A sylheti cosmology researcher narrates her accademic work and travel in Germany

One Syhlleti and a resident of Silchar, Ms. Chandrani Bhattacharjee had a visit made to University of Bonn, Germany as a part of her research on Cosmology. She has been kind to provide us with some images as well as her experience there - as a scholar as well as a visitor to a different and unfamiliar culture. The photos contain the picture of the radio telescope  in University of Bonn where she worked, a 14th century Gothic Church, the House where the great  German composer Beethoven lived for sometime in Bonn, some pictures along her professor and other co-workers, in the Dutch coast of Mediterreanean. Below is her experience and her interaction in an alien landscape, in Germany and we understand that it was equally the language of humanity that overwhelmed many a times, the differences of age, language. reliogion and culture. We also detect that curiosity and awe mixed in the young researcher who, while surrounded by veterans and established scientists of the field  looked with a curious and free mind onto science as well  the life-styles and world-view of them.  Reproduced below is the original "impressions"

recorded by her, while in Germany as well as after being back at Indian soil. We thank her for her kindness of allowing it to be published here  and wish her all the best in her subsequent research-works. 


It was the 22nd April 2001, an unforgettable day for me. I got an invitation from Bonn University, Germany to join research programme there.

A girl, who never been so far alone was not easy for her to arrange this trip. But I was determined for this voyage. In the beginning, my father was little bit Worried but after all he gave me permission & inspired me. My brothers and my sister encouraged me very much and without their help I could never get the permission from my father.

I had the flight on 28th of May on British Airways. I was accompanied by my father and my sis Indrani up to Calcutta. It was  my first trip to abroad and I didn't know any person in Bonn except Prof. Wolfgang Kundt, my guide in Bonn University with whom I talked about 4 to 5 minutes at Gorakpur in the last ASI meeting. Indian time 7:15 am my flight left the soil of India. My voyage started. My route was Calcutta-London-Cologne. It takes 10 and a half  hours to reach London.

My journey was quite pleasant except that after 4 hours when suddenly flight started shaking strongly & we were advice to close the windows. I felt little nervous thinking " Is the flight going to crash? ". When I looked at children sleeping with their parents without any worry I remembered my mother very much closing my eyes. After 3 hours when we were permitted to open window there were deep scratch on the window glass.Just before landing there was as interesting announcement that if any one like to get any information in Sylleti / Bangla there is a seperate counter for that.I realized that there is a seperate place for Syhlleti in England. My flight touched British Land London, Heathrow at about 1.30 pm .It was warm weather with dazzling sun in London.

I had to go terminal 1 to catch my second flight for Cologne after six hours. On my way to reception I found a person with a banner in Bangla " Ami ki kichu korte pari ? " , He told me the way to Terminal-1.

I was sitting in a chair, suddenly I saw an airline person with " Pagri "(turban). I approached him,  quickly asking "Are you an Indian?" Yes! He answered, I too. He started talking with me in Hindi. He offered me a cup of coffee and then requested me to take some food but I refused, as I was shy to tell 'yes' because I had no British currency. He then requested me to wait for a while, and after sometime he came back with three more Punjabis. One of them said "If you don't take anything, Indian will blame us that we have sent a girl from England without any food". I liked the way they welcomed me.

Taking many memories from airport my flight started for Cologne, it takes about 1hr 20 min to reach Cologne. Cologne airport was very beautiful .I followed some girls to come out from the airport. Outside the airport, an exiting and unforgettable moment, to meet with Prof. Kundt was waiting for me. After a warm welcome by Prof.Kundt he took me to Bonn University's guesthouse. It was looking like a fort for me. He showed me my room. I was very tired because my journey of about 19 Hrs but he was very exited to show my working room and his new book. We discussed a little Astrophysics also.

http://web.archive.org/web/20011024203422/http:/  THE RADIO TELESCOPE


http://web.archive.org/web/20011024203422/http:/  AT THE UNIVERSITY

On 29th May 2001, my first morning in Bonn. I awaked very early morning. The scenery outside my window was very beautiful. There were many big trees, some houses looked like church and paddy fields. I looked at them some time and remembered my home. I was feeling very hungry so I asked a lady the way to the canteen, she gave me a card for opening doors and took me to the canteen. Later, Prof. Kundt told me that I am very fortunate, as she didn't know me though she gave me the card keeping faith on me. Canteen was very well decorated and foods were also garnished very well. There was lady working in the canteen. They walk very fast comparative to us. We have to run to walk with them. When I asked that lady to serve me a cup of tea She looked at me surprised,  as she didn't know English but another girl near by guessed my words. I took a cup of tea and one apple. In the canteen most of the foods were non-veg. so I avoided them. There is a rule, one has to put dishes, glass etc. in washing basin after taking food, I did the same but that old lady was telling me something in German, I didn't understand her so, left the place silently with a thought "Is she angry with me?"

