Rohan Seth


For all those who missed out in August, AIESEC in Delhi University’s February recruitment has kicked off and if you’re someone whose unsure of what the organisation is all about, how you can apply and the kind of work that one is required to do, we provide you a rather candid insight into the functioning of the organisation.

Present in over 110 countries and territories and with over 60,000 members, AIESEC is the world’s largest student-run organisation. AIESEC India currently has 24 local chapters namely Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Baroda, Bhubeneshwar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Deccan, Delhi IIT, Goa, Hyderabad, IIT KGP, Indore, Jaipur, Jalandhar, Kochi, Kolkatta, Lucknow, Manipal University, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Surat, Vidyanagar and Delhi University.

An AIESEC aspirant will have to go through a three round process which will include; a group discussion, team activity and personal interview. Group discussions have officially started today, the team activity will be a simulation of the work that AIESEC does, and the personal interviews will commence at a later stage. AIESEC Delhi University stands out in the national circuit for its innovative thought process and creativity, and so, thinking out of the box and having excellent communication skills will be essential to crack the personal interview.

We at AIESEC engage people from all over the world to achieve meaningful ends. Its all about the experience. If you say you’re with AIESEC, you can be: a) doing an internship in any country of any continent, except Antartica, b) providing international human resource to companies like TCS c) running your own social development project d) doing a lot of cool value adding stuff like sales, marketing, design, communication, public relations e) having fun in life“, says Adhiraj Singh, Local Committee President(E), AIESEC in Delhi University.

He further puts an AIESEC stereotype to rest and states, “The popular belief among DU students is that AIESEC is a party organisation. And I must say that they’re right. We do party. But they miss the complete story, we work and party and thats the cool part about us. We don’t get paid for what we do (don’t frown please, we do get reimbursed) but for us AIESEC moments are worth a life time. So if you’re someone who wants to connect, learn and contribute, or simply want an awesome C.V. Then are three words for you, AIESEC Delhi University

Still not convinced? Megha Dasgupta (Vice President, Talent Management, AIESEC DU) tells us why one should not miss out on this opportunity, “At 20, I managed the human resource of a 200 member Local Chapter, with knowledge of and experience with HR operations ranging from talent planning, induction, training and performance management. I have always been passionate about societal development and got an opportunity to lead a 10 member organizing committee that planned and delivered the social impact event “Udaan”, an initiative of AIESEC in Delhi University to bring out the artist in every child by providing underprivileged children in our city, the opportunity to exhibit their dormant talents by expressing them through cultural workshops and competitions and direct them towards quality educational opportunities, giving me holistic event management experience, with focus areas ranging from logistics, event funding, partnerships, working with NGOs and under privileged schools in Delhi and NCR”

She further adds, “AIESEC life is surreal. The whole journey and experience is inexplicable. Its a revelation every single day; be it the people, the work or the environment”

If you’re the lucky one who gets to call him/herself an AIESECer, you will get to work in one of the following departments of AIESEC in Delhi University.

Corporate Relations
The corporate relations department of AIESEC DU is the best in AIESEC India. It provides international interns to corporate fulfilling their short term HR requirements. Some of the clients are TAJ, TCS, FORTIS.

Development Sector
This department works for the welfare of the society by undertaking various social projects and also by providing interns to the NGO’s. It runs various projects on wide spread issues like Casteism, Environment, Child and Women Empowerment. The local chapter through one of its projects is also sponsoring the education of 30 children in Seemapuri

Educational Sector
It runs various projects in premier institutes and schools across Delhi and NCR, focusing on soft skill development, cultural education and language training.

Outgoing Exchange Sector
This department works in sending Indian students on international exchange programmes. It offers management, technical and social internships to students.

External Relations
This department handles sponsorships and various external partnerships for AIESEC DU.

Communications and Information Management
This departments handles the external branding of AIESEC DU, working with various media houses. Some of the organizations they’ve worked with are MTV, Red FM, NDTV.

