Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Halley’s Fishes


Arjun was contemplating with considerable amusement on how Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica came to be rejected by its first patron, the Royal Society. 

“You are under arrest.”  The steely voice jolted him out of his amusement. 

“But why?  What have I done?”  Arjun asked as he extended his arms for receiving the handcuff without realising what he was doing.  Life was always a mechanical thing for him.  When his wife served the meals he ate them.  If she was not there, he wouldn’t eat.  It wouldn’t make any difference.  When he saw the handcuffs, his hands stretched themselves as naturally as the sunflower turns towards the sun.

What was the action of mine which attracted this reaction?  He asked himself as he felt the steel of the handcuff scalding his skin.

They were silent, the cops, as they led him out of the National Museum where he was looking at a copy of the cover page of The History of Fishes which jettisoned Sir Newton’s Principia.  The cover showed a flying fish.  The book was written by the scientist Francis Willughby and sponsored by the Royal Society.  The Society went broke after publishing the book.  There were no takers for a book of ichthyology, study of fishes, that is.

It was then that Edmond Halley – yeah, that very same man after whom the comet is named – suggested the publication of Sir Newton’s masterpiece.  If fish cannot sell, how can mathematics?  The Royal Society put its foot down heavily on Halley’s recommendation of Newton. 

Halley sponsored the publication himself.  Sir Newton didn’t bother a bit to help.  He was as cool as when he inserted a bodkin into the space between his eyeball and the frontal bone and turned it there a number of times just to know what would happen.  It mattered little to him whether his book was published or not. 

“So, Mr Husain, you are antinational,” said the Inspector of Police as soon as Arjun was brought before him.  The Inspector’s face strangely reminded Arjun of a shark.

Arjun turned back to see the anti-national Husain.

“What the f**k are you turning back for?”  The inspector roared and implicitly accused Arjun of doing unimaginable things to his mother and sister.

“Answer my question, you BC MC,” demanded the Inspector.

“But I’m not Husain. I am Arjun.”

“What do you think this is?  Melon City?  To change your identity as you please?  We’ve got clear reports from our nationalist wing that you refused to stand up while the national anthem was played in the cinema hall.”

“I never visit a cinema hall.”  Arjun was flabbergasted.

None of the police tricks could establish beyond doubt that Arjun was Husain. 

“Do you have an ID card with you?” asked the Inspector finally.

“I have an Aadhar card, a ration card, a PAN card...”

“I see.  Then why the f**k don’t you show us one of them?”

“They are at home.  Even my cow is going to get an Aadhar soon.”  Arjun thought that the mention of a cow would prove his nationalism beyond doubt.

The Inspector glowered at him.

“Sir!” ventured one of the constables.


“There’s one way of proving that he is not Husain.”

“What’s that?”

“Check his dick.”

The other constable giggled.

“Hey, I think you’re right.”  The Inspector turned to Arjun and ordered, “Come on, open up.”

Arjun stared blankly at the Inspector.

“Didn’t you hear, you BC MC, what I told you?  Open your zip and show us your dick.”

Arjun’s hands wanted to move to the zip but he was handcuffed.  Mahatma Gandhi winked from the faded portrait nailed behind the Inspector.

The Inspector motioned to a constable to open the handcuff.

Arjun stood with his trousers lying in a mocking curlicue around his ankles.  One of the constables tapped on his organ with his baton before raising it and staring at it. 

“This thing has that thing, Sir,” said the constable.  “He can’t be Husain.”

“Come and show us your Aadhar card tomorrow.”  The Inspector ordered as Arjun walked out of the police station.

Halley was working also as the Royal Society’s clerk.  Arjun continued recollecting the story from where he had stopped when the cops took on him.  Having run out of money after publishing Sir Newton’s Principia, when he demanded his pay, the Soceity gave him the unsold copies of The History of Fishes

Newton’s laws are wrong, chuckled Arjun, in the world of human affairs. 


  1. A masterpiece. A perfect blend of modern political scenario with history and science. Might I say a kafkaesque work. Somehow it reminded me the absurdism mr. K faced in The Trial by kafka. Yet another brilliant work.

    1. Glad to see you here after a long time.

      Yes, it is a Kafkaesque world. Similar to contemporary India.


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