All entries by this author

Annaya’s Anthropology

Because I am afraid this story by A.K.R will vanish into the Internet once again, I copy and paste it right here for my ready reference in the future.   Annayya’s Anthropology   by A. K Ramanujan translated from Kannada by Narayan Hegde   Annayya couldn’t help but marvel at the American anthropologist.”Look at this Fergusson,” he thought, “he has not only read Manu, our ancient law-giver, but knows all about our ritual pollutions. Here I am, a Brahmin myself, yet I don’t know a […]



The Young Indian Scientist’s Dilemma (1966)

(From an old essay of R.K.Narayan’s — from 1966. Not sure where it was published. I find some of the word choices strange. Hard to believe he could be so tone deaf.)    A young scientist from Madras, who arrived in New York only a week before, met me at my hostel and introduced himself as one longing to hear an Indian voice. He confessed that he found life in America unbearable. He could not make out a word of what his MASTERS (???) or […]



From Jejuri by Arun Kolatkar

Makarand   Take my shirt off and go in there to do pooja? No thanks. Not me. But you go right ahead if that’s what you want to do. Give me the matchbox before you go will you? I will be out in the courtyard where no one will mind if I smoke.



Avvaiyar — The Diplomat

When Clinton visited India as First Lady, a college student gave her a poem about women all over the world suffering in silence. I wish someone had been given this poem by Avvaiyar who, 800 years ago, had pretty much functioned like a Secretary of State/Diplomat — just as Clinton would later. Avvaiyar II, a poet and friend of King  Adhiyaman, is supposed to have helped avoid war between two kingdom states.  King Thondaiman, ruler of Kanchipuram, had him a note declaring his intention to […]



Give, Eat, and Live

Again thanks again to Iruvar — I revisited this verse of Avvaiyar. ஆண்டு ஆண்டு தோறும் அழுது புரண்டாலும் மாண்டார் வருவரோ மாநிலத்தீர் ர்வேண்டா நமக்கும் அது வழியே நாம்போம் அளவும் எமக்கு என் என்று இட்டு உண்டு இரும் .   Here is the book the verses are from.



A.K.R.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am huge fan of A.K.Ramanujan’s writing — be it his translations from Tamil, his academic writing, his poems, essays …. just anything. So I was delighted to learn that he had written his own memoir in Kannada — not a complete autobiography, but just vignettes from his life.  I felt like buying the Kannada book and begging someone who knew the language to tell me what he had written. Luckily for me, the book was published in translation […]



Red Earth, Pouring Rain

Blessed are those who have a friend to discuss beautiful verses with. Movie-makers, lyricists make it easy  for poetry-lovers when they chose to incorporate words from ancient poems into nicely picturized modern hits. In a double dose of luck, a novelist (Vikram Chandra) chose imagery from this same ancient poem as the *title* of his book and suddenly everyone, with a ear for such things, got curious about the phrase. Here is the lovely song from Iruvar which uses the phrase “our hearts mingle in […]



Deciphering History One Coin At a Time

Deciphering History One Coin At a Time

  “mere jeb me 5 futti cowdie be nahin hain aur mein 5 lakh ka sauda kar raha hun” Ever wondered about these “futti cowdie” dialogues in the Hindi movies? Apparently,  cowrie shells were used as coins in eastern India not too long ago. Learned this and more as I wrote this article about ancient Indian currency.   Read about economist Tandon’s work. html. pdf.



A single escaped organism is all it’ll take…

A single escaped organism is all it’ll take…

Evolutionary engineer Kevin Esvelt, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, works with gene drives, engineered bits of DNA that can cause a mutation to become heritable all the time. He calls for researchers to create and use safe lab procedures while working with this powerful but potentially risky technology. What is a gene drive? In nature, a gene drive occurs when a DNA sequence spreads through a population by breaking the conventional rules of inheritance. For example, if an organism has a single […]



A Numismatist of Note

A Numismatist of Note

Here is how a several centuries-old coin may rewrite a key chapter in the history of ancient India: In 1851, a hoard of gold coins issued by kings from the Gupta dynasty was unearthed near the holy city of Varanasi, in northern India. The Guptas, who ruled from the 4th to 6th centuries AD, had ushered in the “Golden Age” of ancient India, a blossoming of the arts and sciences that produced the concept of zero, a heliocentric astronomy, and the Kama Sutra. Gupta kings […]