And I started, because I had quite forgotten that this most brilliant and completely paralysed astrophysicist, the author of A Brief History of Time, one of the biggest best-sellers ever, lived here.
     When the walking tour was done, I rushed to a phone booth and, almost tearing the cord so it could reach me outside, phoned Stephen Hawking’s house. There was his assistant on the line and I told him I had come in a wheelchair from India (perhaps he thought I had propelled myself all the way) to write about my travels in Britain. I had to see Professor Hawking — even ten minutes would do. “Half an hour,“ he said. “From three-thirty to four.”
Firdaus Kanga walks around the campus of Cambridge when he is reminded by the guide that Stephen Hawking lives in the same town. He had almost forgotten that Hawking lived there. He recalls that he was the most brilliant astrophysicist and was also the author of the book 'A Brief History of Time', which was one of the best sellers ever. The book explains concepts like Big Bang theory and black holes in simple terms in a way that a person who is not well versed in physics may understand. He talks about space and time and the forces in the universe that govern it. The book changed the outlook on science in a great deal. Apart from that, there was a connection between Kanga and Hawking that they were both disabled and yet did not crave for sympathy.
The big bang
After the walking tour, Kanga's mind was occupied with Hawking's image and he made up his mind to make the best use of his availability in Cambridge. He rushed to the phone booth to see if he can reach Hawking's residence. Since he was in the wheelchair, he had to tug at the phone cord to reach him outside the booth, as he was unable to take himself inside. He calls Hawking's residence and gets his assistant on line. Kanga explains that he had come from India in a wheelchair to explore Britain and write about his travel experiences. He humorously notes that his statement that he had come from Indian on a wheelchair might have given the impression to the assistant that he had literally pushed the wheelchair from India to Britain. This also emphasises that disabled people might unintentionally mention their disability and later wonder if people would understand that they do not do so for sympathy. Kanga requests to meet Professor Hawking, even if it is at least for ten minutes. The ten minutes with the genius is similar to an hour of listening to any academic lecture for Kanga. But to his luck, the assistant confirms the meet for half an hour, from three-thirty to four in the evening.
Phone booth
Meaning of difficult words:
ParalysedInability to move a part of the body
CordString made of twisted strands
ResidenceHouse, Place of dwelling
PropelledPush around
Big bang theoryThe belief that the universe began at a single point and then expanded
Black holeA region of space where gravity is forceful
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2008). Honeydew. A Visit to Cambridge - Firdaus Kanga (pp. 96-104). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.