ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Doing Science

The absence of affordable, high-quality books and magazines on science, especially in regional languages, could imperil the existence of a democratic, rational society.

The year was 2009. A faculty member—probably Ajit Mohan Srivastava from the Institute of Physics, Bhubaneshwar—was delivering a lecture on relativity, in Hindi, at the Department of Physics of the University of Allahabad. Earlier, it had been announced on the campus noticeboards that the professor’s talk would be in Hindi. On the day of the talk, a theatre of modest size was seated to full capacity with students crowding the gate and the stairs leading to the benches higher up. I’ve never seen such an impressively large gathering of eager listeners for a scientific talk—unless they were rounded up and herded in by the institute’s director or other concerned organisers.

Normally, for such a lecture, it’s difficult to find enough people to fill up the couple of benches in the front row. The rest of the hall is usually conspicuous by its emptiness. But not so in the case of Professor Srivastava. Such was the power of the medium. Hari Prakash of the Physics Department of Allahabad University congratulated the speaker for such a successful talk. In reply, Srivastava narrated his own experiences of the difficult time he had with English when he was studying as an undergraduate in the same department. That was what prompted him to deliver the talk in Hindi so that students, particularly those who had just begun their degree courses, could understand the subject better. That was probably the single-most important factor that attracted students to flock to the lecture hall.

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