Creative Non-Fiction Essays
“Festivals: My Grandma’s Ganesha.” Khabar Magazine, August 2019. I am sorting through the past, as Ganesh Chaturthi approaches and, once again, I am doing nothing to celebrate it.
“Musings: Unpacking.” Khabar Magazine, April 2019. We live in an immigrant world but not a rootless one; across borders we carry objects, and the stories they hold.
“Native or Invasive.” Orion Magazine, March 2017. On lantana, invasive species, and being multiracial in an increasingly walled-off world.
“Ghosts of architects past on the Indian Institute of Science campus.” IndiaBioScience, Aug 28 2015. Repurposed World War II-era buildings give a glimpse into India’s scientific history.
“Tracing the Argentine tango in India.” Forbes India, June 2015. From Buenos Aires to Auroville, from Turin to Mumbai, strangers find common ground in a century-old dance of human displacement.
“Peering through the cracks in the California dream: Bangalore’s nostalgia for our manufactured past.” Boom: A Journal of California, Winter 2014. Article on the strange juxtaposition of American nostalgia marketing with the ever-changing face of Bangalore.
“The uneasy marriage of science and art.” IndiaBioScience, Aug 25 2014. Within the Indian education system the sharp divide between the so-called cultures of science and art starts early. We are taught that math and poetry do not overlap, and then made to choose one over the other before most have managed to learn their mistake.
“Shelved Away.” The Caravan, Sep 1 2012. Co-written with Croor Singh. Article on the seventy-year history of Select Bookstore in Bangalore, India.
“The Writing on the Wall.” The Caravan, Sep 1 2011. Article on the city government-sponsored murals that have emerged on public walls in Bangalore.
“Untitled.” Tehelka, May 9 2009. Article under “personal histories,” on the experience of bridging the cultural and linguistic gap as an Indian-American ecologist in rural South India.
Reported Articles on Science and the Environment
“Breaking the Frame: The Narratives that Help us Fight Climate Change.” The Los Angeles Review of Books, July 2019. Paying attention to communication is particularly important in the case of climate change, because how you tell a story decides how you’ll solve it.
“Genetic diversity key to tiger survival.” Deccan Herald, Oct 16 2017. Most of the world’s remaining tigers live in tiny, guarded fragments, each of which is precarious on its own. Even in the absence of major threats such as poaching, isolation can leave animals at serious risk.
“Unnatural Disaster: After the Chennai Floods.” Dissent Magazine, April 2016. Last December’s floods in Chennai illustrated the devastating consequences of a development model that puts profits before people. But they also hinted at what a democratic response to climate disaster might look like.
Articles for The Wire on water pollution and scarcity in India
“Beneath the Foam and Fire.” The Wire, Feb 17 2017 (Originally published in May 2015). Bangalore’s system of lakes and canals took centuries to build, but their downfall was only a few decades in the making.
“A Science City Rises as an Ecosystem Disappears.” The Wire, Oct 6 2016. As the Challakere kavals are turned into a strategic research complex, locals continue to fight to keep their ancestral rights to these arid grasslands.
“Bangalore’s Dead Fish Are Just a Symptom of the Time Bomb that Lies Ahead.” The Wire, Mar 21 2016. Ulsoor Lake is one of the last strongholds in a water-starved city whose hundreds of old reservoirs have largely been drained to be built upon or reduced to dumping grounds in the last 40 years.
“A Warming Earth Could Mean Monsoons Could Change Course, and India Must Prepare.” The Wire, Sep 23 2015. For millennia, lives across South Asia have beat to the monsoon’s largely predictable rhythm. What happens when that rhythm shifts?
Articles for The Wire from the Paris Climate Talks (COP21) in December 2015
“COP21 Diary: A Ray of Sunshine, a Song of Despair.” The Wire, Dec 1 2015. Sunday night in Paris, images of green trees and messages of hope were projected onto the Eiffel Tower, but there were few on the streets to see it.
“COP21 Diary: The United Nations, their Porous Borders and the People in Between.” The Wire, Dec 2 2015. Outside of the COP21 site at Le Bourget, north of Paris, France, there is a forest of flags from across the world.
“COP21 Diary: From the Pacific to Chennai, Those Degrees Show Us What They’re Capable Of.” The Wire, Dec 3 2015. At the ongoing world climate change conference on Wednesday, Marshall Islands poet Kathy Jetnil Kijiner spoke before an audience at COP21 about the ocean threat to her home.
