Nandita Jayaraj from Chennai and Aashima Dogra met at the office of Brainwave, a children’s science magazine, and now they’re living a science writer’s dream. The two women have been travelling the south and north of India discovering stories of brilliant research conducted by women scientists for their blog Life of Science.
Nandita tells us, “Aashima and I were sitting and talking about our future plans after we’d both quit our jobs. I had always wanted to travel the country to document scientific research and Aashima gave me the idea to focus on women scientists.”
Aashima, currently based in Dharamshala, is on a break and has been travelling across north India, collecting stories. While it is a planned process for Nandita, Aashima is known to walk into institutes and ask to speak to the women responsible for research there. This has resulted in 12 amazing stories of women scientists, who have not only made a name for themselves in their field of expertise, but have also been able to juggle the responsibilities of family. Some examples are a microbiologist in Ajmer who invented bandages using algae, an arachnologist who enjoys spider-hunting, and horticulturists from Darjeeling working to save cash crops.
“We not only speak to famous scientists, but also those who upcoming or just beginning their careers. One of the major things we have noticed is that these ladies have had family support or creches in or near their workplaces,” says Nandita, who is currently in Mumbai to scout for more stories. She goes on to say, “We want to create a repository for students to find out what a neurologist or biologist really does. We’ve also been trying to find out why there are so many women who study science in school and college, but don’t take up jobs in this field. Of course, this has to do with the patriarchal belief that women should stay at home to take care of their children. We think there could be a bias in the workplace, but whoever we have spoken to, says that everyone is given a fair chance and that there are equal opportunities.”
After Aashima covering remote areas in the north like Kalimpong, Banaras and Ajmer, and Nandita taking care of the south with stories from Bengaluru, Kerala, Chennai and Mumbai — they still have a long way to go. “We would love to make this a full-time thing. Get funded or collaborate with interesting people. We enjoy bringing out stories of people who deserve it,” concludes Nandita.