Above my bookshelf, in my room, on white wall, hangs a copy of a copy of a copy… of Hokusai’s seminal yet clichéd painting, The Great Wave. I had bought the piece because I have always felt a strange draw to this image. The wave, a massive monster anthropomorphized into a sinister demon with a thousand vicious hands. Mt. Fuji in the background rendered minuscule by this strange trick of perspective, or by the feeling of helplessness of man lost at sea. It took me a while after buying this piece and having it on my wall, this symphony of horror staring at me in the safety of my home day after week after month, to see what this strange draw was.
It is difficult to describe what happened next—except to say that it is a moment that occurs uniquely in the histories of refugees. A tiny bolt of understanding passed between them. The woman recognized my father—not the actual man, whom she had never met, but the form of the man: a boy returning home. In Calcutta—in Berlin, Peshawar, Delhi, Dhaka—men like this seem to turn up every day, appearing out of nowhere off the streets and walking unannounced into houses, stepping casually over thresholds into their past.
– Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History
As 2016 draws to a close, I find myself engrossed in one of the year’s best received book -‘The Gene: An Intimate History’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I am only halfway through this 900-page behemoth but am already so in love with every page that I can’t stop myself from sharing it. “When you are in love, you want to tell the world,” said Carl Sagan, and that perfectly describes my predicament. Mukherjee’s last book, ‘The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer’, published in 2010 took the world by a storm. Readers were so impressed by the poetic writing style and the thorough, well-researched history, that it won him the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction that year. This time the author has returned with a ‘meta’ story – a biography of the emperor of all cancers, the gene. Continue reading “The Gene – Poetry, History, and Science”