“COP21 Diary: As Talks Go On Behind Closed Doors, Scientists and Activists Fret Outside.” The Wire, Dec 4 2015. Climate scientist and activist James Hansen was once reluctant to tell his grandchildren about climate change.
“COP21 Diary: With Conference at Midpoint, India Hard Sells Its Carbon Budget Idea.” The Wire, Dec 5 2015. Saturday, December 5 is the rough halfway point of COP21, and an important deadline: by noon this day the first draft of the Paris climate agreement needs to be finalised by negotiators.
“COP21 Diary: The Thrill and the Challenge of Collective Action.” The Wire, Dec 7 2015. I am lying on the ground with my face turned to the Eiffel Tower, which rises perhaps half a kilometre away into an improbably beautiful sky. I have to be careful about shifting my feet and my head so I don’t hit the individuals at either end: together, we form the top half of the letter B in the phrase “100% Renewable.”
“COP21 Diary: From Chasing Ice to Helping Climate Migrants.” The Wire, Dec 9 2015. When chunks of glaciers break off, or “calve,” they don’t slip smoothly off to sea.
“COP21 Diary: The Words of the Language That Makes Climate Action Affirmative and Equitable.” The Wire, Dec 9 2015. Prior to coming to COP21, a climate scientist warned me that climate change negotiations by themselves can be as interesting as watching paint dry.
“COP21 Diary: Climate Science is Ahead of Policy But, Thankfully, the Fear is Behind.” The Wire, Dec 10 2015. All the way across Northern Eurasia and the Northern reaches of the Americas, groves of trees have started to take on an odd appearance.
“COP21: Camps Agree on ‘Well Below 2ºC’ But Claw At Everything Else.” The Wire, Dec 11 2015. On Thursday afternoon at COP21, a gigantic sphere covered with a projection of the Earth drew wondering crowds in the United States pavilion.
“Le Bourget Forgoes Sleep as Draft Negotiations Continue Into Wee Hours of COP21.” The Wire, Dec 12 2015. Even at this very late stage, debates still rage in closed-off negotiating rooms while a very sleep deprived civil society tries to make its voice heard.
“Whatever Happens Next, This is What COP21 Lets Us Do Against Climate Change.” The Wire, Dec 17 2015. The Paris Agreement has been signed, as of Saturday December 12, and Le Bourget is closing up shop.
Science Writing for IndiaBioScience
Biology Research Summaries
“Biomaterials research in India: from tissue regeneration to drug targeting technology.” IndiaBioScience, May 26 2016.
“Understanding cellular mechanisms opens up new therapeutic routes against colorectal cancer.” IndiaBioScience, Dec 2 2015. Study reveals potential genetic target for future drug therapy.
“As climates change, montane habitats may radically shift.” IndiaBioScience, Oct 10 2015. Across the world, regions at high elevations have been warming at an accelerated pace—with average temperatures in the Himalayas having risen more than twice the global average of 0.7oC in the last century. What does this mean for the future of Himalayan forests, grasslands and glaciers?
“Bushcricket duets combine discreet vibrations with sound to elude predators.” IndiaBioScience, Sep 24 2015. Predation pressure pushes bushcrickets to evolve new mating strategies.
““Green” nanoparticles synthesized from medicinal plants.” IndiaBioScience, Aug 11 2015. New research has used extracts from green tea leaves and vajradanti roots to create nanoparticle-based biomedical delivery vehicles that could one day be used to isolate and excise cancerous tissue.
“The diminishing songbird islands of the Western Ghats.” IndiaBioScience, Jul 24 2015. Songbirds in the Western Ghats driven to high altitude “sky island” refuges by ancient climate upheavals now face further genetic isolation, as human action continues to partition the habitats of birds with nowhere else to go.
“Study catalogues priority issues in conservation.” IndiaBioScience, Jun 3 2015. Co-written with Harini Barath. Survey by researchers produces a list of the public’s top concerns about the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems in India.
“First large-scale study of prostate cancer sub-types in North India.” IndiaBioScience, May 27 2015. Screening of prostate cancer patients for chromosomal aberrations may help focus future research and treatment.