Bonn University's Astrophysics branch & Max- Plank Institute are two adjacent buildings. Each room, colour, door every thing looked alike, so I was lost on my way back however, I some body took me to my room. Prof, Kundt came and gave me the list of the programmes I had to attend and some discussion about my work. The place is very silent and most of the Astronomers are busy with his computer. Saturday and Sunday are holydays. They enjoy very much during weekends.

Everybody was post Doc.and I was only person about to start PhD. I was little worried, as it had no experience to work with such a famous scientist. But from the first  day I found him a very jolly & friendly person. In the evening I met with an Indian, he took me to a departmental store - Norma. I bought a packet of Himalayan rice .He offered me to buy some wines, He was very surprised when I refused telling that I have no interest on that .His expression was like that I was mistaking something. He showed me his apartment where he lives together with his girl friend. This was 1st time I realized the cultural difference.

Though I bought rice, I didn't know how to use their kitchen so lived only on apple and milk.Next day evening I met with two lady scientist named Dr.Lindsay & Dr.Marusa, helped me to use the kitchen, I could never forget helpful hand of Dr.Lindsay specially in many computer related problems. After almost 3 days when I ate rice cooked by me, that  seemed to me world's most delicious food. In the first day I had to face a problem that was to open the door. The system to open the door is difernet  from us. It was about 8 pm, no body was nearby, I came back from the departmental store, tried about 1\2 hour to open the main door but in vain. The weather of Bonn was like our January month. Very cold air was blowing. I was bit nervous thinking" Is my 1st day going to be last day of my life?" After about 1 hour when I saw a scientist was coming out from the Institute, I was relaxed. He showed how to open the door. From that day I was very alert to open the door.

Now I will tell little bit about my guide Astronomer Prof.Dr. Wolfgang Kundt .The two courses "Astrophysical Jets & their Engines" and "Newton Stars and their birth events "are documentation of some of his research interests. He is a very jolly person with a very good mood always. He believes that good work can be done only in good harmony. He was very friendly from the 1st day; I never hesitated to ask him any question that may be a very simple one. He is a lover of nature and I am also so, when ever we had little a free time other than working time we discussed how one can solve many natural phenomenon with physics and sometimes We discussed like philosophers about the existence of God, how life is created, is there any existence of life in any other planet etc. I liked his many habits. Boon is very clean city but if he notices any  paper on the street he collects them and leaves them on the dust-tbin. It seemed to like a dream to work and discuss in many topics with such a famous astronomer so friendly.

http://web.archive.org/web/20011024203422/http:/  THE SCHOLAR ON WEEKEND

http://web.archive.org/web/20011024203422/http:/   THE COSMIC DISCUSSIONS

As I was youngest in that Institute he used to address me as " Starlet". Other scientists who could not remember my Indian name called me as " Queen of moon" & some other scientist " Chandra Satellite" because of the similarity of my name with satellite "Chandra" . I always found a touch of intimacy and affection from their talking and addressing. Whenever I looked at atlas it seemed to me I was too far from my home otherwise it seemed to I am in between some caring person near by my home.

 The Research  activities in Bonn University and my own :

I had to choose and start my PhD paper there .To go in the library, discussions with Prof.Kundt were usual. The working time there is from 9 am to 4 pm.But there is no restriction, one can work in the night or in the morning also. I had to work and study hard in the working days but in the weekends only enjoyment. Prof.Kundt gave me a rough copy of his forthcoming book to read and to question him. Every day I asked him many question, sometimes some funny questions . He used to listen them very patiently and answered them in a very simple way.

On every Wednesday there is a seminar of Prof.Kundt at 3:15 to 5 pm .New Discoveries, new events are mainly discussed in that. Not only Astrophysics but also other branches of physics discussed there. I liked that seminar very much.