Talent Management
This department manages the HR of the organisation handling 200 odd people.

This department manages the administration and finances of the organization. Also works on preparing and maintaining the budgets hosted by the organization.

So if you’re from North Campus or a student of LSR, Gargi or DCAC, or if you study in Amity University or any other private institution and want to be a part of the world’s largest youth run organization, then register here in Delhi University- Recruitment Registrations , 2012″

After waiting for almost an hour outside that imposing room, and with the already investigated coming out with sunken faces and the words, ‘They screwed me, man’, tumbling out of their slipping tongues, it was finally my turn to step into the battlefield.

‘How bad could it possibly be’, I constantly asked myself. I had to see it to believe it. So in I stepped, believing firmly in myself, and with confidence pouring out on my face. Clad in a simple t-shirt and cargo shorts, I didn’t think my wardrobe would affect my encounter much considering I was told about the sit down an hour back.

This room was situated in the pristine premises of Sri Venkateswara College. The ‘torture’ chair was surrounded by a group of three canescent men, which I later came to know included the vice supremo, some office babu and the history head teacher, with condescending looks on their faces and that know-it-all, somewhat old man-like smile; and of course the supremo, who looked quite clueless, but was clearly happy about something, the reason for which laid beyond the scope of my relatively immature mind.

After all, it was just an interview. A few questions shot towards you. You either shoot back, duck for cover or die a martyr. This interview was supposed to judge whether you are good enough to be a part of a cultural exchange program undertaken by DU, in collaboration with an Aussie university.

So a series of questions were shot at me. They wanted to know what my take on Hinduism was, and what made an increasing amount of foreigners to come to India in search of spiritual guidance. I gave a long drawn answer, trying to explain how every individual would like to explore and try new things.

Apparently, they didn’t really appreciate one of my explanations that included the words, ‘the grass always looks greener on the other side’. I think they took serious offence to that phrase and tried all their might to relate it to the assumption that I look down upon my country (WHAT?!). After all, speaking something that they do not wish to hear (or not speaking something that they wish to hear) doesn’t go down well with quite a lot of people.

Several minutes and several questions later, this one gentleman (in a heavy, somewhat incomprehensible South Indian accent), asks me, “Tell us five Indians who have influenced the world”. At least that is what I could figure out. So just to confirm, I repeated, “You want me to name five Indian people who have influenced the world, right?” Suddenly, the clueless head honcho sprung to life in much the same way as a visibly unconscious man suffering from multiple organ failures in one of our movies, springs right into action on being given the ‘shock therapy’ and goes on to save the love of his life from the Mafia hideout. She loudly said, “NO! Tell us five people from the world who have influenced India.”
(*Facepalm* in my head) I looked towards the gentleman who had posed the question. Looking sorry, he clarified, “No, you have to name five Indians who have influenced the world.” The poor woman reached an all time high in cluelessness.

This seemed like an interesting question. So I began with the obvious name that would come to everybody’s mind, the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The second name that came to my mind was Mr. Narayan Murthy, Co-founder and ex-Chairman of Infosys, and I was quite confident that the gentleman who asked me this question would be extremely delighted on hearing this name. And quite apparently he was. Thinking hard, the next person I named was Mr. Azim Premji, Chairman of Wipro and a well-known philanthropist. These men have made a great name for themselves and their companies internationally, and have helped establish the new wave of Indian MNCs.

But I was now told, that I am only naming people from the IT sector, and chances are that most of the world would not be aware of them, or the work that they have done. Seriously Whattt? This sounded utterly ridiculous to me, so I blasted out, losing a bit of my patience, and telling them, “I am sure that any one who would make the effort of opening the newspaper, would definitely be aware of these people.” They, however, still did not seem to agree with me, so then to give further strength to my argument I added, “If I agree with what you say, in that case we cannot include Sachin Tendulkar in this list either, because only the countries that actually play cricket, which are quite a few, would be aware of his tremendous contribution to the game.”

