#TPOC (The Poetry Of Coexistence, January 31, 2015)

SynTalk thinks about the meanings, implications and the future of coexistence between & amongst the several biological species on earth. The interaction space between species is explored via known strategies such as symbiosis, predation, parasitism, antagonism, mutualism, commensalism, & competition, while constantly wondering if ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of ‘selfishness’’. The concepts are derived off / from Sushruta, Charak, Hegel, Malthus, Darwin, Hamilton, Kropotkin, Gandhi, Dobzhansky, Hawking, & Dawkins, among others. Is there often selfishness in nature without the ‘self’. Why does the host change its genetic makeup to coexist with the parasite? Why do most species exist in communitarian groups? Why does a predator never run out of prey in nature (in stable equilibrium)? How it may be unavoidable to ‘tolerate the most intolerable’. How sickle cell anaemia developed as a response to malaria. What is the difference between the antibiotic and aseptic conditions, in the context of the coexistence of different species? The links between human beings, mosquitoes, Chernobyl disaster, raptor birds, Ayurveda, dinosaurs, consciousness, natural selection, Tom & Jerry, oranges, sibling rivalry, wolves, & tribes. How do dominant & exploitative social structures result from the ensemble of unevenly evolved groups (in terms of techno economic capacity). How autonomy of certain groups (the weakest doing menial jobs, say) that had their pristine existence can be annihilated, incorporated, subordinated, subjected, or even destroyed institutionally. How cooperation amongst the uneven develop? Does consciousness promote cooperation? Is culture (merely) a survival strategy? How (bacterial) mitochondria and chloroplasts (green alga) getting incorporated into eukaryotic cells was a significant evolutionary event. Are plants and animals also cruel? How Toxoplasma gondii insidiously finds its way back into the cat (the definitive host) from the rodents (the dead end). Can there be sacrifice in the Darwinian world? How culture is a complex mix up of both material & ideological practices. Can we truly understand the concept of queen bee (without the metonymy)? Is resource abundance always temporary in the biological world? Why kids don’t always agree with their mothers? Why does each orange segment often have one dominant seed? Does the critical self reflexive faculty of human beings make them fundamentally different? Is techno capitalism likely to be a key actor? Will human beings go out and colonize other celestial bodies, even as we coexist on Earth with other species? How human consciousness, survival instinct and (the bacterial) gut instinct could be the ultimate assets for the future? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. K.N. Ganeshaiah (agricultural sciences, writing, UAS, Bangalore), Prof. Rajan Gurukkal (history, social theory, IISc, Bangalore), & Prof. Swati Patankar (molecular microbiology, IITB, Mumbai).

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TPOC show.

Prof. K. N. Ganeshaiah (agricultural sciences, writing, interdisciplinary) is Dean (Post Graduate Studies) at University Of Agricultural Sciences, GKVK, Bangalore. His areas of specialization are plant reproductive ecology, conservation biology, insect behaviour & crop breeding. He began working in the area of evolutionary ecology of plant reproductive strategies during 1980s, and demonstrated both theoretically and empirically that evolutionary concepts such as sexual selection, sibling rivalry and parent offspring conflict, generally seen in animal systems, do occur in plants as well in very subtle but intriguing ways. He developed Jeeva Sampada – a massive database on the biological resources of India. His other contributions include assessing and mapping biological resources of Western Ghats, Eastern Himalayas and Eastern Ghats, and building a huge network of teams of field ecologists and taxonomists. Besides, he has also developed new tools for measuring and techniques for assessing the biological diversity. He has written 7 novels & 30 short stories. His stories and novels are centered around history, archaeology, science and religions. Owing to the fact that his novels and stories are framed in the form of thrillers, he is often named `The Dan Brown of Kannada Literature’. Along with developing & releasing 5 new varieties of chickpeas, amaranthus and ricebean, he has been instrumental in establishing ATREE (Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment) and the Butterfly Park at Bannerghatta National Park. Prof. Ganeshaiah also has a plant species from Andaman Nicobar Islands named after him in honour of his contribution to plant sciences in India.

Prof. Rajan Gurukkal (history, social theory) is the former Professor & Director of School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam (1988-2008) and the Vice Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University (2008-2012). He is currently the Soundararajan Chair Visiting Professor at Centre for Contemporary Studies, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. He was also the Invited Professor at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociale (EHESS), Paris (2006). A historian by training, Prof. Gurukkal is well known for his studies in early social formations of southern India. His efforts were instrumental in initiating research and studies in historical social sciences in Kerala. The other areas of his specialization are social theory, historical human ecology and human geography. He is currently interested and engaged in the history and theory of knowledge production. Prof. Gurukkal has authored ten books on a wide range topics such as socioeconomics, cultural history of Kerala, structural anthropology, historical sociology, and human ecology of the Southern Western Ghats. He has also published about 150 research articles in leading Indian & international social science journals. He has traveled extensively and has been a visiting professor at several Universities including Humboldt, Leipzig and Berlin (Germany), Toronto and Kingston (Canada), Manchester (UK), Shanghai (China), Tokyo and Taisho (Japan). He has also been an active member of several national and international academic bodies of social science professionals.

Prof. Swati Patankar (molecular microbiology) is a faculty member at the Department of Biosciences & Bioengineering, IIT Bombay, Mumbai. Her research interests are focused on the malaria parasite, Plasmodium Falciparum that causes malaria. Her lab, Molecular Parasitology Lab (MPL), works on various aspects of the biology of the parasite, including how proteins are trafficked to sub-cellular compartments, and the role of small proteins in regulation. The underlying theme of the projects is ‘choice’ – the mechanisms used by the parasite to decide when to make proteins and where to send them within the cell. She is also guiding a lot of collaborative projects to study clinical malaria in patients to develop markers for disease states. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology from Tufts University, USA, studying the transcriptional regulation of a neuronal gene, Tyrosine Hydroxylase. She continued her interest in gene expression but shifted to another system during her postdoctoral research at the Harvard School of Public Health, USA. There she worked on the human malaria parasite Plasmodium Falciparum and used molecular techniques in combination with new genomics technologies. Being the Principal Investigator at MPL, she strives to bring together strengths in molecular biology and bioinformatics with a long-term goal of finding parasite-specific pathways that might be targets for therapeutic intervention. She believes that communicating the excitement of scientific discovery is an important part of being a scientist and feels fortunate to be at an institute where she can enjoy both teaching and research.

Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.

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