Can India be a Geek Nation?
As India changes its image from being a country of snake charmers to a country of technology geeks, I think the time for such a book had arrived. Author Angela Saini travels through the length and breadth of the country to find an answer to the question that is often asked ‘If India has so many people trained in science and technology why is it not a superpower in that space, why has it not sent a man on the moon yet, why no Microsoft or Google has come out of this nation?’
On the surface, there is no answer to this question because we are not aware of a lot that is happening in the country beyond our own little cocoons. So if I am a software geek, I probably know a bit of good core research work happening in that field but am almost blind to the rest of the fields. Media, of course, does not think it is important for them to focus on these areas. Sometimes they are kept away by the research agencies themselves and most of the times they do not choose to cover them as they hardly make sensational news.
An engineer turned journalist turned author Angela Saini takes a very interesting route to write stories about various fields in science.
She first looks at the obvious and talks about what is missing. But then she starts peeling the layers and starts showing you what is happening under the surface. She talks to the people who have the power to make all the difference. She tells you all that is happening in the laboratories in some corner in our cities, in some small garage. And how there are many geeks working to solve the problems of this nation.
One underlying theme that she uncovers in all her rendezvous for Geek Nation is that geeks in this nation are working towards solving the problems that this country and its large population face. They especially focus on the problems for those below the poverty line. Take for example the scientists working on breaking the tuberculosis code or the space scientists trying to provide basics like telephone and education to the masses at a very low price through the satellite technology. She also discovers that the cost of research in India, in all the spaces she visited for this book. Every time is a fraction of what it would cost in the west.
At one level the Geek Nation is a travelogue and the various centers that the author visits can be called pilgrimages or at least the attractions for the geeks. As a visitor to India, she introduces you to the place she is visiting, adds a bit of description so that you can imagine the place if you have not visited it. She talks about the challenges of traveling in certain remote areas. Some of these areas are where given a choice you would not like to visit.
She introduces people not only through their names, designations, organizations and the work they are doing like a true journalist. She also sketches a portrait for you to imagine the person. At another level, she has drawn the geek map of India. She introduces you to the research centers that may be just the names to you. She puts people, purpose, and context of these centers. And you kind of know them a bit and respect them a lot more. She takes you to IIT Delhi, IT companies both the big ones and the garage ones, banana and other plants research centers, Sanskrit research center, brain research centers working on technologies to identify criminals, Geek city being built in Lavasa, UID project, Open research model combining various fields to solve a huge problem of tuberculosis and space research centers.
Buy Geek Nation by Angela Saini from Amazon India or Amazon US
She keeps giving all the credit for anything to do with science in this country to Nehru. Which in my opinion is taking it away from a lot of others and not fair? In her analysis in each of the chapters, sometimes you agree with her, sometimes you do not. However, you admire her going ahead and trying to find the answer first hand. And give you the data to decide what you think. She also got the opinions of the experts, looked at what motivates them and how do they see the future. The tagline of the Title says it all – How Indian Science is taking over the world!
Read it to know a subject that is not written much in India. I think everyone needs to read the book.