3 June 2013

In search...Of a fictional character

I wrote this essay as a part of my application to the University of Chicago for Fall 2013. Waldo is a fictional character in a series of books for children. The aim is to find him (wearing his characteristic striped shirt) from among a plethora of other amusing and odd collection of objects and people. For reasons I hope will be apparent, I am extremely fond of this essay. It is the product of a lot of discussion with my parents, grandparents and teachers; a product of lot of thought, emotion and effort.

So where is Waldo, really?
Is he hidden among the countless animated objects, masked by images of symbolism, unseen till you really hunt for him? Or is he always just there, peeping from behind tents, dancing in circuses with an amused grin? Is he always in that characteristic striped shirt of his? 

Who is Waldo really?

Waldo is definitely more than a fictional character from a fictional series. He is a manifestation of the unknown and unfounded, constantly being searched. To me, Waldo is a manifestation of the ‘hidden you’. He is all that one can be, wishes to be, strives to be, but isn’t yet. Waldo may be visualized as a mini-version of yourself or as the angel-devil role-plays in Tom & Jerry. He exists, but is hidden. Often, you are unaware of his existence and oftener, you choose to ignore it. The Hindi poet Kabir has described a kind of Waldo, in one of his most famous couplets. He speaks about a musk deer that searches high and low, curious about the source of the famed scent. Little does the deer realize that it is the source, and so continues to search ignorant of its own capabilities. While Kabir wished to illustrate that God lies within, I feel his couplet answers questions about Waldo’s whereabouts.

So, where is Waldo?

Quite simply, he is within. While the world looks for him amidst clusters of unnecessary details, he lies nonchalantly, in no hurry to reveal himself. He isn’t going to make any efforts, nor is he going to budge an inch out of his hiding place. You will have to walk the extra mile, penetrate deeper, reflect more, question oftener and pursue harder. Because, Waldo lies within.

But, just the way Waldo hides differently at different points in the book; everyone has a different Waldo which they find at different times, at different places, doing different things. So while Pele’s Waldo lived on the football grounds, Federer’s Waldo lives at Wimbledon. My father’s Waldo stays in a classroom, my mother’s sits at her table with her as she helps people with their troubles. My aunt’s Waldo accompanies her as she travels to distant villages to create opportunities for women empowerment.

So, where is my Waldo?

I am looking for him. I know he is within, so I am not looking through the unnecessary clusters. I think I know what he does. He stays in a world of logic and thought, resides in a place called a laboratory. Through a series of experiences and events, I have come to realize that I would love to pursue scientific research. One of my teachers has molded my view of the sciences significantly. When the Nobel Prize for Biology was announced this year, he explained how biology was based on chemistry, which has been known to depend on physics which is said to be applied mathematics. So, he would say that science isn’t demarcated by subjects, but is one unified whole. I strongly follow this belief of his. I love physics for its logical analysis (my favourite being classical mechanics), chemistry for its reactions and aromatic structures (benzene’s the best!), biology for its relevance in understanding the world (genetics specially fascinates me) and mathematics for its sheer beauty in figures (I love calculus). But, what I have learnt to appreciate the most is the interface where these meet, at a point whose coordinates aren’t really known, but aren’t the assumed ‘random point in space’ either. My Waldo is somewhere at the intersection. He doesn’t know which road to take, but he isn’t lost. Just a tad bit confused.

My Waldo loves it when I give him his place of honour. This happens when I go out of my way to understand, to explore and to know. It may be through experimentation, through trial and error or through questioning. He appreciates when I discover something myself. In Grade 10, I had developed an outlandish mathematical ‘theorem’ of my own. It was an elaborate idea, linking the even powers of the number five and the last two digits of the exponential product. Though my find was already known to mathematicians (crushing my hopes of having a theorem of my own!), my Waldo was glad of my curiosity and joyous discovery.

So, what I am going to do with my Waldo?

Since I have found my Waldo residing in the laboratory, I am going to give him a free hand there. He is going to join me as I learn further and explore, as I challenge myself to do better and find greater purpose. Waldo is going to explore the depth of classical mechanics and calculus, organic chemistry and genetics, or a combination thereof. He is going to learn to create more, express himself better, write better, know more and know better. He is joining me on a roller coaster, and neither of us is complaining. Rather, we are enjoying!

Waldo is within and without. Within, he lies crouched as a manifestation of oneself. Without, he hides, waiting for one to find purpose and eventually success. You won’t find him without till you look within. And since he loves to hide and is different for different people, the red and white stripes may not always be the best indication.

So, where is Waldo really?



Find him! My Waldo lies within MY world of science and mathematics. Where’s yours?