A Handful of Stories

Reportage on health, science and politics. And some meditations on film

Author Archive for sohinichattopadhyay

Virus: A Superb Ode to Shailaja ‘Teacher’, and Public Health and India’s Federalism

This film on the real-life Nipah outbreak in Kerala in 2018 is the opposite of a didactic film like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. It’s moving, humane and intelligent The thing that I loved most about the Malayalam film Virus is the haughty “Delhi team” that arrives to take stock of the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala in 2018 and peremptorily…

Clouds of Sils Maria: Therapy with Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart

In a sense, this is a deluxe lockdown film. An iconic actress Maria Enders, played by real-life French superstar Juliette Binoche, heads to the exquisite, unspoilt village of Sils Maria in the Swiss Alps to hole up in a cabin to prepare for a landmark project. With her is her young assistant Valentine, played by Kristen Stewart, who serves as…

The Silence of the Archives: Why the Grave Diggers of the Bubonic Plague are Unremembered


The Mahars of Bombay Presidency, who buried the human and animal dead, were essential to the colonial state as frontline health workers. They worked in filthy burial grounds where jackals often dug up the dead
A guest post from Sohini Chattopadhyay, PhD candidate, History Department, Columbia University

The Cakemaker: Kneading Grief, Love and Politics

The Israeli-German film touches on the politics of food, kosher rules specifically. It’s also a meditation on love and its losses I don’t enjoy movies where men make beautiful food,  and the Israeli-German production The Cakemaker drew me in especially because its protagonist Thomas is most often rolling a shapeless lump of dough. The glistening cinematic confectionery of the Germanic world…

Do Mortuary Workers Come Last in the Covid19 fight?

The invisible indispensable cadre of workers who handle the dead in government hospitals received PPE kits only in the sixth week of the Covid19 lockdown in Bengal. This is probably the case in other cities. The viral videos of dead bodies in hospital wards may point to this At the largest government hospital in Kolkata, mortuary assistants started being given…

Locked Out of Mental Healthcare and Drugs

There are those whose mental health conditions cannot be managed by deep breathing and physical exercise and whatsapp conversations with doctors. Patients in government hospitals, for instance. The lockdown violates their care In the first week of the lockdown imposed by PM Modi, arguably the harshest in the world, a chance memory of a policeman who had briefly consulted him…