Driving Through the Darkness

It was a day towards the end of March in 2020, 8.00 PM. Had a heated discussion with my students about the repeated failure in the optimization of the One Step RT- PCR reaction. Not able to figure out the solution. One more reaction was running, not very hopeful about the result of this reaction as well.

Wore my mask and waved bye to my students who were waiting for the reaction to complete. Walking alone under the moonlight through the tall trees was scary. Never felt this way in my 12 years of service at IICT.

Finally reached the main gate, wished the guards there, sanitized my hands, went into the parking lot to take my car. At a distance I saw some people walking near the guesthouse. Started driving through the campus via the main building of IICT, and side gate of CCMB, dispensary and finally out of the gate.

Saw three more guards along the way. At times, our guards had to walk onto the road with a whistle and a stick to stop the unending traffic to help us cross the road. Today, I did not have to wait for a moment. After driving for 200 meters suddenly faced a traffic jam, couple of cars, a truck and few two-wheelers. It was a police check post.

After the check post, I joined the inner ring road, a busy 150 feet wide road with several garment, electronic, jewelry and footwear show rooms, with the elevated metro line plying along. It was always difficult to get through this half a kilometer stretch due to allowed and disallowed parking. But today did not find life there.

No LED lights on the show rooms, no street vendors and no traffic police. Never realized how painful it would be to drive alone on such a big road. Felt that I was the lone survivor and trying to find my way. Kept driving, crossed CSIR-NGRI main gate, metro station, ever busy Habsiguda street number 8, still alone and thinking about the RT-PCR reaction.

Crossed the Hanuman Temple on the road, famous for new ‘vahan pooja’. Reached the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, typically busy during this time of the year due to IPL matches. Just 2 km stretch looked too long to drive. At the Survey of India turned left into the colony road. RT-PCR reaction was still bothering.

At a distance in front of me I saw dark ghosts growing bigger and bigger as I drove. Suddenly I realized some objects running away in front of my car and so were some ghosts. One ghost still did not move. I almost ran into it before I applied a sudden brake. It was a cow sleeping in the middle of the road and the ghosts that ran away were the barking dogs.

LED lights on my car made the shadows and my tired mind was focusing on the shadows than the objects. There was a sound on my mobile suggesting the arrival of a new Whatsapp message. It was a message in a group that said ‘CSIR-IGIB launches paper technology’.

Crossed the cow without disturbing it. Called my daughter to keep the gate open so that I could drive straight into the home. Sanitized myself before getting upstairs. PM was addressing the nation to announce the extension of the lockdown.

One more message on my Whatsapp. This time it was from my students, a much awaited agarose gel picture. One Step RT-PCR worked!

------------------- Dr. Anthony Addlagatta is Senior Principal Scientist at CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT), Hyderabad. Email: mailto:anthony@iict.res.in

Dr. Anthony Addlagatta