November 2015 Posts

“Feminists and Science:Critiques and Changing Perspectives in India”

9789381345078In 2015 STREE published the first volume of a collection of essays called Feminists and Science: Critiques and Changing Perspectives in India. It has been edited by Sumi Krishna and Gita Chadha. The principle behind these two volumes of essays is to have a “more comprehensive and grounded understanding of gender and science in India”.  According to University Grants Commission (UGC) data women in medicine accounted for 44 per cent of the total, the same percentage as in the ‘arts’ ( i.e. humanities and social sciences together). Women in science made up 40 per cent, which was slightly higher than women in commerce ( 37 per cent). In the science-based professions, the ratio of women to men was about one in five: engineering 21 per cent; veterinary science 21 per cent; agriculture 17 per cent.

These are some of the statistics for India today. But this book has some fabulous essays like Mandira Sen’s “A Gender-Sensitive Practice of Psychiatry in India: The Story of Dr. Ajitha Chakraborty”, the first woman practising psychiatry in India or Sumi Krishna’s essay, “Recognizing Gender Bias in Life Sciences”. Yet the point remains that despite all these women scientists making fantastic contributions to their disciplines, gender bias and sexism exists. Mina Swaminathan points out in her essay, “Differences in gender roles are still usually ascribed to biological differences rather than social determinants, and the idea that gender relations are power relations is even harder to communicate.” ( p.218) Despite these challenges India has produced some eminent  women scientists such as Dr Janaki Ammal. ( Janaki Ammal“Remembering Dr Janaki Ammal, pioneering botanist, cytogeneticist and passionate Gandhian” by Geeta Doctor. http://scroll.in/article/730186/remembering-dr-janaki-ammal-pioneering-botanist-cytogeneticist-and-passionate-gandhian ) . She was a plant scientist, who put the sweetness into our sugarcane varieties and served as the head of the Botanical Survey of India in the isro-womenAFP1950s. Recently women scientists at ISRO were seen celebrating the successful launch of Mangalyaan mission to Mars. Read Sandip Roy’s fabulous article documenting some of the amazing Indian women scientists.  ( “Mangalyaan’s unexpected gift: The glimpse of Isro’s ‘Rocket Women'” 25 September 2015 http://bit.ly/1XqMaH9 )

Earlier this year Nobel Laureate, Tim Hunt, a biochemist, made some Tim Hunthighly inappropriate gender discriminatory remarks at a conference in South Korea, “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” Mr. Hunt told an audience at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea. “Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.” Given how these gender biases towards women scientists are so deeply embedded in the system, books like Feminists and Science are very welcome.

Here is a list of contents:

Preface            xi

Introduction

Understanding Gender and Science in India:   xiii

Institutions and Beyond  Sumi Krishna

Tracking a Consciousness: Questions, Dilemmas and

Conundrums of Science Criticism in India  Gita Chadha  xxxvi

1 Feminists Discuss Caste and Gender in Science: An Online Dialogue           1

Anita Mehta, Chayanika Shah, Gita Chadha, Mary E John, Mina Swaminathan, Prajval Shastri and Sumi Krishna

2 Unravelling the ‘Gender-Merit’ Conundrum:

Do Women Deserve to Do Science in India?         22

Jayasree Subramanian

3 Re-Cognising Gender Bias in the Life Sciences        52

Sumi Krishna

4 The Science of Psychology: Where Is Gender?         79

U.Vindhya

5 Science, Gender and Reproductive Technologies: A Case of Disability      96

Anita Ghai and Rachana Johri

6 Gender Inequities in the Science World: An Experiential Perspective           122

Prajval Shastri

7 A Gender-Sensitive Practice of Psychiatry in India? The Story of Ajita Chakraborty 132

Mandira Sen

8 Women Water Professionals in the Maharashtra Water Bureaucracy 153

Seema Kulkarni

9 Women, Livestock and Rural Livelihoods: Challenges for Veterinary Scientists  185

Sagari  R. Ramdas

10 Bridging the Gap between Natural Sciences and Gender Studies: Notes on a Pedagogical Experiment 211

Mina Swaminathan

11 Integrating Gender into the Curricula of Health Professionals:  Experiences and Reflections   235  K. Sundari Ravindran

