Sleuth amid the cosmos

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 4.01.09

Physicist and author Mani Bhaumik had an interest in cosmology from the time he would gaze at the bright night sky at his home in rural Bengal. “We had no electricity, and because of the surrounding darkness the stars looked so much brighter,” says Bhaumik.

His new book, The Cosmic Detective, a Puffin imprint, published by Penguin, India, begins on this note, as the writer relives his childhood, probably in an attempt to establish common ground with his young readers, to whom the book is addressed.

“In my time, though, cosmology was not well developed. So though I always wanted to study the mysteries of the universe, I had to take up something that would be more paying,” says Bhaumik.

So physics it was. His early contributions to laser technology led to the development of the world’s first efficient excimer laser used in Lasik eye surgery.

But the interest in celestial matters persisted and The Cosmic Detective is proof of that.

The format of the book involves the readers, as if on a mission, to discover the mysteries of the universe. “Children don’t like to be spoon-fed. So I created this detective game, when they can feel that they are discovering the secrets of the universe,” Bhaumik said.

For Bhaumik, true knowledge of the cosmos came only when he started teaching about it.

“Often the students wouldn’t know that I am just two chapters ahead of them,” he chuckles. And though he dons many hats — that of a scientist, philanthropist, educationist and author, science is his calling. “It helps me to be spiritual.” The scientist believes in a higher power that has created the universe.

The Cosmic Detective was released in Calcutta on December 31 to mark the beginning of the celebrations of the International Year of Astronomy.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee released the book at the Science City auditorium and read out excerpts from the last chapter of the book titled Story on the Stars, which he said was his favourite chapter.

Five lives

Ekal Shekal, Panch Prajanmer Itikatha by Bharati Ray published by Ananda is a commentary on the life of middle class Bengali women as witnessed by Ray through the lives of five women of her maternal family starting from her grandmother’s mother to her daughter.

“While my grandmother’s mother struggled to educate herself, my daughters live and work abroad, one having divorced and remarried. Women, indeed, have come a long way,” said the author at a reading session of her book at the Calcutta University Seminar Hall on the Alipore campus recently.

The book, with an introduction by Amartya Sen, has personal anecdotes from the author’s early life, to her heady days in Presidency College where she had the likes of Sukhamoy Chakraborty, Amartya Sen and Asim Dasgupta as college-mates, to a moving account of her mother’s death.