A propagator of science

Rhea Lobo | Updated on November 15, 2017

Mr N.S. Chidambaram   -  Business Line

Immersed in reading a book on astrology, N.S Chidambaram sits unassumingly in a small corner of The Tamil Nadu Science and Technology Centre's office at Chennai's B.M. Birla Planetarium, from where he works in an honorary position as a coordinator for INSPIRE — a government initiative that encourages Std 6 to Std 10 students to try their hand at scientific experiments.

Although retired, he is still a teacher at heart — one that continues to be passionate about science.

This former physics teacher of Dr Guruswamy Mudaliar TTV Higher Secondary School has, since December 2006, been bringing out a monthly Tamil magazine on science, Ariviyal Oli (translates to ‘light of science'), for the benefit of school children. “All pages are typed by me… and I met the cost of publishing for the first 2 years,” says Chidambaram.

And his dedication is bringing laurels to the 66 year old, who will be honoured with the National Award for Outstanding Efforts in Science and Technology (communication through print media) on World Science Day on February 28 in the Capital.

“Most students have faith in God, faith in politicians, faith in film actors and although we enjoy all the benefits of science, nobody really bothers about scientists. Therefore, I want to propagate (the work) of all scientists — in each and every magazine, I publish the history of one scientist,” says Chidambaram.

With about 2,000 copies being published every month, Ariviyal Oli contains everything to do with science — from mainstream science subjects such as physics and chemistry to nano science and astronomy.

Prominent contributors

Articles are mostly contributed by teachers — in service and retired — and Chidambaram says their support that has kept this magazine going, as “they don't even get paid for it.”

Prominent contributors include Dr A. Sivathanu Pillai, a scientist from DRDO popularly known for his work with Brahmos and former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University Dr V.C. Kulandaiswamy. The Tamil Nadu Science and Technology Centre has also helped him promote the magazine.

An annual subscription of Ariviyal Oli costs Rs 120, and Chidambaram plans to use the Rs 1 lakh cash award he will receive for the growth of the magazine.

Ariviyal Oli is one of the many feathers in Chidambaram's cap.

Apart from publishing 13 Tamil books on Nobel Prize laureates in physics, he used to publish a fortnightly magazine for 19 years called Arivu Chudar (translates to ‘flame of knowledge') back when he was a teacher, which contained some English articles too.

He chooses to write in Tamil because “nowadays there is a lot of talk about our education being taught in our mother tongue; similarly if science is in our mother tongue, students can understand it better.” He has to use English terms in some unavoidable cases.

‘Students prefer cinema'

Chidambaram says he has not received any feedback from students over the past five years of the magazine's existence — he feels students and teachers alike are not interested in this kind of thing, “students prefer cinema,” he says with a smile.

“Parents have to compel their children to take up science just to get into colleges for medicine, engineering or bachelors of science — but in most cases, students themselves are not interested in it.”

But Chidambaram, who was a teacher for 33 years, is happy with how far science has taken him — “I don't regret not being a scientist, I'm happy being a propagator of science.”


Published on February 26, 2012

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