Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Law and Science Choreography

Dr. C.V. Raman's lecture on 'Why the sky is blue' delivered at Community Science Centre in Amhedabad, in December 1968, is documented by Chandralekha, the dancer, so beautifully, along with the black and white pictures of the scientist by Dashrath Patel. 1 She heard the Nobel laureate declare: "The best way to answer a question is to ask another... One thing leads to another. That is the essence of science. You must go where it leads you."2 The choreographer took the message to heart. The book informs that Chandralekha, who made those notes, studied law in Mumbai, before moving to dance in Chennai. Even a mere still from her dances could enthrall and liberate - the inspiring book, meant for the young, is probably her best work! There could be no doubt that Raman's talk infused new blood into choreography that she pursued with the passion of a scientist. 3

The man who gave Raman the opportunity to make science a full-time career was Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee - who was a lawyer and then became a judge of the Calcutta High Court. The other scientists promoted by the learned judge include Satyendranath Bose and Saha. All this was possible because of the judge's keen interest in science and mathematics. Dr. G. Venkatraman credits the judge with contributing to science by encouraging at a crucial juncture, three of the best physicists the country had produced then: Bose, Saha and Raman.4

Bhagaban Chandur Bose, was Deputy Magistrate of Faridpur and in charge of the law and order in several villages. His son, SC Bose, the most illustrious scientist India has ever seen, grew up drawing endless inspiration from his father. The basic qualities shine as a scientist were imbibed from his father who kept his curiosities alive and well nourished.
'I saw so-and-so to-day : why was that ?'-was a standard type of question, and always patiently answered when possible; yet often-perhaps most important and educative of all for the future investigator-with a candid confession of ignorance, and never any of the evasion, or pretence of knowledge beyond a child's, which is so common a discouragement to children from parents less frank and wise. 'I don't know, my son : we cannot tell; we know so little about nature!' was thus a frequent reply : but instead of lowering the child's respect, as foolish parents and teachers fear, this only aroused further wonder, and kept curiosity and observation alive. In such ways it is that the questioning child later becomes the scientific man : and what scientific man worth the name in history is more than such a child of larger growth? The 'advancement of Science' is no such easy matters as founders of its schools and departments suppose. It requires a corresponding supply of men of science; these again are not the mere products of specialist training. Scientific training can only be of real service to the few survivors amidst the too common home and family indifference to knowledge. That is only advanced by those who, when children, were encouraged to observe and question, and were not silenced and dulled for life, like their elders before them, with 'Don't ask silly questions!' or evaded with 'I have no time!'5

The choreography between law and science should be fostered more than ever before now.

1 Chandralekha and Dashrath Patel, "Why the sky is blue: Dr. C.V. Raman talks about science", Tulika, December, 1968.
2 ibid.
3 Chandralekha quotes Dr. C.V. Raman, word for word from her notes in this UK TV interview at The Guardian (at noted that "Chandralekha became a crusader for equality, human rights, women's rights, secularism, pluralism and the environment", and as this was through her dances, she took choreography to new levels.
4 Dr. G. Venkatraman, "Bose and his statistics", 1992, Sangam Books.
5 Patrick Geddes, "The Life and Work of Sir Jagadis C. Bose", available online at