This was met by a lot of noise, some voices of laughter, some of denial, some blatantly dismissive but there was no concrete statement made by either one of them to counter this argument of mine.

Then suddenly, another gentleman, trying to end the confusion surrounding the previous question and the answers that followed, asked me, “What do you think about dressing?”

“Excuse me? What exactly do you mean by that?” I said, trying to sound as polite as possible, though I knew exactly what he meant.

Trying to clarify, he said, “I mean, should there be dress codes imposed? Do you think that you should be dressed according to the institution or the situation?”
Clearly heating up, I said, “No. I don’t think any kind of a dress code should be imposed upon any individual by any one. We are all old enough to decide for ourselves, and I don’t think such moral policing is required in this modern day world.”

But clearly, he didn’t seem to agree with me. Frankly I would have worn a tuxedo, black tie or even a sherwani if that would have secured me a sane interview. But the babus at the college thought an hour’s notice was good enough for the series of questions. After a long (somewhat heated) argument, everyone in the room thought that they had had enough. And I, honestly, was dying to get out of this room filled with such obnoxious and narrow-minded self proclaimed harbingers of an enlightened generation.

I knew that I had blown any chance of me being a part of the exchange program, but I could proudly step out of the room and fearlessly say, that to an extent, “I screwed them, man!”

Aayush Saxena
Sri Venkateswara College 

Back in the day when there were no cellphones and people didn’t have to text/bbm each other a million times to meet, everyone would get together at the park for a game of cricket. Childhood aberrations can be peculiar and a portly senior at the colony park who was also my neighbour gained cognizance of my ‘Bihari’ relatives who had come in from Dhanbad(is now in Jharkhand).

Next thing you know, I was the ‘Bihariii..’ at the ground; if I dropped a catch, if I fell in a pile of mud, if I miraculously scored a run, everyone employed that phrase to ‘address me’. I was the midget at the ballpark, and so when the hoary grandad asked, ‘Why is your friend so short, usko bolo latka kare‘ , the yappers were quick to point out my rumoured allegiance to Laluland. Yes that perfectly explained my midget-ness, they thought. I didn’t take much of a liking to that name and saw it as an insult, a contemptuous ‘epithet’ that was thrown at me every single day of the week and I wanted it to stop. I always thought of myself as a Delhiite and tried my heart out to make the boys at the park believe that I wasn’t from Bihar.

Of course my mates at that time didn’t really know what they were talking about, it had to have trickled down to them from the elderly. At first I could not understand this frivolous prejudice or racism or whatever name you could give it, but then at the second thought it occurred to me that it was present everywhere. For me, discrimination on the basis of economic wealth is as condemnable as being partisan on race or colour. Even though we have our ‘colour’ issues, the predominant mindset in the country is that ‘Hey I’m better because I have the more money, so what if I just work at a call center and you work to save children in Darfur’. May be all of us are racist then- but that doesn’t justify randomly hurling out ‘Bihari’ like its a pejorative.

How can you malign the people of a land which is of great historical significance, has fertile plains and contributes immensely to the food production of the country. Bihar was rated as one of the best administered states in the country during independence, but dammit.. who knew Lalu Prasad Yadav’s appetite for cattle fodder and antics in parliament would cost me so dearly in childhood.

Turns out my paternal side is from Punjab and my maternal roots from Sindh, my father spent his childhood in Jharia(which was then in Bihar) and in spite of living all my life in Delhi, I still prefer to call myself a ‘Bihari’. My Bhojpuri skills are getting better by the day and so is Bihar under the rule of Nitish Kumar.

Rohan Seth
[email protected]

‘Life is a race’, realized when I  migrated from Deshbandhu College to Sri Venkateswara college a.k.a Venky. The experience of this transition is worth sharing. Some call it a transition but I consider it as a “miss appropriation”. The changeover was not a cake walk; acclimatizing to the new climate was extremely difficult owing to not only the fact that students over here were brilliant at academics but also that they talked like any top notch journalist or political commentator.

