Balancing Act

Balancing Act

When she is not researching the benefits of ragi for patients with diabetes, Mumbai-based Samika Joshi is pursuing her passion for dance.

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Samika Joshi at her arangetram (Source: Express Photo by Amit Chakrabarty)

The benefits of the protein and mineral-rich ragi grain are well-known. But a recent study by city-based Samika Joshi suggests that ragi could help diabetic patients too. Around January this year, Samika was nearing the end of her stint as an assistant researcher for her father, Mumbai-based endocrinologist Shashank R Joshi, when she thought of taking up this study. What struck the 18-year-old who was gearing up for the next stage of her life — that included preparing for her arangetram and taking off to the US for her graduation — was the “simplicity and effectiveness” of the idea, which was conceived by her father, a Padma Shri recipient.

“India has a large number of diabetic patients and many of them are not well off. It is difficult for the common man to afford the medication for the disease. The fact that the inclusion of this grain in their diet can be a cheap, cost-effective alternative to deal with diabetes was the motivation for the study,” says Samika, who worked along with her father over the course of three months to complete the study. Early in June, the International Diabetes Federation informed Joshi that the research paper was chosen for one of their conferences.

“Ragi can reduce glycated haemoglobin, fasting blood sugar and postprandial blood sugar,” says Samika, who decided to take a year off after school. She spent the year giving time to her two interests: working on her research paper and practising for her arangetram that took place on July 12. This special show marked her stage debut as a Bharatanatyam dancer.

Balancing the worlds of performing arts and academics may seem difficult, but Samika has found a way of doing it. When she took the stage at a Bandra auditorium to perform Mahalaxmi Aarti, arguably one of the most complex parts to perform, she transformed into a consummate performer who struck a fine balance between intricate moves and the right expressions. “My dancing acts as a wonderful outlet from the academic pressures. It helps me rationalise a lot of things around me,” she says. Her knack for medical research, meanwhile, is something she says she has inherited from her father.

“You don’t fall in love with research immediately. Initially, you feel that a lot of data that you are collecting is unnecessary. But there is no failure in research. If you have patience, you will be able to join the dots. The results may take six months but you realise that a small piece of data can make a difference in the world. A mistake of .0001 per cent can affect other people’s lives,” says Samika, who will be joining Oxford College of Emory at Atlanta, USA, next month to study biology.