As a scientist I try to improve the world and bring people together. That is why, amongst others, I am developing a sensory internet: so that we can make more meaningful contact over the web, in which we actually touch each other. I believe in the concept of ‘Karma’: you get back what you give. If everyone shares goodness, society will eventually be in harmony. I learned this from my father, who as a postmaster tried to help as many in his capacity.
When I am in Delft, which is 70% of the year, I miss the hustle and bustle of India. Perhaps also because we live together with an extended family. But when I am in Bangalore, I cannot stop thinking of Delft: of course, my students, but also the beautiful canals, the quietness – we are very fortunate to live in such a beautiful, tranquil and clean environment. This motivated me to plant trees in my Bangaloreian neighbourhood. Not just a few, around 150 under my direct care and 700 with others’ help. Our area is now one of the greenest, and the entire community is contributing. Ultimately my goal is to die carbon neutral.
COVID has been a huge strain on our community, and also on my family. As we speak 7 of my family are tested positive. Suffices to say these are very frightening times. When I was in India during the Delta outbreak, we organised relief efforts. We collectively helped 125 families in total who really needed support due to the lockdown. You can read more in Delta. But now, as my family is struck by COVID, you can see Karma in action: the community is helping my family. If we all do our bit, we can together win against COVID.
The big eye-opener was in 1999. That year, a huge cyclone hit India. Together with fellow students we started a relief campaign. While I was packing relief materials, a kid approached me with all his toys to send to the children in the affected area. This incident is etched in my mind, and I still get tears when I think of it. That kid gives me hope even now and reminds me that we can always do more!