“Azino-sibne-meta-nido-zoic”. My science teacher came to the class and wrote down this word on the black board. He also wrote an unknown script below this word and then he turned towards us for its explanation. By this time our curiosity level was really quite high. He smiled and began his explanation. Children! This is a word from a tribal language from an eastern island near Srilanka. This language is called “Ottarwaka” and today there are only five people left, who know this language. The word I wrote here means a feast that is given at the time of their marriages.
We were just wondering, how come our science teacher became a geography teacher and what connection his narration has with our syllabus. The story he was telling was definitely wonderful. He started asking us, if anyone can suggest methods to save such dying languages. We were so involved in the story that we started giving some silly ideas that we thought were really innovative from our point of view.
Then the teacher went out of the class and we all started making noise as usual. He came back again and asked all of us a very pointed question, “How many of you believe that this story is true?” Most of us raised our hands. The boy who did not raise his hand said, “Sir this story is true, but the number of people who know this language currently is probably even lower”. Another boy said, “Sir, in my view, there are many languages in India also, that are dying and are known to less than ten people”.
Teacher asked from those two students, if they can give any reference regarding the comments they made. They said, “Sir! We have read it somewhere”. Teacher asked all of us, why they believe that whatever facts he narrated about the language are true. None of us could give a genuine answer.
Then the teacher clearly told us that whatever story he told us is was fully a cooked-up one. He told us that our brain has a feature of believing things that are told in certain objective styles. He said, “Children! This is what science tries to find a solution about.”
Our minds are trained to believe things that are told with certain Data parameters. The Data parameters given to us in this story were the location, name of the language, number of people and the meaning of the word. Science helps us to begin with disbelief and then verify the parameters with some proven techniques. The system of beginning with disbelief lead us to experiments and ultimately we start trusting things we are able to verify.
I can now say it with full conviction, that this was one of the best science classes I ever attended. The meaning of Science I learned that day, I can never forget. My teacher proved his point well to all of us. I hope the people who tell us lot of stories in the name of religion are also listening.
Dr. Sunil Ji Garg