Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Books And Covers

My grandmother, my mother's mother, was a biologist. She did her MSc in an era when good Brahmin girls were reared to be good Brahmin wives. She was the Head of Department of Biology at one of Delhi's biggest public schools. She walked out of an unhappy marriage and earned her PhD at age 60. For years, I remember her taking crowded DTC buses (much to the annoyance of my mother) to go meet her thesis advisor. 

My aunt, my father's elder sister, is a biotechnologist. She left her only daughter in the care of her husband and went off abroad to study in an era when good wives gave up careers to raise good children. She returned to join the All India Insititute of Medical Sciences and went on to do remarkable work in the field of leprosy. Every time I visit her I'm drawn to the Padmashri hanging in her living room, awarded for her contribution to Indian science.

My mother is a doctor. Growing up, she was perhaps the only mum amongst my friends', who pursued a full time career and managed to be available to her family. I remember the few times she took us with her to the clinic. I was so proud to see her in action. She cured people. With science.

Today I attended a seminar on high-energy particle physics. A national meet to celebrate India's contribution to the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. 

It was not until I sat through this session....:

Crappy Photos, Awesome Lecture

...that I realized how unprepared I was for the appearance of these women on this particular stage. 

The lady in the white sari is a key member of the India-CMS project. (The CMS experiment at the LHC detected the Higgs Boson.) In the picture, she's just finished schooling the audience on how the Higgs was discovered. The lady in the brown sari is one of India's leading authorities on S particles and Supersymmetry. (To quote The Hindu, 'she is in a panel that decides the specifications of the next big collider at CERN'). She's just finished schooling a grumpy 185 yr old scientist-bully in the audience on how it's really done bitch.

If you'd asked me to visualize what India's leading particle physicists look like, these ladies would not be it. Why? Probably because they look like my grandmother.

And that's where it becomes about my failings. Why shouldn't they be India's leading particle physicists?
After all, they look like my grandmother.

Must read: Lilavati's Daughters:The Women Scientists of India by Prof. Rohini Godbole

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Really, People...Part V: Do Your Research!

Much annoyance & frustration has built up inside me following this Sunday's 'We The People' (NDTV), which for better or for worse is one of few shows on news TV that doesn't try to shriek you into submission. That doesn't however mean that the level of discourse is in anyway elevated. 
Sometimes it's amusing. Other times like this week when it's a question of free speech and the damage it may or may not cause to society, it's disturbing. At least to me. (Because why can't they just say the shit I want them to say?....haha)

Remember when you were growing up and your elders taught you manners? Or didn't? And then you took your little bundle of good behaviours/ bad behaviours out into the world? Maybe your teachers whooped your little butt for saying a bad word, maybe you made your best friend cry by calling her fat. Maybe you decided to be nice to that shy guy in class, who no one ever spoke to and he turned out to be your best friend for life?
Then, when you became an adult, you decided once and for all who you wanted to be. You'd done the hard work, you'd made the faux pas', been politically correct, pushed on like a bulldozer, been sensitive to the pain of others. You'd figured out your balance. You'd figured out what worked for you. It was partly based on who you were in your gut, how you'd like to treat the world and how you'd like the world to treat you. 
Point is, who you are today is a consequence of research.

So when you talk to me about Free Speech vs. Censorship and ask me which one I think is dangerous, let's not debate decency okay? 
Let's not make grand generalizations about 'sentiments' or presume who can handle them and who can't. Let's not base the all-important decision of what to censor and what not to on what we kinda, sorta, assume or 'feel in our gut' will be the mass reaction. Let's be very sure if someone's words/art/expression are capable of intimidation, suppression or destruction of life & property.
Before we decide to be a 'hip & liberal' free speech advocate or a 'responsible & conservative' supporter of government censorship, I do hope we'll demand data.

Frankly, my research right now is shit. 
I don't know if social media is capable of inciting communal violence or not. I don't have hard facts or analysis to support either side. And when I turn to the the best of Indian news TV to help sort it out for me, I realize I don't even have someone to help me ask the right questions. No one is curious: How does dissemination of information through the internet cause mayhem? How does mob mentality work? And really, how many innocent lives has a parody Twitter account taken till date?

Help me do my research, people, and then we'll talk about decency.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Sometimes I feel like a raisin.
Sweet, but
Ready to be

"The graisin (or giant raisin) is a raisin which has been genetically re-programmed to grow far beyond its normal size. It was produced by Japan’s National Institute of Genetics, which is unsurprising given that nation’s love for large fruits of all kinds. And while they taste exactly the same as small raisins, graisins are sure to make dinner guests stare in awe!"

Friday, August 17, 2012

As far as confrontations between arch nemeses go....

Patrick Jane meeting (who he thinks is) Red John:

trumps Sherlock meeting Moriarty:

Bradley Whitford + Simon Baker + Great Writing > Benedict Cumberbatch + Great Writing - Andrew Scott (No. Just, no.)

I know, sacrilege right? What to do, it's been a day of brutal honesty, television & hiding from real life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Independence Day

Patriotism isn't it. Plus I'm going in to work so it's not about the mid-week holiday.
But I do like this day. How wonderful it is to celebrate freedom. How terrible it is to live in a cage.

Today's a good day then, to be thankful for the number of ways in which I'm free and to take serious note of the ways in which I'm not.

I used to get annoyed when I heard people taking their freedoms for granted, not being grateful enough or feeling entitled. But lately I've changed my stance somewhat. The best kind of freedom, methinks, is the kind where you don't even notice it anymore.

This gentleman, Ai Weiwei, helps put it in perspective.

As a corollary, I suppose the worst kind of enslavement is when you're trapped and you don't even notice it anymore.

Street Art by Banksy (London 2012)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I'll Take It

I recently returned to film production after nearly a decade of being 'just the writer'. It's been scary and exhilarating to see all the little holes & high points of my script come to life. I'm in love with my subject and over the past 6 weeks, I've poured my heart, soul and last dregs of energy into editing the film.

Today we invited a senior editor to preview the rough cut. After the 50 minute viewing he slumped back in his chair and said, "If I didn't have to watch this film, I wouldn't."

This creation I'm so in love with has turned out to be the world's most boring film.
The heart is there, he acknowledges, but who cares?
I can feel my windpipe constrict and my hackles being raised. I can't understand how something so meaningful to me can be so meaningless to someone else. There is deflation, a moment of 'don't mind me, I'll go back to my writer's dungeon then'. Then there's something else. I'm not 21 anymore and I don't need to run away for another decade.

"What can we do to fix it?" I ask.
And he tells me. It is a singular, most magical solution - the kind that takes my breath away with its elegance. Just like that I'm a student again and I can see why this film needed to suck. I think to myself, Damn it, if this is what it means to make a shitty film, I'll take it.

A scene from 'Jules et Jim', which is not a shitty film

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Not Suitable For Adult Types

I was invited by the fabulous Miss Karina to contribute a Story For Thing.
I discovered that writing for kids can be life-saving - especially for curmudgeonly adults like me.

In the event that you start tiring of being a grown up, please take a moment to visit the blog.
It includes The Most Loved Girl In The World by yourstrooly.