June 6, 2009 11:02:23 am
Imagine the following scenario: you are travelling abroad. You check in and proceed for security check up inwardly groaning at the ordeal that awaits you. You begin to unbutton your jacket,if you are wearing one and look for the trays in which to put your belongings: phone,laptop,belts,shoes.
You remember the last time you travelled and the rude way the official with the X ray machine spoke to you. You remember also the embarrassment of having to open up your bag because of the menacing looking toy you had picked up and thrown into your briefcase to take home to your kids and wonder if there is anything that you packed liquids,gels etc etc that could invite a similar experience.
Now imagine if all this was to disappear. Fumbling guards,rude officials,conveyor belts,trays for personal belongings,the ignominy of walking barefoot and on tip toe through the barriers. Imagine that instead of all this jostling and prodding what you walked into was a roomful of bees. Thats right,bees. Okay so the notion is a bit far fetched but it is not inconceivable. Not if you look at the hypothesis that honeybees are excellent detectors of explosives and monitors of various harmful agents in the environment.
This particular hypothesis (as a subject matter for further investigation) was put forward at the recent orientation seminar of Fulbright-Nehru awardees for 2009-10 at the India International Centre in Delhi last week. Over three days scholars from a range of disciplines such as agricultural studies to archaeology talked about research they proposed to undertake at various universities in the United States in the coming months.
Subjects included: Lessons for India in the macroeconomic factors and venture capital funds in the growth of start-ups and small business in the USA; the role of educational theatre in America; the use of libraries in promoting literacy; archiving histories of struggles in the informal sector,the history of glass in India; counter-terrorism strategies in India,Israel and the United States so on and so forth.
Much of human advance has been made possible by the dogged pursuit of ideas. An unfortunate fact in India is that innovation and research is rarely discussed in public forums. Admittedly the media today offers little space for reflective and thought provoking issues but the academic community with its reluctance to engage in public discussion is also to blame.
Which is a pity,because ordinary people,struggling against daily tribulations and the extraordinary adversities of our time need hope; and knowing that someone somewhere is working towards making the world better even in unexpected and whacky ways provides that optimism.
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