12 Teaching Feminist Science Studies in India: An Experiment 257

Chayanika Shah and Gita Chadha

13 En-Gendering Bodies of Knowledge: Scientific Institutions and the Production of Science in Science Fiction   273

Suchitra Mathur

List of Contributors  297

Table of Contents, Vol2           301

Sumi Krishna and Gita Chadha ( Eds.) Feminists and Science: Critiques and Changing Perspectives in India ( Vol 1) STREE, an imprint of Bhatkal and Sen, Kolkata, 2015. Pb. pp. 310 Rs 500 

30 November 2015 

Naveed Jamali & Ellis Henican “How to Catch a Russian Spy”

how-to-catch-a-russian-spy-9781476788821_lgNaveed Jamali’s book How to Catch a Russian Spy documents his life as a double agent. He worked with the FBI but led the Russians to believe that he was working for them. For him, especially after 9/11, as a first-generation American, born of immigrant parents Naveed was keen to serve his country. Ideally he wanted to use his knowledge about computers in Naval intelligence but he failed to pass the test. So when an opportunity presented itself or rather he made it happen, it was the nearest to a dream come true — of being a spy. Having grown up reading spy novels, watching TV shows about undercover work and the James Bond series he was very enthusiastic about spying. Plus, he had the good fortune of his parents company — Books & Research — being strategically significant. It had for more than two decades been visited frequently by American and Russian agents in search of difficult-to-find books and articles.

How to Catch a Russian Spy details the three years Naveed Jamali spent working as a double agent. It is part-autobiography and part-documentation recording those significant years. The operation concluded happily for him. Once the Russian spy Naveed was associated with had been captured, Naveed was made a member of the Reserve force of Naval Intelligence. This book has been so popular that it has already been translated into a few languages and Fox has optioned the film rights as well.

Despite the Cold War having finished many years ago the fascination with spies continues to capture everyone’s imagination. Given how every two years a new Bond film appears to a resounding success and in 2015 the publication of How to Catch a Russian Spy has coincided with the release of the master of spy thrillers, John Le’ Carre’s biography and with the discovery that there was probably a sixth member in the famous Cambridge Five spy circle, Naveed Jamali’s true story is a very fashionable. Unfortunately for all the “truth” it engages with in telling a story how a Russian spy was caught on American soil in the twenty-first century, the book lacks the punchy zippiness associated with spy novels. Instead How to Catch a Russian Spy conveys the boyish starry-eyed wonder of Naveed Jamali at finding himself at the centre of a real-life spy story very well. Naveed is never quite able to get rid of that feeling and who can blame him!

Having said that it is a pleasant read. The film should be interesting to watch.

Naveed Jamali & Ellis Henican “How to Catch a Russian Spy: The True Story of an American Civilian Turned Double Agent” Simon & Schuster, London, 2015. Pb. pp. 300. Rs. 699 

Nicolas Henin “Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State”

Jihad AcademyTo prevent radicalisation, rather than putting imams on Arab dictators’s payrolls, we could seek to channel the goodwill of all those (Muslims and others) who are shocked by crimes committed in Syria and who simply wonder: ‘How can I help?’ We could devise some sort of ‘legal jihad’ to stop more young people ending up in the clutches of terrorists. We could promote humanitarian, social and other types of engagement. As far as I know, no such programme exists.

In addition, such an initiative would allow Muslims to reclaim the term ‘jihad’, which has been corrupted by extremists and hijacked by the Western media. Jihad– and this is something that we tend to forget–was initially one of Islam’s most beautiful concepts. It is the effort, exerted on and for oneself, with the aim of becoming better, improving one’s life and striving for a fairer world. 

