The world will take more time to heal from the news of the death of legendary scientist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking on March 14, 2018. He changed the way the world was thinking about gravitation way back in 70’s and 80’s. Always a smiling face with innocent eyes sparkling unfalteringly, he loved to interact with people.
Today, the Internet is flooded with articles on him, his legacy, his work, his disability, his abilities, capabilities, his predictions, his books and his untiring work on the popularisation of science. What many do not know is that he was a person who loved Indian spicy food.
The maiden visit of Hawking to Mumbai way back in 2001, had left an indelible mark on the minds of Indians. He was not only the world renowned scientist but a crusader for the challenged. “I vividly remember that when he had come to attend String Conference in 2001 at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), there were phone calls from the family members of people having disabilities,” said Sunil Mukhi, professor of Physics, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune.
Mukhi said, “These people called up to ask whether they can get any help from him to win over their disabilities. There were people who wanted to cure his disability too.”
Reminiscing the conference, Mukhi said, “We celebrated his 59th birthday which was on January 8 as the conference was held from January 4 to 10. During the conference, we had a banquet dinner at Hotel Oberoi. The dinner was special as we celebrated his 59th birthday. During it, we fond that he loved chicken curry and spicy Indian food items. In the food list given by him to us, he has specially mentioned these items. So for the dinner, we had these items on the platter,” said Mukhi
Another vivid memory of the conference was his dance. Yes, he danced at the dinner to the tune of a popular Bollywood song composed by music director AR Rahman. He was about to leave the room when the song ‘Chal Chayya Chayya’, started in the background. He moved back and whirled around in his wheelchair,” said Mukhi.
“He was so overwhelmed with the song and the tune and it could be seen in his eyes which were gleeing,” said Mukhi.
Hawking loved travelling and interacting with people. Visiting new places would be on his list to the places he went. And this habit of his made him visit popular tourist destinations of the financial capital of India. He went to the Hanging Garden in Mumbai, Marine Drive and various other places.
He addressed three press conferences during his two-week stay in the city. While addressing a press conference, he was asked whether he will be visiting Kumbh Mela which will be attended by many celebrities and he replied, ‘’I am not a celebrity and thus I will not attend the event. I am here for science and I enjoyed it.’’
Indians are doing good research in science, he had commented during his visit. The person who loved to communicate with people through his mouse would prepare his lecture based on the event. If it is a technical event, he would talk about physics and for a popular event (popularisation of science), he would talk differently.
An easily approachable person, he always advised the young generation to pursue dreams. The strange coincidence was March 14 is Albert Einstein’s birth anniversary and January 8 was the day on which Galileo Galilei died in Arcetri, Italy.