On Friday, I used to attend a colloquium at Max. Plank Institute. Astronomers are invited from abroad, sometimes other parts of Germany. After the talk always some open discussions. Always there are some additional seminars in every week.

There is a small observatory in the upper floor of the building. Twice in a month, on Tuesday at 10.30 pm observaory is opened for common local peoples. Astronomers usually discuss on some topic and then explain by observation. I attended a single lecture. As the lectures are in German so those were out of my understanding. I was invited in an International seminar

on " Precision Experiment and Fundamental constants" at Physikzentrum Bad Honnef (Germany) from 11th to 13th June.

Scientists were mainly from diff. countries of Europe and America. I was the only candidate from Asia .It was a new and exciting feeling to meet with many world famous scientists, talk with them & listen their lecture. Two Nobel Prize winner scientists --  Norman Ramsay, Haverd University, Cambridge, USA gave the lecture on " Quantum Mechanics & Precision Measurements" and Klaus Von Klitzing, MPI fur Festkorprforschung, stuttgart, Germany gave lecture on " How constants is the Von Kletzing Resistance Ric ?".

On 11th June evening, there was an evening talk by Heinz Otto Peitgen , University of Bremen and Zentrum fur Mediziniche Visualisierung,Bremen on " Medical Diagnostics Based on Math's and Physics " that was little different  from other lectures. Every body liked that and I also which is concerned with Software Assistants for preoperative planning of ontological and transplantation liver surgery .He explained if doctor removes a portion of infected liver of a person, somehow if 30% of liver remain compacted then the liver can be reformed into its original shape .He showed many 3D views of that process by a computer.

Prof. Gerhard Schafer, Universitat Jena was very much interested in Indian cosmology .He gave me name of two books based on Indian cosmology written by foreign writers. Although, most of the scientists were at the age of my  grand father but they were very jolly , having very good mood and responded me very well. Some of the scientist gave me advice how to proceed to my research work and how to enter in collaboration projects.

I cannot resist myself describing the beauties of the place that was very nice surrounded by mountains and the river Rhine. We went for a small hiking to the nearer mountain in the off time.

Now I should mention the foods there, as these were most delicious food ever taken. I didn't count but from idea I can tell that there was about hundred varities of food. Wines, Beers & Chocolates are most famous in Germany. Juices were also there. I also drunk with them was telling "cheers" of course not with wine but with orange juice. I remember Prof. Kundt's words "You have born and brought up in a very homely Indian culture, the way you have entered in the Western high society I liked that". Most of the scientists knew that Indians take their food by their hand , some of them tried the same including Prof. Kundt. It seemed to me a dream, to be surrounded by many world famous scientists during the three days from morning 8 am to 10 pm. I got many new experience and unforgettable moments of my life during these days..

I was invited as a guest in a tennis competition at the Bushhoven village. Tennis is the most famous game in Germany. Every one from child to old people plays tennis. Mrs. Kundt took me to their home after the tennis competition. I gifted her a 'saree',

which i brought from India. She was very happy and requested me to show how to wear a 'sari' though she played tennis whole day and little tired. She was very exited wearing 'sari' of her favorite color yellow and said "I am looking like a queen". She served me food and was in 'sari' until I left.  

I heard that German avoids inviting someone in their home. But I was invited 6/7 times. Mrs. Kundt has some curiosity to know the culture of India like how children accept their parents decisions, why Indian women uses red spot on their forehead. Some times, she was cooking and I was helping her removing green leaves from strawberry discussing ancient culture and Sanskrit language. I went to see an Italian Circus with them. Although, the language was German but I enjoyed the circus and the Italian dances of many beautiful girls.

Passing the days surrounded by Astronomers I found that most of them have hobbies other than science. Once I was invited for a  lunch with some Astronomers. One of them Prof. Gerd Pzolez is very much interested about the birds. When I told him about strange suicide birds at Jathhinga .He was quite impressed by that Strange Birds. Another Astronomer told me that he heard that the Indian women are very powerful. Before he could end his sentence another Astronomer said smilingly -" This is the reason why he never been in India, fearing Indian woman ".

I never felt uneasy to talk with, work with the astronomers though they are more & more senior than me, All behaved as I am their coworker.

