I’ve been online since the mid-90s. The first thing I did on the Web? No, I didn’t visit the Playboy site. I got myself a Hotmail address. (Then I visited Playboy.)
That Hotmail address is rarely used now, drowning under ever-increasing volumes of spam. But right from then, and through Yahoo, Mail.com, and sundry other addresses, one damn mail keeps landing in my inbox.
You know the one I mean. It starts off with the assertion that some unnamed German magazine had published a list of facts that deal with (and the mail gets all breathless and all-capsy here) ‘WORLD HISTORY FACTS ABOUT INDIA.’ Why is the alleged Germanness of the list supposed to add to its cred? Why could they not be from an Indian source? Who knows? But I digress. The thing about the list that most got my goat was except for one, every ‘fact’ was about events hundreds — if not thousands — of years in the past. Aryabhata inventing the zero was one the first items in the list. Not all the items are gospel truth, by the way; some are shady, some unverifiable, some just plain wrong. (Judge for yourself; if you’re one of the half-dozen people on the planet who hasn’t had it inflicted on them, the list is reproduced here.)
But that, and the shaky grammar apart, fercryingoutloud, have we done nothing of note since then? (It’s almost as irritating as those Indian newspaper headlines whenever some third-generation Indian-American kid wins so much as a spelling bee. Good on the little tyke, but isn’t it a bit pathetic to be seeking a slice of glory achieved so far from the benign influence of India? But that rant can wait.)
So, when we sat down to think up our current issue’s cover, and our capo di tutti capi, Indrajit Gupta, outlined the package, explaining how all the pieces built a picture of a possible scientific renaissance in India, one of the first thoughts that sprang to our lips was “Finally! Enough about Aryabhata!” For once, there was very little debate, and that’s the line you’ll see on the cover of the issue.
But why am I going on and on about something that our able editor has covered far more succinctly — and calmly! — in his editorial? It’s because I’d like to propose a little meme.
If you know of Indians doing really cool things in the world of science, stuff that will make for a better India, a better world, post about it via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or whatever you social media poison is.
Just add the tag #EnoughAboutAryabhata
Pranav Mistry is revolutionising human-computer interfaces! bit.ly/wmAWSL #EnoughAboutAryabhata
We’ll keep a look out for your posts, and retweet or reshare them, as the case may be.
If you’re not on the social media bandwagon, be our guest, leave a comment here.