“Afforestation will help the planet—but climate change needs a deeper solution.” IndiaBioScience, Dec 2 2014. In the past decade scientists and conservationists have argued back and forth about the net effects forests have on global climate. G. Bala from the Indian Institute of Science suggests that while planting trees in the tropics could help ameliorate climate change, it is more important to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
“The story of a river: tracking lantana’s relentless spread.” IndiaBioScience, Oct 15 2014. The adaptable garden plant Lantana camara has been spreading across India and edging out native species for two hundred years now, despite all efforts to control its growth. Scientists suggest that we could more effectively manage the plant by focusing our attention on riverside habitats.
“On evolutionary biology, and a passion for science: Interview with Amitabh Joshi.” IndiaBioScience, Nov 19 2015. Thoughts on experimental evolution, problem-solving and how to pursue science with passion.
“Ten women, ten questions: Anuradha Lohia.” IndiaBioScience, Jul 17 2015. The second in a series of ten interviews with women scientists across India.
Science News & Events
“Launch of “Accelerating the application of Stem cell technology in Human Disease” at NCBS.” IndiaBioScience, Jan 28 2016.
“Upcoming membership call for India’s first young scientists’ academy.” IndiaBioScience, Jul 28 2015. New academy, with a focus on science education and outreach, hopes to build a network of young Indian scientists.
“Preparing for Climate Negotiations in Paris.”IndiaBioScience, Apr 21 2015. Public talk by Jean-Marc Séré-Charlet, Minister Counsellor at the French Embassy in India.
“Unaddressed demands remain after research fellowship hike.” IndiaBioScience, Apr 15 2015. Protests by research scholars have been ongoing since 2013, with scholars across India demanding that their fellowships increase in correspondence with rising inflation rates and costs of living.
“Bodystorming Hits Bangalore at NCBS.” IndiaBioScience, Apr 14 2015. David Odde, Carl Flink and the Black Label Movement will be working with local dancers and biologists at NCBS the last week of April, bringing together scientific and artistic routes to creativity.
“Notes from the career building workshop for women scientists at NIAS.” IndiaBioScience, Nov 12 2014. In a week-long program initiated and funded by the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), India, and held at NIAS, Bangalore, the interactive sessions were run by a grassroots organization called COACh (Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists).aqq
Young Investigators Meeting 2015, Live Blog
“YIM 2015 live blog, Day 1: PDF Satellite Meeting opens.” IndiaBioScience, Mar 27 2015. The Young Investigators Meeting 2015 opened in Gulmarg (near Srinagar) today with the Postdoctoral Satellite Meeting. Over the course of the next few days, about 40 postdoctoral fellows will have the opportunity to interact closely with representatives from Institutes across India and learn first-hand about taking their research careers forward.
“YIM 2015 live blog, Day 3: Highlights.” IndiaBioScience, Mar 29 2015. On mentorship and non-linear paths through academia.
“YIM 2015 live blog, Day 4: Highlights.” IndiaBioScience, Mar 30 2015. Funding woes, and problems of sexual harassment in science.
“YIM 2015 live blog, Day 5: Highlights.” IndiaBioScience, Mar 31 2015. Random walks, rewarding research, and science outreach.
Bodystorming Hits Bangalore 2015, Live Blog
“Bodystorming hits NGMA: Dance versus powerpoint.” Apr 26 2015. Brainstorming science problems through dance: An introduction to the science/art collaboration between biomedical engineer David Odde and dancer/choreographer Carl Flink.
“Day one, NCBS: The zombie apocalypse.” Apr 27 2015. Early evening on the first day of the Bodystorming Hits Bangalore residency at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), the sun is just beginning to set and the zombie apocalypse has arrived.
“Day two, NCBS: Turning the world upside down.” Apr 28 2015. David Odde, biomedical engineer, is being held upside down on stage.
“NCBS, day three: Performing evolution.” Apr 29 2015. Music from The Lord of the Rings movies is playing, echoing across the underground basketball court at NCBS where bodystorming has been happening for the past two days.
“Day four, NCBS: Crossing the divide.” Apr 30 2015. How do you facilitate collaborations across disciplinary divides? How can you get people from the sciences and arts to talk with each other in fruitful, respectful ways?
“Moving to the next level – Seeing science through an artist’s eyes.” May 6 2015. For me, this was the most fascinating aspect of the bodystorming residency: watching scientists and dancers build a common language over the course of five days, and search for ways to make their creative processes compatible.