be called reality. Their everyday conversations are garnished with words that seem to walk out proofs and postulates.
You overhear conversations like," If there was even a slim probability of that pretty French girl going out with me, I just reduced it to a big zero by goofing up the Fermat theorem when she needed a solution".
Mathematics men make you feel like they are looking for holes in everything you have to say. So when you have a conversation with them you can see both their eyebrows going up and down without each other's consent. They are always more than willing to help you for they always look for a "problem". So if you approach them with something you cannot figure out yourself they will pounce on you and use all the available white boards to clear your doubts. Initially they will ask you if you are with them on the solution and wait for you to nod. As the problem gets juicier (and you get bored), they will turn completely oblivious to your presence and go on solving it on their own. You get up and leave and come back in the evening to pack up to find your maths guy solving the same problem with dishevelled hair.
They would want you to prove everything. If you even casually say, " Oh God! Help me", one of them would croak in a clipped voice that can only mean that he is either a Mathematician or a Brit, " Can you prove that there IS a God?”
Maths women never get their eyebrows done.
When a Maths woman talks to a Maths man the conversation seems to take you out of your everyday torpor. Better still if there is a potential romance involved it puts the mating calls of all the animal, bird and insect species to shame. A Mathematics Man wooing (excuse me for using that word but it so goes with Maths) a Mathematics Woman by showing off his intellectual prowess is something that has yet to be taped and archived by the National Geographic. It is so melodious and methodical. The way their markers go "swoosh-swoosh" on the whiteboard and they prove to each other that they are not just capable of solving this problem but many more that they might face together.
On one hand I have these " We are atheists till X equals God" people and on the other I have the Plant Group.
They all work with plant genetics. So they believe in the "Ultimate Creation". They assume a lot of things that the Maths people want to shred apart and verify. They are awed by the Devine architecture and are merely trying to imitate in all humility. One day as I was busy trying to figure out what to read, one of the plant guys descended on me with the air of a "senior" PhD student.
He asked me if I had decided what project I wanted to work with and I replied that I was slightly confused.
Then he asked me if I had made up my mind about who is going to be my guide and I said I was slightly confused.
He asked me about the kind of work I really like and I was confused. He asked about the area I was curious about and I was still confused.
Then he told me how he always knew what he wanted to do because God helped him choose at every crucial point in his life. He went into this long ranting lecture about how God helped him choose Genetics over everything else.
Then he asked me about my faith and belief in God. I replied, "Hmmph I am slightly confused about that too"
The whole room went into a spontaneous laugh and I turned genuinely crimson that day.
Their decisions just grow out of their heads like the mint green worm-like plants that grow out of their flasks. Plant Men walk around the Graduate Room looking like messengers of God. They never bang their fists or jump up and down when they get something right. They never go back in circles, squares and pentagons to question everything again and again. They always have their minds made up. Plant women don’t really seem to have an urge to prove their equality to anyone. They are kind and affectionate and of course even they have alarmingly resolved minds.
I take a course with this Nigerian Plant girl and I asked her about her research. She looked through me into a distant Horizon and said;" I always knew I wanted to do something with Bananas".
Sometimes I think I am better off being confused. It is such a choking feeling to have fixed opinions on everything and if I figure out everything this early I would probably lead a very boring life. Then I think if I am confused, I should also be able to tear apart and question all that confuses me like the Maths people. I should be able to make sentences like, " If we presume a hypothetical scenario..." or "In this event it would be wise not to assume.."
Or at least be as sure as the Plant group and know that God (or Nature) has a plan for everyone and my life is not entirely my own responsibility. :)
I must confess that sometimes I am secretly glad to be trapped between these two disciplines. For watching them be themselves gives me a lot of time away from my own confusions. :)