On 17th June Sunday, I visited Effelsberg to see the radio telescope. It is largest fully steer able parabolic antenna in the world. Suddenly, when the white telescope started moving towards me, I was very excited as it moves rare in a day .It seemed to me that it is welcoming me.

http://web.archive.org/web/20011024203422/http:/   THE  GOTHIC CHURCH

http://web.archive.org/web/20011024203422/http:/ FRONT OF BEETHOVEN'S HOUSE

http://web.archive.org/web/20011024203422/http:/  THE SCHOLARS

http://web.archive.org/web/20011024203422/http:/  THE LIBRARY


Now I like to mention an unforgettable face, a lady of 95 years I met that day in the art-exhibition of Mrs.Kundt. She was introducing me with her friends. An old lady was nearby us. I noticed that old lady told something to Mrs. Kundt in German language. She didn't know English. As translated by Mrs.Kundt she said" She is looking like a model & it seems to me that I know her very well". When we were coming out from exhibition hall she suddenly caught my hand, took me to another room and started showing her drawings. She was telling something very excitingly in Germany. I could not follow her words but from her eyes I could understand that she liked me very much. She hugged me with tears in her eyes and ran away quickly driving a car. We didn't each other, couldn't understand each other's language but we could understand ours feelings. She touched some thing somewhere in my heart.

There is a Bengali association in Bonn. Bengali from both India and Bangladesh gather together on every Saturday evening to have some Bengali foods, gossiping, listening Rabindra sangeet etc .One can learn Bangla there also. On every weekend I used to get invitation for lunch, dinner from them. They celebrate all cultural functions like " Poila Baishak" , " Rabindar Jayanti ".

On 24th June, Sunday I with a Bengali family went to the Middleburg, Holland to see the Dutch city and the Atlantic Ocean. It took three and  half  hours from Bonn to go Holland in a car. The Bengali family visited see beach many times so they were not interested to touch the salty water but I was very much interested, I ran near the water to taste the water of Atlantic Ocean. It seemed to me calm and quite than Indian Ocean. On our way back we visited Belgium also.


Prof. Kundt had to attend a seminar in Moscow. He left Bonn on 27th June, before 4 days of my departure. That day I was really upset. He gave me so much care and affection that I never imagined from an unknown foreign person, an astronomer.

Mrs. Kundt, Hans Bauman & some Bengali people accompanied me very well. I liked to mention of one German lady " Francisca" wife of a Bengali person, took me world famous music composer Ludwig van Beethoven's house of birth, museum and prepared a special pizza for me.

30th June Saturday, my last day in Bonn, In the morning I went to Cologne to see the world's largest Cathedral church and then I attended a German marriage .In the evening I had an an appointment with Astronomer Michacl Geffert on radio observations. Mrs. Kundt was waiting for me to take me Cologne Airport to submit my luggage as I had the flight on morning 7 am .

She see off me by hugging, inviting me again in Bonn. At night I had a dinner in Francisca,s home.  My whole day was totally packe. I was very tired. I had to start on morning 5 am so I had a little fear. Every time when I go somewhere my father awakes me. I was very fortunate. I was cared by all. Though I got myself  myself at 4 am also there was a call from that Bengali family & from India.

My fligt started for London at 7.15 am morning. Once Prof. Kundt wrote me before going Germany " You will miss us after departure from Bonn as you may miss your family after departure from Silchar". He was right .I really missed them very much.

Crossing English Channel I reached London again. Spent 8 hours in London with many Syhlleti. I liked London Airport very much. For a while I was in confusion whether I am in London or Silchar . Again 10 1/2 journey to Calcutta. Spending one day in Calcutta I reached my home, my safe heaven on 4th morning with many memories of my first visit to Bonn, an unforgettable epoch of my life, so far.


Mr. Ashutosh Bhattacharjee


Dr.Wolfgang Kundt

Mr.pannalal Bhattacharjee

Mrs.Sangita Bhattacharjee

Mr.Pulok Bhattacharjee

Ms.Indrani Bhattacharjee

I am very much thankful to Ms.Barsha P. Bhattacharjee for giving me the chance to write the tale on syhlleti.org & Mr.Pritam Bhattacharjee for inspiring & encouraging me to write this tale. 

Copyrighted to  - Ms. Chandrani Bhattacharjee 

Ms. Bhattacharjee can be reached at chandrani