The Tribune - Spectrum

, April 28, 2002

Forensics, genetics and ode to Indian women
Randeep Wadehra

Daughters of the Soil
by Devajit Bhuyan. Spectrum Publications, Guwahati. Pages: 61. Price: Rs. 60.

"GOD created woman. And boredom did indeed cease from that moment – but many other things ceased as well! Woman was God’s second mistake". Not many of us would like to agree with this observation in the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche’s The Antichrist. One would rightly point out that today the woman stands demystified. She is no more the enchanting enigma of yore but is an ordinary human being with all the virtues and foibles of an ordinary mortal.

Women have fascinated writers, poets and artists for ages. Most of the portrayals are stereotypical – wife, mother, daughter and sister. Then there are any number of depictions of women as harlots; the yarns about love, lust and liquor. But today the Indian woman is making her mark in the fields once considered as male bastions.

Bhuyan’s 51 poems are about women from fields as diverse as cinema, politics, music and literature. The subjects are unusual. He serves us a scrumptious concoction of cliches. Savor these: for Hema Malini he uses such similes as sky, cloud, forest, dancing peacock! He calls Helen the "peep girl" – whatever that means. He tells us that Madhuri Dixit is a Kamadhenu, (holy cow!) even M.F. Husain used a better stereotype, Gajagamini. He does spare Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa though. Other women in this slim volume featuring 51 females include Arundhati Roy and Shobha De.

Whether alive or dead, a poet must be read. To quote the late Scottish novelist Walter Scott’s verse in The Lay of the Last Minstrel, For ne’er / Was flattery lost on poet’s ear: /A simple race! They waste their toil / For the vain tribute of a smile.



The Sequence: Inside the race for human genome
by Kevin Davies. Penguin, N. Delhi. Pages: 310. Price: Rs. 295.

The science of genetics began in 1900, when the work of the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel was discovered. Although published in 1866, his findings remained virtually ignored for more than three decades. The discovery led to intensive studies of cell division.

The Sequence: Inside the race for human genomeGenetics, a term coined in 1906 by the British biologist William Bateson, studies how physical, biochemical, and behavioral traits are transmitted from parents to their offspring. Geneticists determine the mechanisms of inheritance whereby the offspring of sexually reproducing organisms do not exactly resemble their parents, and the differences and similarities between parents and progeny recur from generation to generation in repeated patterns. The investigation of these patterns has led to some of the most exciting discoveries in modern biology. The action of genes is rarely a simple matter of a single gene controlling a single trait. Often, one gene may control more than one trait, and one trait may depend on many genes. For example, the action of at least two dominant genes is required to produce purple pigment in the purple-flowered sweet pea. Sweet peas that are homozygous for either or both of the recessive alleles involved in the color traits produce white flowers. Thus, the effects of a gene can depend on which other genes are present.

Davies tells us that the science of genetics has progressed to a stage where it has become possible to assemble the complete sequence of all three billion letters of human DNA, thanks to competition triggered off by the Human Genome Project. The book narrates a compelling story of the race between the official project led by the brilliant geneticist Francis Collins and jointly sponsored by the governments of the USA & UK on the one hand, and on the other the renegade biotech company, Celera, founded by Ventern. Celera’s aim was to be able to patent hundreds of genes and sell precious information about genome sequence to the pharmaceutical industry.

So who won the race? Read the book.


Managing Information Technology
by Bhushan Dewan. Vikas Publishing House, N. Delhi. Pages: xx + 319. Price: Rs. 250.

While Information Technology is revolutionising the work culture in traditional industries, it is also emerging as ‘The Industry’ of the new millennium. Consequently, new management paradigms are being formulated. The author contends that Enterprise Resource Planning, or the ERP, is one of the latest technologies existing in the field of IT. It consolidates an organisation’s resources in order to achieve an integrated output. This is achieved by bringing about coordination among the various departments and functions of an enterprise through the use of latest technologies in the fields of production, communications and related fields. The six other technologies covered in this book are Supply Chain Management, Customer Relationship Management, Data Warehousing & Data Mining, Knowledge Management, BLUETOOTH (Internet technologies) and Wireless Application Protocol.

The volume comprises seven modules. Each module deals in detail with a specific technology and its application. Some of you might like to buy it for reference purposes.


Selected Works of Dewan K.S. Puri on Disputed Handwriting and Finger Prints Comparison
edited by Jagjit Puri. Dewan K.S. Puri Foundation, Chandigarh. Pages: 147. Price: Rs. 120.

Catching criminals is much more than the cloak and dagger stuff depicted so alluringly in cinema. It certainly is not a ‘side-business’ for handsome hunks in glamorous outfits romancing bewitching belles, with a gory climax; but a dry, unromantic and solid hard work in musty offices and smelly laboratories far away from admiring eyes. Often the forensics-aided good work goes unrewarded.

Forensic medicine is the application of medical knowledge to ascertain causes of injury and death, including incidents involving crime. It comprises three disciplines: forensic pathology, forensic science, and forensic psychiatry. According to Claire Elizabeth Lewis – who taught at the University of Oxford as Research Lecturer in Cell Physiology, and has several research-works to her credit – the study of forensic pathology dates from the 16th century, when it began as a defined discipline in Europe. In 1530 Charles V in Constitutio Criminalis Carolina portrayed the importance of forensic pathology, particularly in the medical testimony of proof of death in cases of infanticide, homicide, abortion, or poisoning.

Dewan K.S. Puri tells us about the importance and applications of some of the forensic tools. In his lucid style he brings home the need of fingerprint comparisons. He also dwells upon clues provided by one’s handwriting and signature.

Says Puri, "Finger prints are very extensively used in crime investigation". Narrating his experience of finger print identification in Japan the author feels that their system of tracing and searching is far quicker and superior than in many countries. He further observes that in Japan handwriting "must be really an exact science". They have several machines and devices to identify peculiarities in a person’s handwriting.

You will find chapters like "Personality through handwriting"; "History of finger-prints"; and "Medical significance of ridges and creases" quite absorbing.

This book can be easily understood by a lay reader, and yet be extremely useful to the professional.