Miscellaneous

The Bird That Changed a Canal’s Course

The Bird That Changed a Canal’s Course

      In 1836, T.C. Jerdon, a 25-year-old surgeon, arrived in the Madras Presidency. After training at the General Hospital, he was sent to treat troops battling insurgency in a district nearly halfway to the Calcutta Presidency. Once that was quelled, he joined his cavalry regiment as medical officer and served in various parts of India in a three decade long career. But why do we care about yet another employee of the East India Company, though admittedly, he was an odd bird, who […]



First Female Desi Student in the U.S ?

First Female Desi Student in the U.S ?

Before a packed house in Bengal’s Serampore College, with an audience that included the American Consul General, Joshi in 1883 declared her intention: “I go to America because I wish to study medicine,“ she said, speaking in English before the College Hall. “Ladies both European and Native are naturally averse to expose themselves in cases of emergency to treatment by doctors of the other sex. In my humble opinion there is a growing need for Hindu lady doctors in India, and I volunteer to qualify myself for one.” She was 18 years old and her […]



The Bigshot

The Bigshot

Curious kids have been known to disassemble devices to see what makes them tick. How about letting them assemble something from its parts? If they can get the device to function, chances are they will understand the science behind it as well. This is the idea behind Bigshot, a do-it-yourself digital camera, developed by Shree Nayar, a professor of computer science at Columbia University in New York. This project is distinct from his cutting-edge research in computer vision. A Q & A with the creator […]



Mumbai is his Muse

Mumbai is his Muse

Every big city has an ethos of its own: Paris (romance), New York (ambition), and Beijing (political power). “For Mumbai, that distinguishing trait would be jugaad,” says Parmesh Shahani. He translates the Hindi term as “innovatively making do with tremendous constraints.” Thanks to Mumbai’s energy and cultural reputation, the megacity—India’s financial capital—is now bursting at the seams. While the physical infrastructure demands immediate attention, the intellectual architecture of the city should not take a back seat, he says. Mumbai is Shahani’s hometown and inspiration. He […]



Three Smart Bras

Three Smart Bras

Did the Wonder Woman’s bra confer any special protection on her? Was it good for anything more than, you know, the usual? I am not well up enough on my superhero comics  to know the answer to this question, but here are three added-values bras I heard of recently. Smart Bra for Early Cancer Detection Turn 40 and mammographs will become a part of your annual physical — if you are a woman on a decent healthcare plan. One hates to complain about a medical […]



Forgotten Daughters

Forgotten Daughters

Next time you are at a social gathering, try this little experiment. Ask friends and family to name a female scientist. Most will come up with the name of Nobel laureate Marie Curie; some may mention the unsung Rosalind Franklin. No one seems to know of accomplished Indian women in science. Our textbooks don’t speak of such pioneering figures; newspapers (including The Hindu) rarely run substantive profiles of present day female researchers. This anthology of essays, now available online,  featuring nearly one hundred Indian women scientists […]



Chemistry was their life

Chemistry was their life

Suggest to a present-day high school student in Bangalore who is interested in chemistry that she should not have the same professional ambitions as a boy in her class and she will likely laugh right in your face. Today, in most countries of the world, women can qualify themselves for a career in teaching and research, and aspire to the topmost positions in both academia and industry. There is no barrier stopping women from achieving their goals, not on paper, at least. Read the rest […]



Sweet Mundappa!

Sweet Mundappa!

Recently, Tulika Publishers of Chennai held a I*Heart*Mangoes contest to coincide with the launch of its latest picture book The Sweetest Mango. I won a copy of the new book. My Review of The Sweetest Mango You can’t be a non-resident Indian and eat fresh Indian mangoes too. I live in Boston and don’t travel to the home country during the summer months, so I am pretty resigned to this fact. This July, however, I was in for a pleasant surprise when I walked into my neighborhood bookstore […]



Meterpodu : A Work in Progress

Meterpodu : A Work in Progress

Once upon a time, auto rickshaws in Madras had functioning meters, so the legend goes.Asking the auto drivers to turn on that boxy contraption today is like committing a small crime. The unrevised, state-fixed fare is blatantly unfair to these men in khaki. But pay the arbitrary sum they demand and, chances are, it won’t fair to you in the long run. What gives? A tech-savvy NRI, recently returned to his hometown, wanted to do something about this. Crowd sourcing, a form of distributed problem […]



New Use for an Old House

New Use for an Old House

If the preservation of a heritage building delights us, then we rejoice doubly when an old building is put to new use. Take the case of this 49 year old, two-storied bungalow in Nungambakkam that now houses Rasvihar, a jewelry shop, and Sarangi, the Kanjivaram sari store. This is such a perfect setting for the traditional merchandise: you have to wonder why no one thought of this idea before. The very space, with the mango tree in the well-tended garden, must make for a very […]