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A tale of laser beam odyssey to divinity

Laser physicist Mani Bhowmik's book, Code Name God traces his life experiences and the transformation within him.

india Updated: May 18, 2006 12:58 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Laser physicist Mani Bhowmik's book Code name God traces his life experiences and the transformation within him, drawing him towards spirituality.

Bhowmik's path to god has wound through Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Palos Verdes and Malibu. The story of laser physicist Bhowmik's journey from a remote village near the port of Tamluk in West Bengal to the University of California makes for fascinating reading.

"The merging of matter and spirit is a much-needed evolutionary step forward in our capacity to love and be fair," said Laura Huxley, Aldous Huxley's widow, in her review of Bhowmik's book in California.

Bhowmik tells his story honestly in the book published by Penguin. "From the beginning, there was a touch of unreality about my life in the fast lane. I am a scientist, not a celebrity."

The foregone conclusion is that a scientist cannot be a celebrity.

Bhowmik chronicles his small beginnings in a hut under the influence of Matangini Hazra, one of Bengal's many martyrs.

Hazra was shot dead during the British Raj during a march inspired by Mahatma Gandhi in the summer of 1942.

Mani was kept alive by his grandmother Sarada through the great Bengal famine while she herself died slowly of hunger.

While one teacher saw him through high school by providing tuition, another provided lodging.

As a teenager, he was privileged to be chosen as Gandhi's camp attendant and then went on to be educated at the Scottish Church College in Calcutta, under the influence of Satyendra Nath Bose and Paul Dirac.

While studying at IIT, Kharagpur, on a government research scholarship, Bhowmik was recommended for a Sloan Foundation fellowship in the University of California.

His village community raised the money for the airfare to the dream world of the 1950's and by the mid-60s, he landed a job with Xerox Corporation.

By 1968, Bhowmik was team leader at the Northrop Corporation, a major aerospace contractor and was involved in Ronald Regan's star war research.

Bhowmik played an important role in the invention of Excimer Laser in 1973, responsible for Lasik Surgery today.

It allows corneal sculpting, where the laser evaporates the offending tissue cells, not affecting healthy tissue at all. This has enabled the non-invasive restoration of vision to millions.

After having achieved such great success abroad, Bhowmik felt the urge to give back to the people of his land. He has set up an educational foundation in Kolkata, which provides full financial support to 67 underprivileged students to pursue university education in science, medicine and engineering.

Bhowmik, in his book, has also revealed the transformation within himself and his leaning towards spirituality.

Speaking to IANS at the India release of his book earlier this month, Bhowmik stressed: "Science too is showing that there is one source.

"Once we realise it, it really empowers us and can solve societal problems. Science is capable of profound change, but for personal abiding happiness, we need spirituality."

Bhowmik's journey from science to god has come full circle and his homecoming proves exactly that.

In his own words, India is a land of circles, which explains his return to his spiritual roots.

First Published: May 18, 2006 12:58 IST