Monish R. Chatterjee

Honoring Karl E. Lonngren

Submitted by Monish R. Chatterjee

Ode to the Unvanquished Solitary Wave
By: Monish R. Chatterjee

From an admiring wave-chaser

For me it really started on day two of my maiden journey to
The West at the start of the ’80s. A frigid January afternoon,
‘twas colder than I could scarcely imagine. “This is what we
Call an Iowa blizzard,” you told me, as you drove me from
Van Allen Hall to the Engineering Building, even as flurries
Of drifting snowflakes slammed relentlessly on to your
Windshield, and the wiper blades worked extra hard.

Before long, I began to observe at close range these two
Astonishing European mentors- both bespectacled, both
Definitely professorial, both brilliantly equipped with one-,
Two-, three-line bon mots better than the B-grade actor who
Would soon run the “free world.” Soon enough, we were
Tutored around those weekly seminars we flocked to on the
Struggle between the two great factions in our profession.

We learned then that mere ones and zeroes would simply
Cease to exist, were it not for the exotic fields and waves
Upon whose shoulders they must of necessity ride. Thence
You communicated the beauty of the quest for waves at both
The micro- and the macro-levels. And as these revelations
Built up, we observed the single-mindedness of one who in
India would rightly be classified a sadhaka, a true Seeker!

In the beginning, it was a slow climb up the staircase
Holding on to the rails, and always looking up, where
Your gaze has always been. How could a potential physical
Challenge possibly impede the sadhana of one preoccupied
With discovering the inner workings of matter and energy?
And thus the work went on, in engineering, in the plasma
Lab, several blocks away in Van Allen, inside the classrooms.

And it became legend among the students- the professor
Who used overhead projectors with scrolling displays
Of equations written up with markers; later, when the
Adversary ratcheted up the challenge, lectures would even
Be pre-recorded- and along with maintaining this regimen,
There went on the matter of writing research papers, even
Lengthy book manuscripts, often by adapting to novel means

Of utilizing modern technology. And by the mid-1980s, it
Was rather often that Professor KEL would be found
Trekking the engineering corridors on a motorized chair,
Pausing every now and then to talk to a student or a friend,
Always with a smile on his face, always with humor and
Laughter appropriate for cultural identification with the
Diverse national identities of his circle.

Over the intervening years, there have been intermittent
Updates- new book titles, and about the valiant and inspiring
Devotion of a scholar and teacher unlike almost any other
(Granted, Stephen Hawking might come to mind) who has
Continued truly like the unvanquished solitary wave.
Solitary, except that in this instance there has been an
Enviable partnership with his dual- Vicki to the world.

And so as this dedicated scientist and teacher approaches his
Eighth decade unraveling truth and demystifying science,
The decidedly finite Bhagwan (KEL’s appellation) would like
Nothing better than to offer salutations to the incomparable
Scholar, teacher and friend, with the fervent hope that your
Exemplary life inspire generations ahead to seek not only
The possible, but indeed the impossible.

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