Shri Guru Ji Ki Sangat
I am truly humbled to be here in the Ramgharia Gurdwara, Birmingham.
It is with sincere humility that I acknowledge and recognize the tremendous efforts and sacrifices made by our forefathers who brought our generation to the UK.
I want to pay homage to my late Papaji, Sardar Chain Singh Virdee and Biji, Bibi Udham Kaur, who changed continents twice, from India to Kenya, and then to the UK, to give us, their children, exceptional opportunities.
I also want to pay homage to my late father-in-law, Shri Mulshankar Oza who came to the UK in 1947 with his wife Smt. Ramaben Oza in 1950.
Today I would like to talk to you about success and disappointment. As true success always comes in small doses, by the grace of Waheguru.
As a young kids in Kisumu, Papaji and Biji, instilled in us the importance of a good education. They believed, I am sure like most of you here today, that a good life comes from a good education.
For me, education in England was to give me the freedom to pursue fundamental science as a profession. My success has come in small doses by working with teams of scientists who would go on to make a major scientific discovery. But my journey into science also comes from having many disappointments. Resolving problems, refocusing, and carrying on was always going to be a challenge. This has been the trend for me throughout my 40-year scientific career.
My early education in Africa was essential to how I would deal with these disappointments. The first one I can remember vividly when I was around 8 years old. My clever elder brother, Lakh, was scoring high in class and I wasn’t doing well at all. He always came first and I almost last. My father rewarded him with a present for coming in first place. Unfortunately, I did badly and achieved 26th place. I cheekily asked Papaji for 26 presents! Papaji was not amused, and I was disappointed with myself. I began to study very hard realizing that with every effort to achieve one small goal - success will come, but in small doses.
My mother Biji coached us daily in arithmetic and English at home while Papaji worked as a customs officer. In 1967, realising that all their children had the potential to go to University they decided to move to the UK.
My brothers and I went to Kings Norton Grammar School in Birmingham. There I had a passionate and demanding physics teacher. I was lucky, for he took a keen interest in me. He expected a very high standard. And he was very proud when his students did well. If I had not understood a problem he would come home to explain it to me all over again. He pushed me hard. I could not disappoint him. He was the one who inspired me to go into a career as mind-boggling as physics.
Now I would like to tell you about my work in physics and talk about the Higgs boson.
I am Professor of Physics at Imperial College, London, doing research at CERN in Geneva, where I live with my family. In the early 90’s, with three colleagues, I started and led a very challenging scientific endeavour, the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva. Today it comprises 3000 scientists and engineers from over 40 countries. It is one of two largest scientific experiments ever built, to search for the elusive Higgs boson, and probe Nature a fraction of a second after the Big Bang.
The Higgs boson is the quantum of the field that pervades the entire universe, through which fundamental particles, like the electron, acquire mass. Mass is what gives our universe substance, and allows structures to form, so us to exist.
Foreseeing the challenges that lay ahead was almost impossible. Our experiment was faced with challenges that were at the same time scientific, technical, industrial, financial and managerial, of a magnitude never faced before in fundamental science. We suffered many setbacks, several major disappointments and constantly worked under enormous pressure and time-constraints. We finally made a ground-breaking discovery of the Higgs boson in July 2012. Success was slow and long and took 20-years in the making.
Risks have to be taken when we try to discover the secrets of Nature. An example is a pioneering technique using crystals, crucial for the measurement of energies of electrons and photons to enable the detection of the elusive Higgs boson. These crystals were produced in a Russian factory that ran round the clock for over ten years encountering and overcoming many difficulties.
Many ask the question “Why do fundamental Science”?
Progress in fundamental Science allows us to get a deeper understanding of how Nature works. Over the centuries this understanding has very much altered the way we live – giving us a better life – providing us with paradigm shifting technologies, such as electricity, electronics, telecommunication, medical imaging, WWW, invented at CERN just over 20 years ago, to name a few.
And now let me say a few words about family as families provide the backbone for the lives we lead.
So let me again acknowledge the support of Papaji and Biji, the families here in the UK, of Pinder and Harvinder, Amrik and Bubli, the Birdi, the Sokhi and the Oza families, and abroad, in Washington, of Lakhbir and Kulwant and in Kenya, the Sokhi family, and the many relatives and friends, here in this great community of ours. It is a profound sorrow for me that Papji and Mulshanker Oza is not here to celebrate with us, for they would have been very happy and proud.
My success would not have been possible without the support, for almost 40 years, of my loving wife, Vatsala. She has provided the bedrock for our family. She also has worked for 35 years in the United Nations refugee agency in Geneva, and throughout she has supported our children in their education, giving them a family life that has allowed them to flourish and taste success. Natisha is a school teacher in London and Jas is now working in the UN in Geneva after finishing his PhD at Oxford.
So success comes in small doses with great perseverance and application and by the grace of Waheguru.
Thank you to all who have performed “seva” for today.
Let me end with a few words from our Ardas
Sikhaan’ dah maaNN neevaan’, maTT ouchee,