Turns out that academics became the least of my worries; one can’t expect from a 20 year old who spent most of his life in a mundane boy’s school to concentrate on studies if he his presented with a chance to study in one of the most ‘glamorous’ colleges of D.U.  As hard as you try not to stare at them, every moment in college you are spellbound by some or the other girl. Things become worse, when after all the deliberate effort to avoid it, one has to ‘unwantedly’ sit in the lecture hall beside some of the most beautiful female folk of our college. All your sensory nerves are on high alert, you become conscious about every move you make, pretending like everything is normal but you only know that your world has turned upside down.

‘Unwantedly’ not because one doesn’t want to savour these moments, but because one hasn’t mastered the art of being comfortable in such a situation. You feel inferior and out of place when you see your co-educated metropolitan classmates extremely confident and well situated in such occasions. Here the situation is analogous to the movie “Love Aaj Kal” where our metropolitan counterpart is similar to Jai (the younger Saif) who had loads of affairs and people like me can relate to Veer Singh (sardar ji) who had only one affair in his whole life (in our case that one affair is also quite rare).

So boys like us usually end up forming groups like FOSLA (Frustrated One Sided Lovers Association) or NGO (Non Girlfriend’s Organization).

If by any chance one of our FOSLA* brothers gets lucky and  enters into a relationship, it improves their social status. The telecom sector is the core beneficiary of this status elevation. So much so that a couple or more of such cases could actually recover the losses of the 2G scam. Speculating about this former FOSLA member’s love life becomes a more important discussion than the Indian economy or Barack Obama.

A year has passed now and even after opting for Feminism over United Nations as a subject in my third year political science course, I still lack the mannerism required to converse with a female colleague. Engulfed with inferiority complex, fighting with “identity fracture”, I have no clue how this war between middle class values and college corporate culture will culminate. But one thing I observed and would like to convey to all our FOSLA brothers that one doesn’t need a Royale Enfield, dolle-sholle or ek liter doodh to mark his presence in Venky.

Disclaimer: – The writer does not intend to offend any group or sex. It’s a mere depiction of one’s experience. If there is any kind of resentment caused, it is deeply regretted. Your feedback is welcomed at [email protected] .

Vyom Anil

Pol. Sc. (H) III year

Sri Venkateswara College

Post the completion of the first semester in Delhi University, while opinions remain ambiguous regarding its fate as a successful attempt or tepid reform, the unwarranted difficulties spawned by it seem to emerge with discouraging regularity.



The DU time (table) warp. PHOTOGRAPH: Sapna Mathur

The introduction of new timetables at the beginning of a semester, while an integral feature of the system, however, has been the source of much inconvenience for the large percentage of the student body that still functions according to the annual calendar. Due to the re-structuring of teachers and syllabus according to the University-specified semester modules, annual students in LSR now find themselves flummoxed at having to change their timetables and teachers as an unpleasant side-effect.

“As if it wasn’t bad enough that they compartmentalized texts into capsules to be swallowed, this sudden switching of teachers and schedules is especially jarring as it strips our subject of consistency”, says a second-year English student of Lady Shri Ram College for Women, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Second and third year students of arts and text-intensive courses, including English, History, and Political Science are perhaps not wrong in their resentment at having this arbitrary measure inflicted upon them, especially since the benefits of the semester system (most notably, that of the uncharacteristically high marks) elude them. 

Teachers, too, while sympathetic with the plight of the affected student body and in concurrence with the disjointed quality it imparts to the flow of study, have expressed inability to rectify the situation. Apart from the sudden mid-year changes for the annual students, it has also resulted in further pressure on Heads of academic departments to re-structure the schedules for all three years.

The general outcry appears to be that the official stance of the University may be touting the success of the semester system, but in its zeal to reform and revolutionize the system of education, the DU administration seems to have lost focus on the academic well-being of the annual students.


