Short of Science
Publisher: Vishwakarma Publications (September 29, 2022)
Paperback: 179 pages
I don’t remember reading too many books about scientists, written by scientists with a generous dollop of all things science with realistic integration of heartache, emotions and passion a scholar invests in their academic pursuits.
Vij presents a narrative that is so real that anyone who has struggled in a field dominated by men and especially by insincere, lazy ones would find a deep resonance in it.
Sanyukta, a brilliant and hardworking young girl in her twenties, is ecstatic to find herself accepted for a post-doctoral course in a south Delhi lab headed by an acclaimed Professor, Lokesh Kapoor.
She dreams of reaching academic heights and receiving nurturing, encouragement and astute guidance. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Sanyukta trods a path dotted by jealous colleagues, seniors besotted by the charms of new entrants, fame-seeking coworkers and whatnot. Her expectations receive many jolts. She often loses her way into the maze of sabotaged experiments, trash talk, and pointless research meetings.
Vij uses everyday instances to highlight gender bias and people’s prejudice—my favourite is when a vague slogan on Sanyukta’s T-shirt becomes a bone of contention.
Professor Lokesh doesn’t mind being calm, collected and low-key, squandering hours on his hobbies (cooking and online shopping) until academic fame and recognition loom on the horizon. The prize exposes his ugly side. He doesn’t shirk away from exploiting the situation for the advantage of his cronies. Even if it comes at the expense of someone deserving.
Sanyukta’s support system—her father in his understated caring ways, her Nani in her recurring heartening dreams, and her gorgeous love interest, Jaideep, help her maintain her sanity as she undertakes a journey that is not only complex and laborious but also mentally exhausting.
One of my favourite sections is Sanyukta’s interchanges with Vismay, her ally and an analytical troubleshooter. The ease with which Vij shines a light on their irresistible academic chemistry makes for an engaging read.
As the narrative advances, Vij allows hierarchy, hypocrisy, favouritism and insincerity that dominate the academic circles to take centre stage. With calm intensity, she reveals how knowledge and scientific pursuits are pushed to the periphery by glory-seeking academicians.
I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative that tackles genetic research and academic hypocrisy but never shies from digging deep into personal emotions. At no point does Vij let the science-heavy terms weigh on the plot. The portrayal of women and their unique challenges as they carve their niche in STEM fields is empathetic and true to life.
Rational, thought-provoking, yet highly relatable and realistic!