Confronting realities: The girl child and retinoblastoma treatment in India

A child with a white eye reflection as a result of retinoblastoma [Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]
Not all diseases get the same kind of attention from the global medical community in their search for potential cures – for various reasons. But is the availability of an effective medical cure enough to treat the disease? Pankaj Sekhsaria deals with this question in his recent article How Users Configure Producer Identities: Dilemmas of Retinoblastoma Treatment in India (Economic and Political Weekly, Oct 7, 2017).

Retinoblastoma, a malignant eye tumor was associated with certain death until a century ago. Thanks to sustained efforts and medical advancements, the survival rate increased from 5% in 1896 to 81% in 1967. Yet infant children in India continue to suffer due to this form of cancer, retinoblastoma being one of the top five childhood cancers in the country. Sekhsaria attempts to explore why India continues to have the highest number of children with retinoblastoma in the world. Continue reading “Confronting realities: The girl child and retinoblastoma treatment in India”


Describing nature to a daughter – from a prison camp

1934 Sketch by Alexey Wangenheim [Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]
Ever since humanity stepped into the era of the Internet, the art of letter writing began its slow descent into oblivion and is now lodged in the limbo of pleasant nostalgia. The jury is out on whether we ought to feel sad about the loss of the handwritten letter but many of us would acknowledge that some of the best known works in literature came to us in the form of letters. More specifically, history looks favourably upon those literary works that emerged from within the four walls of a prison cell.

Long before he became the first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru spent several years in prison for dissenting against the government in British-occupied India. Like  his mentor Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru also spent his days in prison, writing – specifically, writing letters to his daughter Indira. Among these letters, those introducing his daughter to the vast expanse of global history hold particular relevance in the literary world. This collection of letters was published as Glimpses of World History in 1934.

In 1934, another father holed up in prison began writing letters to his family, particularly to his daughter. But this father was not as fortunate as Nehru was, for he ended dying in prison. The man was Alexey Feodosievich Wangenheim, the meteorologist who was sent to the Solavki prison camp in 1934 for alleged counter-revolutionary activities against Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. Continue reading “Describing nature to a daughter – from a prison camp”

Knowledge Swaraj: an Indian manifesto on Science and Technology

ksThe Knowledge Swaraj manifesto is a document developed through a collaborative effort of academics and activists of the Knowledge in Civil Society (KICS) network in India. The key points of this document are presented in this post. The complete manifesto can be read online on the KICS website.

  1. What is “Knowledge Swaraj: The Indian Manifesto on Science and Technology”?
  • It is a document inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and asks what Swaraj means for the domain of Science and Technology (S&T) in 21st century India.
  • It argues for Indian self rule of a knowledge democracy, which draws its agenda for S&T from the needs of the Indian people

Continue reading “Knowledge Swaraj: an Indian manifesto on Science and Technology”

Decoding the science agenda of the liberal Pope and his conservative flock

Pope Francis and Leonardo DiCaprio [Image Courtesy: Catholic Herald]
When the Academy Award winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio used his 2016 award acceptance speech to say that “climate change is real“, his stand was celebrated by the liberal media. But it may not come as a huge surprise considering that Hollywood A-listers like DiCaprio are generally liberal and have championed the cause of the marginalized – both people and planet. However, when another “celebrity” on (shall we say) the other end of the political spectrum, made a similar advocacy attempt by writing a letter – it created global fanfare among the climate change mitigation advocates.

Pope Francis’ papal encyclical Laudato Si was released in June 2015. Having the subtitle “On Care for Our Common Home”, the encyclical urged the global community (not just members of the Catholic Church) to act on an urgent basis and tackle the problem of climate change. Laudato Si is not the first papal document to address issues concerning earth and the environment. But it was perhaps the first attempt to increase action among “conservatives in general and Catholic conservatives in particular”. Continue reading “Decoding the science agenda of the liberal Pope and his conservative flock”