If you haven’t seen the series, you must have heard of it. The big bang theory is now in its 12th season. The series’ plot is pretty simple (and a little clichéd), a geeky physicist falls for his beautiful blonde next-door neighbour and tries repeatedly to win her over. The show is filled with references to many of the theories and laws of physics – which are gibberish to those who aren’t familiar with them. His neighbour, Penny, (the beautiful blonde), who is more street-smart than college-smart, often finds the discussions between the physicist and his friends uninteresting and beyond her comprehension.
I used to think the show was really silly and refused to watch it until I found myself unemployed in 2012 with lots of time to spare and five seasons of the show (thanks to a friend). Boredom will entice one to do many things. For me, I gave in and binged-watched all 5 seasons within a span of one week.
Years later, I thought of the show as I sat listening to a PhD student do a mock PhD defense presentation at the organisation where I was working. It was on ‘dispersal patterns and processes in littorinid snails along the Indian coastline’. As I sat for her 2 hour presentation on snails, a lot of which went above my head and a lot of which I missed as my mind drifted, Penny’s situation resonated with mine. Like her, I too find many of the discussions that happen in my organisation boring. My colleagues are fascinated by bugs and snakes and amphibians. They can spend hours talking about or listening to lectures on reptiles and sharks and fish.
As I listen to them make ‘small talk’ on such topics, I often wonder what makes them so fascinated by these things and how completely different we are. As I struggle to stay awake and repeatedly try to get my mind to refocus on what they’re saying, I find myself in a somewhat surreal situation. Did my colleague who was spending months in the lab examining turtle faeces actually find that interesting? Was that other colleague who brought back dozens of dead snakes to examine for real? And was me listening to ‘fun facts’ about wasps and ants actually happening or was I dreaming?
But despite the many differences between my colleagues and me, I have come to realise that maybe we are not that different after all. We go out for movies and parties together. We talk about travel plans and things that we enjoy. We have fun. And though I still often find myself in my own big bang theory, I have found that you don’t always need to have common interests to get along well with someone. And that, we may be completely different people, but then again, maybe we are not so different after all.