A Handful of Stories

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

Science and Health

Covid Lockdown Leaves India’s Elderly Stranded without Carers or Family Support

India has the world’s second largest population of senior citizens after China — 104 million. The abrupt draconian lockdown left them without any help In the days since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country, development sector professional Sohini Sarkar has noticed something new on her mother’s face when…

India’s New Surrogacy Bill Ends $2 Billion Commercial ‘Rent a Womb’ Industry

Under the strict new law, cases like Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan who had a third child by surrogacy would not be permitted If India’s parliament passes a proposed new Surrogacy Regulation Bill, cases such as that of Bollywood superstar Shah RukhKhan, who had his third child va surrogacy, would no longer be possible. The strict new Bill being considered…

A Rich Tradition of Under-reporting Disease

In a country where doctors can get suspended for Facebook posts on health crises, ‘mystery fever’ is the preferred term to dodge government paranoia In the 1990 film Ganashatru, director Satyajit Ray tells the story of a doctor who finds himself unemployed and ostracised when he speaks about the contaminated water supply in his town. The doctor traces the growing…

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

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…