In pursuit of the right brain

In the 40s, catching up with science and things that the right brain understands

Championing girl power and science.
Championing girl power and science.

By the next monsoon, I would hopefully have completed a weekend course on rudimentary coding.

If you are a creator of any sort of story or communication today, you ought to know coding. A good start is Vikram Chandra’s book Mirrored Mind: My Life In Letters And Code. I read it in 2013 and interviewed him after that. He had said: “It’s a skill that can be acquired without that much training; you don’t need to go to a fancy institution to be a hacker. The nerdy kid, sitting in a small place somewhere, masters this craft and then he converts it into an economic and social power—that’s a classic of our times.”

That’s my functional impulse to learn coding. The other reason is more philosophical.

In the past few years, I have been reading more and more on science—medicine, environmental science, some anthropology. It is my 40s telling me I lost out on knowledge while diving into magic realism and Jane Eyre. My mind demands rational explanations of the world along with the beautiful, twisted ones I have always been satisfied with. While some IIM-ites and IIT-ians went ahead and wrote best-selling novels, some of us literature graduates held on to our left brains like we were the coolest, convinced that the world makes better sense through the non-linear, irrational, poetic prism of novels and films. It sure does. The world needs the humanities (now called “liberal arts” in the metros) so that knowledge goes beyond watertight conclusions.

A math lover will, of course, disagree that pure science lacks the magic of literature and fine arts. Hearteningly, the Jawaharlal Nehru and Jadavpur universities continue to attract young Indians. After the reinvented Nalanda University lost the direction it began with, the Ashoka University in Sonipat is changing the way humanities are taught in India.

But science, if we imbibe its spirit, can be empowering as well as liberating.

In the 1990s, we humanities students seemed to have all the fun. In my Kolkata college, the BSc and BCom students were classic geeks, always in torment—and hardly ever in the company of the opposite sex alone. We mass-bunked Joseph Conrad to watch Basic Instinct.

More than ever before, we are aware that much of India is about religious faith and dogma, about sentiments and ancient, failed traditions. Science gives me succour and hope.

Last month, I ordered the third book in a series of children’s books published by Abrams Books, Ada Twist, Scientist—following Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect—all written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts.

I love these books. Hyper-curious Ada can be a magnet for four-year-old girls, as I discovered at home. All the three books champion girl power and women scientists. Ada is a compulsive problem-solver, and she realizes that her questions might not always lead to answers, but to more questions.

I am in Ada mode. My left brain rules me, but I want a kick of the right to survive, to ensure the world makes more sense.