The city of Piracicaba
has its share of narrow labyrinths too,
Juxtaposed between tall buildings that vie
With each other To touch the sky.
Just as a river has a mouth from which it exits to the sea,
Piracicaba has its mouth at ESALQ,
Named aptly after the philanthropist Luis de queiroz,
whose Name has been swallowed by a clever abbreviation,
That Brazilians love to use without any remorse.
This reminds us once again that everything shall be
The mighty leveduras shall reign
I stay at the tower on the 16th floor,
In one such labyrinths near the municipal market.
I can see the river flowing, from the balcony,
Carrying with it the joy and mirth of this city
As well as the unwanted remnants that usually gets collected
By many a men and women sporting shiny fluorescent jackets
At night, when ignorant armies fight over their territory.
And the once famous usina is now converted into a museum
Bereft of its clanging of metals and gushing of fluids here and there.
The city’s festa das naçiones happens here meticulously
Every year. There are children and adults,
Grandma and grandpa’s, sauntering leisurely on the
Concrete floor of the usina, with many a barracas to visit, for each one
Is a class of its own, proclaiming proudly the very essence of the food and culture
From that region.
In the corner, musicians sing traditional Brazilian songs
That takes many a heart to years in the past,
Of the forgotten glory as well as the inexplicable monstrosities
That the dictator did. There is a perfunctory chuckle to remind oneself that
The modern day dictator do not sport weapons but Words, #Hash-tags and Power.
In the laboratory I worked with Vio, a young lad
Who was brought up in a farm and who is used to drinking
Fresh milk straight from the udders of their benevolent cows.
Rica with his dream of going to Australia
To earn a bit of money, to reduce the burden
Of this ageing father. And Oto, a fashionable chap,
Pursuing his masters and on whom I am not able to describe more.
And there are the damsels: Eli, Mila, and Ita,
who would meticulously watch the death of many a
levedura in the phase contrast microscope, counting
several hundreds of live and dead ones in a span of 3-4 hours or so.
And of course Oslo, the septuagenarian professor,
Who struts around the lab preparing a dilution of molasses
Or eagerly sharing the history the laboratory has held.
The multitude of masters and PhD dissertations
That sit on the shelf gathering dust with not many to look at,
While a clever company managed to obtain copies
And store them all behind metal gates.
Fear rules the city.
On Saturday and Sunday, I was woken up at 3 am,
With wailing and shouts from street corners where
Skimpily clad transvestites and women folks alike,
Sell their bodies in exchange for money.
I was greatly disturbed by my utter helplessness
as well the fear that reeked everywhere from me.
The buildings are tall but the the metal gates
Are even taller. All this talk about changing the society
Means nothing when fear subsumes oneself.
These poor people needs education, support.
Retired people in the edificio central
Stay ensconced in their comfy beds and
Many a night their sleep must have been disturbed
By people tottering handbags and make-ups
As well as wimpy pimps who exert power on these bodies.
I shall not digress more for we will get back to the laboratory promptly…
Many results of significance have been made in the four walls
Of the laboratory.
The equipment that was bought with money from several grants
Have dutifully served the once vibrant lab.
Now all that is left is fewer than six people.
The experience of Oslo Sr. is all left.
The researchers have gone to far away places.
The yeast have gone too for new yeasts
Are taking over the industrial vats.
The instruments not functioning sometimes,
Needing money to repair them.
The store room, with its gloomy presence.
Marks a sad retreat of this renowned lab.
Time is a wonderful thing.
It snatches the rewards, and experience
And offers nothing in return, we are meant to retire,
To wither away and die just like the resplendent
Monkey apple flower with its canon like fruit
Withers eventually and dies, for the new ones to blossom
Nature is cruel too.
And I shall also be back to Campinas on Monday pronto
To share the results that Oslo and his team
Helped me to arrive at with much joy
while guarding my experiences in my little grey cells
And to inspect them after I retire.
Teamwork and camaraderie
Goes way beyond ruthlessness and jealousy.
May the force of camaraderie
Be with us.