After the brouhaha over the fairytale Economics result, Delhi University has now declared the first year semester results of three major Science streams. Students have, in general, performed commendably in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. However, there is an obvious disappointment on the part of students over no one achieving a 99 as expections had sky-rocketed following the Economics scores.

The Mathematics results were declared on 31st December, while those of Physics and Chemistry were declared on the 2nd day of the new year. The colleges that have performed best overall are Hans Raj, Hindu, Miranda House, St. Stephen’s and Maitreyi.

A student of Hans Raj College has topped Physics honours with a 92%, with the overall result of Hans Raj itself being the best. Close contenders were Hindu College, followed by St. Stephen’s and Miranda House.

For Chemistry, the highest score is again a 92%, obtained by a student of Hindu College. The top colleges for Chemistry are Hindu, Hans Raj and Miranda with only Sri Venkateswara in South Campus that has managed to come close. Mathematics Honours saw a highest score of 98%, a New Year’s Eve delight for the Maths departments across DU that have been struggling to improve results over the past two years. The topper belongs to Lady Sri Ram College, however the best overall result was yet again bagged by Hans Raj College.

The subject saw a remarkably good set of marks being obtained by South Campus students as well, with JMC, Gargi and Sri Venkateswara in the lead. While a considerable number of students have performed exceedingly well in these subjects, there are also substantial number who would be required to take some exams again.

“I’m going back to basics
To where it all began
I’m ready now to face it
I wanna understand”

So go the lyrics of a popular song by Christina Aguilera, and the same line of thought was followed by the students of the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, lovingly called DCAC, who in their maiden attempt at hosting a Model United Nations (MUN) conference, titled DMUNC (hosted between August 26-28), made sure they stood out from the rest.

For all those who are clueless about what MUNs are, we give you the official definition by the United Nations Association of the USA: “The Model United Nations is a simulation of the United Nations system. Students assume the roles of ambassadors to the United Nations and debate the current issues on the UN’s agenda. Through diplomacy and negotiation, Model UN students seek ways that the world community can deal with complex global concerns such as the environment, economic development, refugees, AIDS, conflict resolution, disarmament and human rights. Young people of all backgrounds and walks of life participate in these educational exercises to experience first-hand decision-making processes and diplomatic work at the United Nations.”

MUNing has become a verb in its own right and over the last few decades, it has seen a rapid increase in popularity amongst school and college students alike. For those who are frequent MUNers, it is nothing less than an addiction. For proof, search Facebook for a page titled ‘MUN Addicts Anonymous’. From actor Samuel L. Jackson to Chelsea Clinton (Don’t ask us who she is), many popular faces in law, arts and business have MUNed in their early years. Many claim that they have benefitted from this experience and it is regarded as a very engaging means to the development of important skills such as research, public speaking, problem-solving, cooperation, formal interaction and reporting. In India, the earliest MUNs were given an impetus by law schools, which deem it necessary for their students to have this experience. However, it wasn’t long before other colleges caught on, and schools followed suit too. College MUNs saw a relatively freer atmosphere than MUNs at the school level, because of the evident difference between the conduct of a school student and a college student, and it is a widely held opinion that school MUNs are relatively “stricter” in their rules and manner of running.

MUNs at the university level often witness a lot of frolicking and merriment, where flirtatious or cheeky exchanges between delegates abound in the formal course of the conference. Punning, mocking, innuendos and double-meaning statements are even more commonplace. While MUN Purists regard this playfulness as “degeneration” of MUN values, more liberal MUNers look forward to it as a good way of making new friends and added social interaction. Whether this takes away from the core spirit of an MUN, which involves stimulating debates and intense research, is a contentious question. Purists also believe that over the years, the quality of research and training, which a delegate ought to undertake before every MUN conference, has also seen a plunge. Participants are thought to be more concerned about the lunch timings than what they are presenting.

