Geek Nation: How Indian Science Is Taking Over the World
“Geek Nation” is a spellbinding account of how India is becoming a global hotbed for scientific innovation.
A vivid and entertaining travelogue, “Geek Nation” traces the inventors, engineers and young scientists from across the country that are making India the world’s next scientific superpower.
COURTESY HODDER & STOUGHTON
India is a country famous for delectable curries smelling of turmeric and cardamom, colorful saris, dazzling Hindu Temples peppering every corner and busy streets bustling with a mixture of rickshaws, motorcycles and wandering cows. It is also known for its “geeks,” according to Geek Nation: How Indian Science is Taking Over the World (Hodder & Stoughton, dist. by Trafalgar Square Publishing from IPG, 2012) by science journalist Angela Saini. This fascinating exploration delves inside the psyche of the nation’s science-hungry citizens, explaining how ancient science is giving way to new, and how the technology of the wealthy is being passed on to the poor. In the following passage from the book’s introduction, learn how the Indian space program helped India evolve into the world’s next scientific superpower.
They say that history is cyclical.
That’s the thought in my mind when I travel from England to south India, catching a ride at the end on a bus going to the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, the government’s biggest scientific facility researching the stratosphere and beyond. It’s in the fishing village of Thumba, at the end of a bumpy road lined with candy-colored shacks and surrounded by coconut groves.
A moustachioed minder eyes my bag suspiciously and reminds me what to expect. ‘It’s top secret, OK?’ he says. ‘Have you got your pass? No cameras allowed. And no other electronics, too.’ This is the fourth time he’s told me.
I reassure him, again, that I understand, clinging onto the sweat-stained plastic seat cover with my fingernails as we bounce into another pothole. As the bus rumbles along, I see a tailor on the left, working with a black iron sewing-machine in an otherwise empty blue room. And on the right, I spot a small building, improbably named the ‘National Typewriting and Computer Centre’.
From the outside, the Space Centre looks like a prison. At the front it’s surrounded by metal fencing and lookouts, while at the back is the Indian Ocean. The armed security guards, from the Central Industrial Security Force, speak dozens of Indian languages, from Urdu to Malayalam, so if you don’t understand the orders they’re barking at you, they just switch tongues until you do. Just as I had been warned, they empty my bag of its mobile phone, memory stick, voice recorder and iPod. They repeat this with a busload of excited scientists behind me, who have come here in a tour group from laboratories across India. It takes weeks to get permission but space officials occasionally allow visitors inside the centre for educational purposes, to give the public a peek at India’s scientific achievements. I’m singled out for a brief interrogation: who am I, and what am I doing here?
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