Our young people, whom we often describe as lacking values, of being individualistic and materialistic, deserve opportunities to commit themselves to something better than criminal gangs. ( p.135)

Frenchman Nicolas Henin is a former ISIS hostage. He was captured in June 2013 and spent ten months in captivity with James Foley and others who were beheaded soon after Henin was released. His book Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State is a slim, hard-hitting and alarming account of the rise of ISIS. It documents the systematic rise of terror, the rise of Islamic State and how “the radicalisation of the revolution has proceeded in tandem with the hardening of Bashar al-Assad’s personality” ( p.41)

Here is a man who was an ISIS captive. He has not succumbed to the Stockholm Syndrome. Nicolas Henin is a thorough professional journalist. He is very familiar with the Middle East having worked in the region as a freelance journalist for more than a decade.  Like the Jesuit priest, Paolo Dall’Oglio, who negotiated his freedom Nicolas Henin too has ‘Syria in his heart’.  It is hard to even begin to imagine what Henin is going through mentally more so with the knowledge that Paolo Dall’Oglio has been abducted by the Islamic State and is still missing. Yet he has had the presence of mind to write this clear account — Jihad Academy.

After the horrendous attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015 when more than a 100 people were gunned down, Nicolas Henin wrote this scathing essay in The Guardian: “I was held hostage by Isis. They fear our unity more than our airstrikes” ( 16 November 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/16/isis-bombs-hostage-syria-islamic-state-paris-attacks )

What is even more terrifying than reading Jihad Academy is the realisation that this is not the first time such terror has been unleashed. The lessons learned from the past are that man-made monsters can easily be created but once in existence these human monsters can unleash an unimaginable horror on their own race.

Jihad Academy has to be read. It is a memoir with a difference. A firsthand account with a sharp and acute understanding of the Islamic State.

Nicolas Henin ( Former ISIS Hostage) Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State Translated from French by Martin Makinson. Bloomsbury, London, 2015. Hb. pp. 150 Rs 399

Literati: A Spiderweb of Yarns ( 14 November 2015)

jaya_bhattacharji-300x300My monthly column, Literati, in the Hindu Literary Review was published online on 14 November 2015 and in print on 15 November 2015). Here is the http://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/a-spiderweb-of-yarns/article7872752.ece. I am also c&p the text below. )

The old lady chuckled. “Each story that sinks into the book becomes a part of an ancient spiderweb full of stories.”

“As more stories are added in, the spiderweb gets bigger and bigger and bigger until it forms an invisible blanket that covers every city and town, every village and every forest. And when someone who is walking by touches the web accidently, stories will flow into their head and from their head to their fingers and from their fingers on to paper…”

(Suraya’s Gift: The Story Catcher Children by Malavika Nataraj. A chapter book published by Puffin Books)

Suraya's GiftSuraya has been given an exquisitely designed blank notebook by her aunt. She scribbles stories in it for a while only to abandon it. Later, unable to locate it she encounters the Story Catcher who tells Suraya the book has been passed on to another child who has better use for it. Malavika Nataraj’s is a stunning debut.

Ranjit LalThe importance of stories can never be stressed enough. Ranjit Lal’s new novel Our Nana was a Nutcase (Red Turtle) is about Nana, who is bringing up his daughter’s four children. (Their parents are busy diplomats.) It is a super brilliant, sensitively told novel about the children witnessing their Nana’s gradual decline with Alzheimer’s, their coming to terms with it and slowly realising they have to be the caregivers for their Nana. A similar story about the heartwarming relationship between grandfather and grandson is found in the bittersweet David Walliam’s David Walliamsbestseller Grandpa’s Great Escape (HarperCollins).

Stephen AlterStephen Alter’s slim novella The Secret Sanctuary (Puffin Books) is a little beauty too. It introduces three school children to the magic within a forest they tumble into while walking to school. It is a secret sanctuary where they can be in close proximity to the animals without the beasts being aware of their existence. They discover nuggets of information from the naturalist, Dr. Mukherjee.

MananManan (HarperCollins) by Mohit Parikh is an “odd little tale” as he calls it. Manan attains puberty and is fascinated how reaching this milestone changes his perspective on life, transforming him in more ways than one. It is a first novel about an ordinary family in a small town.

