Jagadish and the Talking Plant

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REVIEW

Jagadish and the Talking Plant

By : Kumar Vanka  /  2014

Jagadish and the Talking Plant

jagdish_&_talking_plant.jpg
Jagadish and the Talking Plant
Author:
Swathi Shome
Illustrator:
Anushree Bhat
47 pages
English
Rs 200.00
ISBN: 978-93-50463-55-0
Tulika Publishers, 
2013
Tags : 
Boys,
Concepts,
Nature,
Trees,
Overall Rating : 
10
Story/Content : 
5
Illustration : 
5
Language : 
5
Design : 
5

The graphic novel Jagadish and the Talking Plant is a charming blend of the humorous and the informative. It deals with the life of the great scientist, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, who made path-breaking discoveries in Physics and Biology in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century. Since more than a hundred years have passed after Sir Bose made his remarkable discoveries about the nature of electromagnetic radiation and the sentience of plants, the idea of introducing the man and his discoveries to the younger generation visually is a very laudable one.

Since a great deal of Sir Bose’s life dealt with the physiology of plants, the author, Swati Shome and illustrator Anushree Bhat, have taken the interesting route of making Jagadish have a running conversation with a “Mimosa Pudica” – a touch-me-not plant. They also have a couple of birds show up from time to time during the narration in order to provide comic relief. These characters stay with Jagadish as he proceeds through childhood and adolescence into a promising career in the West in the Physical Sciences. When, after completing his education, the young Jagadish comes back to India and accepts a position at Presidency College in Kolkata, the author attempts to explain scientific concepts to the reader as simply as possible. They show the final design of the first millimeter wave communicator that Sir Bose designed more than a hundred years ago, and later show a picture of the “resonant recorder”, which recorded leaf movements. While this may sound a little “heavy” for younger readers, the author makes this information more accessible through the aid of little asides uttered by the bird characters, which are often quite funny. For instance, when the author describe visible and invisible electromagnetic waves, they have one of the birds “wave” at the other, while the other bird does a facepalm and says “we’re not talking of THAT kind of wave”. This lightness in the narrative is one of the strong points of this book.

This is not to say that the book is entirely without flaws. One jarring note that is struck in the narration of Jagadish’s life is when he is in the West and starts to experiment on plants, adding formaldehye to some carrot and radish plants in order to see the effect of the chemical. When the plants die as a result of the experiment, Mimosa Pudica is so upset that she refuses to talk to Jagadish for a long time. Somehow, this type of a conflict between Jagadish and the talking plant appears out of place with the overall light tone of the book. Also, at the end of page 43 and at the beginning of page 44, the words “and even” are repeated twice, a typo that was missed by the author and the editors.

However, despite these minor flaws, the book is more than a good read – it can almost be termed a must-read for young people. The final icing on the cake is the last part of the book, where the words of Sir Bose himself are reproduced from a talk he gave at the inauguration of the Bose Institute. Also, a glimpse into the way Sir Bose thought about things and came up with discoveries is provided by a peek into a page from one of his journals.

So overall, the book succeeds admirably at capturing the life of this legendary and path-breaking Indian scientist. If the 21st Century is to be the age of science and innovation, many young Indians need to be attracted to this vibrant and exciting area of human endeavor. Perhaps the possibility of young minds coming across a book on the life of one of India’s greatest scientific sons may be just the right kind of happy accident that can influence them to take up science as a career. Hence, this book is highly recommended.

Kumar Vanka is a scientist working at the National Chemical Laboratory. He spends most of his free time reading books or watching movies.

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