The Soufflé

The most curious thing about moving to Delhi – little anxiety, lots of a seemingly deep-rooted melancholy that I will no longer have a scientist roommate. It was one of the most fun things about my time living in Chennai, and unexpectedly so.

My roommate there was a physicist. He’s mentioned what exactly he does a few times, only keywords have stuck with me: string theory, gauge theories, supersymmetry; his PhD thesis is something about black hole event horizons and information tunnelling. More importantly, on days we were both home, he would make coffee and I’d help him drink it, and we’d chat in the living room about physics, science education and whatever else caught our fancy that day.

He was a good roommate but it seems the thing I’ll miss most about him, more than his being a roommate itself, is him. He was (and is) a kooky fellow, an opinionated physicist – rare as they are! – given to baroque pronouncements and verbose guilt about having too good a time on this planet, a penchant for losing at Monopoly and, of course, following the completion of every scientific paper with lots of whiskey.

My first day there, we bonded over inspecting a bug stuck in resin leaking from the washing machine. I once asked him why exactly QCD is so messed up, he fished out his iPad and smart-pen, launched into a well-ordered, articulate lecture, annotating his words with equations as he was speaking. He was adept at killing winged cockroaches but not so much at getting the salt right when he made fried fish.

He embodied the rejection of chaos with an eccentricity I’ve seen no one else muster. It is for roommates like him that everyone hopes. Goodbye, Mr Soufflé.