MunnuMunnu: A Boy from Kashmir (HarperCollins), a graphic novel by Malik Sajad with autobiographical elements, is already causing a stir internationally. Sajad anthropomorphises the Hangul deer to tell the chilling account of being a young boy in Kashmir when it was torn apart by conflict. Munnu capitalises upon his excellent drawing skills to draw political cartoons.

Some other examples of well-told stories are: Scholastic India’s annual offering For Kids by Kids featuring short stories by young writers between the ages of 10 and 16. Paro Anand’s Like Smoke (Penguin Books), a revised edition of her young adult stories Wild Child; Parismita Singh’s stupendous graphic story retelling the Naga folktale Mara and the Clay Cows (Tulika); Karishma Attari’s debut novel I See You (Penguin Books), a chilling horror set in Mumbai, and the gorgeously produced retelling of the Baburnama called The Story of Babur by Parvati Sharma, illustrated by baburUrmimala Nag (co-published by Good Earth and Puffin Books). Scholastic’s Branches book series like Dragon MastersThe Notebook of Doom and Owl Diaries ( http://www.scholastic.com/branches/), and Simon and Schuster’s travelogue series Greetings from Somewhere ( http://www.simonandschuster.com/series/Greetings-from-Somewhere) with helpful illustrations, easy-to-read text and simple plot lines designed for newly independent readers, are strong on storytelling Wimpy Kidtoo. Then there is the astoundingly popular Jeff Kinney, whose Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School within a week of its release has already sold 100,000 copies in India. Timed with its release has been the launch of the Puffin Car that will be used to build excitement about books and the habit of reading among children.

For Kids By Kids 2015

***

Stories have a way of working their way into becoming a part of one’s mental furniture and creating cultural landscapes that stay forever. A wonderful example to ensure stories continue to be shared is the “Libromat” in South Africa bringing together laundry and reading established by social entrepreneurs from Oxford University.  ( http://www.libromat.com/ )Inspired by a study that said dialogic book-sharing is an interactive form of shared reading (http://1.usa.gov/1MVTK7E), an early childhood development centre in Khayelitsha was outfitted with washers and dryers, and the women were trained to read with their children. libromat-inhabitots

( Note: Images used on this page are off the Internet. I do not own the copyright to them.)

15 November 2015 

Amazon for Authors, KDP in Kolkata ( Calcutta), 8 Dec 2015

kdp-amazon

 

Amazon is hosting a 2-hour event over lunch in Kolkata on Tuesday, 8 Dec 2015. It is to introduce and discuss their self-publishing programme– Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. Neal Thompson, Director of Author & Publishing Relations, Amazon.com will be present. Anyone who is interested in selfpublishing their book online is welcome to attend. It could be a book or a manual ranging from fiction, non-fiction, self-help, first aid manuals, medicine, science, gardening, cooking, collection of recipes, gardening, automobiles, finance, memoir, children’s literature, textbooks, science articles, on nature, poetry, translations, drama, interviews, essays, travel, religion, hospitality, etc. Any form of text that is to be made available as an ebook using Amazon’s Kindle programme.

This event is free, but registration before 8 December 2015 is a must. Please email me to confirm participation: jayabhattacharjirose1@gmail.com . Details of the event are given below.

Neal Thompson
Director of Author & Publishing Relations, Amazon.com

cordially invites you for a session on

Amazon for Authors:

Navigating the Road to Self-Publishing Success

Hear how Indian authors have used Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to build and reach audiences across a variety of genres

Guest Speakers:

Rose Garg, KDP author of A Moments Indulgence and Autumn Red
Viji Vardarajan, KDP author of Classic Tamil Brahmin Cuisine

Event details:

Date: Tuesday, December 08, 2015
Time: 12 noon – 1:30 pm followed by lunch
Venue: The Oberoi Grand

RSVP

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose
International publishing consultant
jayabhattacharjirose1@gmail.com