The National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), a leading institution for fundamental research in biology in India owes its existence to the vision and perseverance of Obaid Siddiqi.
This year, NCBS celebrates its twenty-fifth year, calling for a time to pause and reflect on the person that Obaid was. Those who knew him speak of the gentle manner in which he would engage with life and with science. For those of us who never had a chance to meet him, we imagine a man endowed with many qualities and a breadth of interests - invested in science, immersed in music and engaged with social realities.
We bring together people who knew Obaid intimately, to share with us stories of who he was as a person, how he thought about science and how he built out of his thinking, a perspective on how the practice of science can be supported.
On March 26th 2016 between 3:30pm and 5:30 pm, we host a panel which includes Obaid's family - sister Imrana Qadeer and brother-in-law Dunu Roy, friend Prabhat Patnaik and close professional colleague K. VijayRaghavan. Imrana Qadeer trained as a paediatrician and is one of the founders of the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Anubrata (Dunu) Roy, a leading social activist is an engineer by training and now the Director of the Hazards Centre in New Delhi. Professor Prabhat Patnaik is a political economist and political theorist who taught at the Jawaharlal Nehru University for over four decades. Professor K. VijayRaghavan is former director of NCBS. He worked very closely with Obaid starting in at the Molecular Biology unit in the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (TIFR) and at NCBS. He was involved in the planning and setting up of NCBS from the late eighties. Currently he is the Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.
The discussion will be led by author Ramachandra Guha. In his own words - "One of my own intellectual heroes is the late Obaid Siddiqi, who founded the National Centre for Biological Sciences, arguably India's most high quality scientific laboratory. Siddiqi, who combined intellectual brilliance with personal rectitude, recruited a team of gifted young scientists and then left them the institute to run. He nurtured an atmosphere of egalitarianism in the NCBS, where juniors could fearlessly challenge seniors and where honorifics such as 'Sir', 'Professor' were rigorously eschewed."
A set of quotations selected from an extensive oral history interview conducted by Dr. Indira Choudhury for the TIFR archive with selected images from Obaid's life will be on display. These quotations taken directly from the interview, unedited, will lend us an insight into Obaid's life in his own words.
There will be also an opportunity to meet and interact with the panelists, NCBS faculty, former colleagues and associates of Obaid's at a high tea after the talks.