Friday, January 26, 2007

'The Hungry Tide' by Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh is a fabulous writer, who's polished and beautiful prose inspires. His last book 'The Glass Palace' was one great book weaving the history of Burma, India, the World War II with fiction to concoct a very well-researched tale. In 'The Hungry Tide' he gets better. It is the best book of his till date ('The Shadow Lines' for its inter-continental tale and 'Calcutta Chromosome' for its sheer novelty come second and third in my list). 'The Hungry Tide' is set in the tide country of the Sundarbans with its mangrove forests and Royal Bengal tigers, enough to send a thrill of anticipation up your spine. The book is fast-paced and mysterious, as well as mellow and langurous, simultaneously. Starting off with the travails of a lady researcher (Piya) in dolphins and marine mammals (cetologist) from the US, the tale courses through the upheavals in the life of a social worker (Nilima) and her husband (Nirmal), along with their nephew - a translator from Delhi (Kanai) - the typical city-bred. An affection triangle of sorts builds between the translator and the resarcher as well as a local fisherman (Fokir), and as the researcher hires a diesel jetty and heads off to research the gangetic dolphin species - Orcaella; in the mean while human emotions, nature's beauty, social displacement, folklore and unexpected situations spring up, ending in a disturbing yet redeeming conclusion. It brings up certain dichotomies which are not easily resolvable - such as nature conservation vs human displacement; practical vs dreamy, idealistic men; nature's beauty vs its vagaries and unpredictability. A must read for the sheer capacity of language, imagination, descriptive style and all the above. 5 stars !

Currently reading 'NEXT' by Michael Crichton, his fast, expletive-laden tale on genetic engineering is an absolute page turner, completely unstoppable pace.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wah Ustad !

Had been to this concert at Chowdaiah Memorial Hall last Saturday - Zakir Hussain, Taufiq Qureshi, and Niladri Kumar. Superlative performance by each of them. It started with a prelude by manipuri drummers and was followed by a solo performance for about 40 mins by Zakir himself - amazing range - ranging from slowest and low freq to high speed - he played the tabla like a storm. Niladri Kumar then joined him on the sitar - he is an amazing performer for his age - very young guy. Then Taufiq joined in - he plays percussion instruments and other drums etc (like Sivamani). Also he did some amusing things just using his mouth and his hands - aural tones and beats ... Then they were followed by four Manipuri drummers who did synchronized acrobatic dances. Towards the end all of them played out, together. The jokes and humour peppered show (especially quips by Zakir) was my first classical concert proper - thanks to RickB. It ended with auctioning of Shahrukh Khan's jacket which some foreign lady bought for a whopping Rs 1,25,000 for Concern India foundation.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Unconscience

Here is a short story to break my writer's block:
Unconscience (PDF)

Update: Here is some evidence for the medical part of the story from a doctor friend of mine - Dr.Vivek Chail. Though the reason for writing the story was more than just exploring medical possibilities through science fiction.

hi shamit,
thnks for your mail/story link
your flow of thought is great.
comng to your ques..

1.is the medical possibility there, that the ova can be extrated from a human female and injected with sperm and placed in an artificial placenta like chamber and fed with appropriate nutrients.
the ova extracted frm human female and injected with sperm is the same as test tube baby..frst done in 1970s
the second part i would like to clarify that the placenta is a temporary organ that serves as a link between the deloping fetus and the uterus. The fetus develops in the uterus..i suppose you meant that as the "chamber"..still in rare cases the fetus can develop outside the uterus and this is known as an ectopic pregnancy..that is again dangerous to the mother..
as in your question..the "chamber" is still an enigma because you have multiple blood vessels and the blood flowing through those small channels should flow under regulated pressures at the same time performing many other processes to keep the fetus growing..if you can grow the "uterus" in a lab and maintain the othr parametrs under control conditions you story might be a reality..

2.Would it develop into an embryo and if DNA sequences are introduced later on to modify the traits can a 'more perfect' human being be formed.
there are certain cells known as stem cells and these are unique for any individual and can be used as a future reserve to grow organs..it is commercialised in bangalore and they preserve the cord blood and harvest stem cells..
the genetic make up is decided at the time of fertilisation..the maximum intervention is possbl at that time..later on DNA sequences may be modifiable still i have not heard much on that..you cant change DNA after birth still you can match and this helps in prediagnosing medical conditions and nature of future disease leading to preventive treatment..

thnks
vivek