Sidharth Das, regarded as one of the best MUNers in the country (with a profile that boasts of 35+ MUNs), Secretary General of DMUNC ’11 and President of DCAC’s MUN society ‘MUNitions’, says about this degeneration: “A major difference between now and then is that almost every delegate was trained properly prior to an MUN and the difference between a trained delegate and the others was clearly visible when they stepped into council. Hours were spent in front of the computer reading through all possible documents that might help us in the council, that might give us an understanding of our countries’ foreign policy, or a flaw in another’s which we might point out and question them on.” He goes on to talk about the current scenario where most just browse through Wikipedia for information, how many are unaware of the rules of procedure, take greater pleasure in passing chits than raising a noteworthy point, and adds “While there isn’t anything wrong with having fun, but perhaps fun at the expense of the purpose of the Conference is a flaw that needs correction.”

When Das announced DMUNC, everyone knew it would be something to look forward to. And he proved them right by conducting a conference that followed the philosophy of “Back to Basics”, ensuring that everything in the conference would be just like a school MUN, minus any frivolity and solely for the purpose of competitive and stimulating debating. It was an effort that was much commended, and nobody could deny that delegates were enjoying the intellectual challenges posed to them.

It was an effort that was much commended, and nobody could deny that delegates were enjoying the intellectual challenges posed to them. Prakriti Kargeti, Undersecretary General, accrues the success of the conference to Das’ dedication and commitment, and adds that all their hard work and almost unfairly “rigorous sessions” of training paid off, enabling them to host an event that broke away from the tradition of contemporary Indian MUNs, from the initial application process to the closing ceremony.

No wonder so many tagged it as the ‘Das Model United Nations Conference’!

Aayushi Sinha
[email protected]

As on date, Youth Ki Awaaz has over 3 million readers every month, a 17 member strong editorial board and strategic team, 60 interns at any point in the year and has trained over 1000 youngsters in online journalism and new media skills. It has won the coveted World Summit Youth Award and was also awarded the Best Blog on social causes in April 2010 by The founder and editor of Youth Ki Awaaz, Anshul Tewari shares his journey with us.

How did you start out and what was the inspiration behind Youth Ki Awaaz?

It started out in 2008. I was preparing for my entrance examinations after my board results were out. While the preparations were on, I came across an array of issues and realizing that the mainline media did not really pick them up, I wanted to voice myself. On approaching established media houses, I was dejected when my opinionated letters to the editor were not published. I knew I had to chose an alternative path to voice myself and thus I took to blogging. I started blogging at After about an year of blogging and getting a small but loyal audience, Youth Ki Awaaz got its very own domain: and I opened up the blog for readers to join in and pitch in their views on critical issues. The main inspiration has been the very problem that India and other developing nations face. The problem of inability to express oneself freely at a large scale – reaching out to a mass audience. There is an information overload and an attention deficit, but the populace that matters is the most neglected one. How do you plan to take YKA forward? Are you also working on other enterpreneural projects? Personally, I see myself sticking on not just to one start up. I am already working on my second start up, which again is a social enterprise solving the problem of credible research in the social, educational and health sector. I want to identify problems in the society and build innovative products and companies with the sole aim of solving these problems. Youth Research India, my next start up, being co-Founded with Youth Ki Awaaz’s Vice President, Mridang Lodha, will be India’s first and largest platform for young people to collaborate and conduct organized researches with the help and support of expert organizations and industry veterans – with the aim of creating credible information availability in the domain of social issues, educational problems, environmental issues and the health care sector in India. Reporting about a problem and directly impacting change have often proved to be a dichotomy. How do you plan to bridge the gap? Youth Ki Awaaz is the first step towards change. To work towards any problem, you need to first understand it and get the right kind of knowledge – that is awareness and this is where Youth Ki Awaaz comes in. Our impact is the change in the mindset of our readers and writers. Almost 60% of our interns join the social sector after our internship – and that in itself is a big impact on their lives, thus changing the lives of many others connected to them. I have a strong alignment towards the power of journalism. We combine that with the power of the youth and technology. Talking about some measurable impact, I must mention a recent case. When Libya was under turmoil (it still is) we heard that a lot of Indian nationals were stuck there. The Government was not sending ships to get them back on time and lives were being lost. The mainline media faced a problem of reaching out to these Indians in Libya or even their families. At the same time, one of our readers’ father was stuck in Tripoli and was suffering at the hands of the violence. The reader wrote a very emotional story about his father being stuck their, asking for help. Within seconds, the story went viral on twitter and Facebook with thousands tweeting about it and sharing it. We got a flood of emails from media outlets like CNN IBN, asking us to connect them to the writer. We even got an email from the Govt department asking us to not spread panic – which was actually the truth. A lot of media outlets picked the story, quoting us, and pushed the Government to send ships to get the Indians back, and in the next 24 hours, the ships were sent. We might have played a minor role in all this, but just the fact that the writer’s voice was picked up and spread by the mainline media was enough of an impact. His father is back in India and safe. And finally do you have any message for the aspiring social enterpreneurs out there? The best thing about being an entrepreneur who solves problems is that you get to change lives. I would like to push young people to pick up that one passion and go out of their way to make it big – to make it happen. That is how change is done!]]>

Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

Author : Oliver Sacks

From his earliest days, Oliver Sacks, the distinguished neurologist who is also one of the most remarkable storytellers of our time and the author of this illuminating and poignant memoir, was irresistibly drawn to understanding the natural world. Born into a large family of doctors, metallurgists, chemists, physicists, and teachers, his curiosity was encouraged and abetted by aunts, uncles, parents, and older brothers. But soon after his sixth birthday, the Second World War broke out and he was evacuated from London, as were hundreds of thousands of children, to escape the bombing. Exiled to a school that rivalled Dickens’s grimmest, fed on a steady diet of turnips and beetroots, tormented by a sadistic headmaster, and allowed home only once in four years, he felt desolate and abandoned.

When he returned to London in 1943 at the age of ten, he was a changed, withdrawn boy, one who desperately needed order to make sense of his life. He was sustained by his secret passions: for numbers, for metals, and for finding patterns in the world around him. Under the tutelage of his “chemical” uncle, Uncle Tungsten, Sacks began to experiment with “the stinks and bangs” that almost define a first entry into chemistry: tossing sodium off a bridge to see it take fire in the water below; producing billowing clouds of noxious-smelling chemicals in his home lab. As his interests spread to investigations of batteries and bulbs, vacuum tubes and photography, he discovered his first great scientific heroes, men and women whose genius lay in understanding the hidden order of things and disclosing the forces that sustain and support the tangible world. There was Humphry Davy, the boyish chemist who delighted in sending flaming globules of metal shooting across his lab; Marie Curie, whose heroic efforts in isolating radium would ultimately lead to the unlocking of the secrets of the atom; and Dmitri Mendeleev, inventor of the periodic table, whose pursuit of the classification of elements unfolds like a detective story.

Sacks, who is perhaps best known for his books ‘Awakenings’ (which became a Robin Williams/Robert De Niro vehicle) and ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’, invokes his childhood in wartime England and his early scientific fascination with light, matter and energy as a mystic might invoke the transformative symbolism of metals and salts. The “Uncle Tungsten” of the book’s title is Sacks’ Uncle Dave, who manufactured light bulbs with filaments of fine tungsten wire, and who first initiated Sacks into the mysteries of metals. But as Sacks writes, the family influence extended well beyond the home, to include the groundbreaking chemists and physicists whom he describes as “honorary ancestors, people to whom, in fantasy, I had a sort of connection.” Family life exacted another enormous influence as well: his older brother Michael’s psychosis made him feel that “a magical and malignant world was closing in about him,” perhaps giving a hint of what led the author to explore the depths of psychosis in his later professional life.