2016 publications

Three Careers across Three Continents. Bengali Immigrants, June 2016

World map

World Map

The only constant is change: I have heard it said.

Here is the story of my three careers across three countries in three continents. I started as a student of physics, graduating with a B.Sc. (physics honors), and then completed the physics M.Sc. program from the University of Calcutta. For the M.Sc., I took biophysics as my special subject where I had my first brief contact with molecular biology. The physical and chemical properties of DNA, RNA and proteins and their fundamental role in the mystery of life opened an amazing new world to me. I wanted to do my Ph.D. in biophysics in the USA. Read more

Seeking a rhinoceros from atop an elephant. Philadelphia Inquirer, June 2016

Indian rhino

One horned Indian rhino in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Photo: Ranjan Mukherjee

The safari elephant made her way cautiously through dense tropical undergrowth and halted abruptly. Before us we saw an agitated ripple spread through the tall grass. Must be a very large animal!

Chitwan National Park in Nepal is a World Heritage site and a very popular place for viewing wildlife, especially the one horned Indian rhinoceros. Perhaps the best view is from the back of an elephant. And I had come a long way for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We left for the safari early in the morning. We drove a short distance to the boundary of the park and were greeted with an astounding sight. There were about twenty elephants standing in line, swaying gently, patiently waiting for us. They had “howdahs” on their backs, each capable of carrying four passengers. Luckily, there were three tourists besides myself from my hotel. An elephant was selected, her name was Champakali.  We climbed onto a boarding platform. She stood next to the platform and the four of us stepped onto her back and sat at the four corners of the square howdah so that our weight was evenly distributed on her. It was a snug fit. The mahout (driver) gave an order and we were off on our elephant safari.

We waded across the river Rapti (shallow in winter) which forms the boundary and entered the reserve. Gradually we penetrated deeper into the forest. All around us were huge trees, we were immersed in a sea of green. We saw the iridescent blue and green of wild peacocks and heard the metronomic rat-a-tat of woodpeckers. We came across several spotted deer, a herd of wild pigs and sambars. The sun finally broke through the mist and the morning chill slowly dissipated. We became aware of the unmistakable buzz and whine of insects and big spider webs close to our faces. I was glad for insect repellent and long sleeved shirt and hat. We plodded on for another hour. The trees seemed to grow closer and denser. We heard rustling in the treetops and looked up to see monkeys jumping from tree to tree or staring at us. Our anticipation heightened; would we see something BIG?

Suddenly, we saw another safari elephant approaching us and her mahout excitedly pointed in the direction of a rhinoceros they had just seen. Champakali was off in flash.  In minutes we saw the rhino grazing placidly, totally oblivious of the excited humans and elephants. Our mahout got us as close as possible and we spent some time admiring and filming the magnificent rhino, with its prized horn and coat of armor clearly visible. This truly was the highpoint of the safari and I consider myself very lucky to have seen such a rare animal in the wild. At the end of the trip, I thanked Champakali (a banana for her) and her mahout, posed for some photos and returned to the hotel in excellent spirits.  An unforgettable safari!

Ranjan Mukherjee is a freelance writer and lives in Pennsylvania, www.ranjanmukherjee.com