A Feminist Understands Rama

[This was written in the year 2012. I revisited this week and have posted it here with a few grammatical edits] .    .    . I am somewhat certain that this subject is likely to attract the fancy of Indians and Indophiles and therefore, will not annoy my primary audience by detailing the story…

Indian Yellow: science unlocks the mystery of a fabled pigment

[This essay was also published on Medium where it was featured by editors as an 'Editor's Pick' on the main page https://medium.com/@emswam/indian-yellow-science-unlocks-the-mystery-of-a-fabled-pigment-cd1320ac5077 ]   Ragini Sohavi, wife of Raga Megh. Source Credit: Francesca Galloway https://www.francescagalloway.com/m/exhibitions/28/works/ Seemingly, 2019 was the year museums in the US discovered the Ragamala paintings in their vaults. Across the country, from San…

The Root of Sequestration: Travels with biology through literature to life

A flowering hybrid Magnolia in bloom outside my window; Spring 2020 You have heard it called ‘isolation’ and ‘quarantine’. ‘Reset’ and ‘lockdown’ even. All these words have different and nuanced meanings and yet, they are used interchangeably in our fervid times. There, however, is a more apposite word — sequester/ sequestration. This word has a…

The Bewildering World of Bats

[This essay was featured as a 'featured top pick' on Medium's Science page in February 2020 https://medium.com/@emswam/the-bewildering-world-of-bats-c8254acd6e8f ] Chiropterophily. Source Credit: NWF https://www.nwf.org/Home/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2018/Oct-Nov/Gardening/Native-Bats With bats, the ‘Umwelt’ is a good place to start. Introduced into ethology, in 1909, by the German Biologist, Jakob von Uexküll, it describes the sensory experience of the world that is…

Afanasy Fet – the poet who straddled two centuries of verse

“I’ll go to meet them on the old familiar road…I’ll gladly…wait for them till morning watching the standing corn sway in the breeze and one day’s death becomes another’s dawning. So past and future in my own life meet; and now the sweetness of the hour, so calm and free, acts on me like a…

Russian Literary Epochs

[This essay was translated into Tamil by the magazine Padhaakai and published by them in the January-February issue https://padhaakai.com/2020/02/10/168693/ ] Russian literature, as we know it, marked its dawn in the eighteenth century under the astral influence of two great men — Derzhavin and Karamazin. Derzhavin was Russia’s first national poet and Karamazin, was the…