Hear why we’re heading off on a short break before rolling out fresh immersive-sound episodes in Season One. Then play along in our first-ever quiz!
Mary-Rose Abraham: Hi there! Welcome to “Scrolls & Leaves.” I’m Mary-Rose Abraham.
Gayathri Vaidyanathan: And I’m Gayathri Vaidyanathan.
MRA: Gayathri, where are you right now?
GV: I am sitting in Chennai, and under a blanket recording this.
MRA: Okay, I’m in Bangalore, almost doing the same thing, sitting in my closet, surrounded by my clothes. So listeners, thank you so much for joining us today and we’re loosely calling this our a hiatus episode. Basically a heads up that we’re going to be heading into a short break. So in this episode, we’re going to tell you exactly why. And just gonna chat about the podcast and tell you a little bit more about who we are. And of course, what’s coming up in Season One. And at the end, we have something a little new, a little different. You’ve been listening to our Chatrooms. They’ve been 18 of them. We’re going to play a trivia game based on our Chatrooms. And for that we are joined by two of our very dedicated listeners.
Abhay Kaushik: You could edit this part of the video, right?
GV: Yes, Abhay, we definitely can do that.
Lakshmi Mohan: I love learning. You give me a new piece of information, I get excited. And I’ll go to whatever and to find out more about it.
GV: Those sound like some mad skills, Lakshmi.
LM: I did not quite catch that. Your voice is broken. Could you please repeat it?
GV: So stay tuned for that. But first we’ll tell you about “Scrolls & Leaves,” how we got started and who’s on the team.
MRA: So we do have a little story for you about how we got started. We got to go all the way back to February of 2020, which sounds like years ago now. But Gayathri and I met up and we were joined by Venkat Srinivasan. He is the science archivist at the National Center for Biological Sciences here in Bangalore. And the three of us just got started chatting on creating something new. And we all have an interest in history, science, cultures. And that’s how we sort of created “Scrolls & Leaves.” We then went into production. And we were joined by an incredible sound designer, Nikhil Nagaraj. He’s actually the one who suggested that we do our podcast in binaural sound.
GV: Which is essentially like it’s 3D for your ears or virtual reality for your ears. So in terms of the mission of “Scrolls & Leaves,” we want to tell histories from the margins. And we think that’s important because they can help us re-understand our world. And there is one particular quote I like from Rebecca Solnit. “Though hope is about the future grounds for hope lie in the records and recollections of the past. We can tell of a past that was nothing but defeats and cruelties and injustices. Or of a past that was some lovely golden age, now irretrievably lost. Or we can tell a more complicated and accurate story, one that has room for the best and the worst, for atrocities and liberations, for grief and jubilation.
MRA: That’s incredible. It’s so beautifully written. I think the keywords are that I just heard are hope for sure. And recollections and just the importance of what history can give to us.
GV: Yeah. And it’s it’s the nuance of history, right? Like that often gets lost. I think that’s something we want to do by trying to tell histories that are less often told. And hopefully that helps us. We understand our future, and hope.
MRA: Absolutely. So we started out with this grand mission. And we took the next several months of 2020 to just pour through research. The level of detail that we had to get into was pretty incredible. We were going through archives. We were going through scientific papers, journals, books, talking to experts, of course. It’s not like any of this is conveniently located in one place. I think for each episode, we must have chosen things from you know, hundreds of different sources. So we did release two pilot episodes, which you’ve heard, Episode One and Two, and then a series of Chatrooms, 18 of them in total. And now we’re getting ready to produce and present Season One. But before that happens, we need to take a little break. And this is why.
GV: So just producing these Chatrooms, it’s been exciting because we’re also learning so much about the process of putting out a podcast. And it’s also great to connect with you guys and hear from you about what else to cover. At the same time, as we’re focusing on these episodes, and as Mary-Rose mentioned, we often go through so much research, there’s a wealth of material, that it can get difficult to focus on two things at the same time. And simultaneously, here in India, times are very difficult. There’s the second wave happening and I think pretty much everyone or at least everyone I know has been affected by it at a personal level and our production team also has been affected.
MRA: Absolutely, we did get personally affected. I mean, I can say for myself, I did get COVID. Thankfully, it was very mild, but it does knock you out. I was out for all of April. So you know, our production timeline and scheduling all took a hit. So we want to take that break. We want to refresh. We want to, you know, create these episodes without interruption and have them ready for you.
GV: So one of the things is, in each episode, since January at least, we’ve been putting out this call for donations. The reason we have that up is because we’re an indie podcast, which essentially means we don’t have a large studio backing us. So it would really help us to have more funding. At present, we are lucky enough to have funding from NCBS and also from the Yale-Mellon Sawyer Seminar, Order of Multitudes, which is a joint collaboration between Yale University and the Andrew Mellon Foundation.
MRA: So yeah, we’d greatly appreciate your support. Even small donations make a huge difference for us. So what is coming up for Season One? We have a total of seven episodes. And the first two you have heard, our pilots, Episode One and Episode Two. And then we move on to Episodes Three. This is the one where I got a chance to actually travel. I went to Kerala. And I spent a couple of days there at a archeological site that is trying to find the location of a lost ancient port. And there are a lot of dedicated archaeologists and scientists down there doing their best over the last 10 years to find the clues that may help us to locate the port.
GV: And the next episode will tell the story of the meteoric rise and equally steep fall of a king who once shook the world but whom history has largely forgotten. But there is an object that forever speaks of this story. And this episode will tell you about the object and about this king. And after that will be the story of infamous jewel and a deadly curse associated with it. So I’m not going to tell you more because I want to preserve the mystery. And then there will be just a heart-tugging episode. It’s about a search for belonging, spanning three generations of Indians and across three nations. So very excited about that one.
MRA: And our final episode, Episode Seven, takes us more into modern times. set in the 1960s. And it has two very strange, unrelated things you could say: Arthur C. Clarke, the famous science fiction author, and a shipwreck off the coast of Sri Lanka. So you’ll have to stay tuned for how those two connect. Okay, so that is a little preview of Season One. And now we’re going to move into our trivia game and invite two of our very dedicated listeners to join us.
GV: We have Abhay Kaushik from Pune. He’s nine years old and says he’s an expert on the history of royals. So Abhay, who’s your favorite royal and why?
AK: Diana, Princess of Wales. My favorite royal is her. Because whatever happened to her, it shows that some royal families are good and some are bad.
GV: And next, we have Lakshmi Mohan from Kottayam in Kerala. She has a PhD in cancer biology and is a college professor. So Lakshmi, we heard you’re a voracius reader. What’s your favorite book on history?
LM: I love all of William Dalrymple’s books, and “White Mughals” is one of my favorite.
GV: Great, one of our upcoming episodes is based on Dalrymple’s books. So that’s wonderful.
MRA: So this is going to be a multiple choice game. You have questions that we’ll pose to each person, alternating. So I’m going to go ahead and start with the first question. And this one is from 1902. Sir Ronald Ross, he was a British Medical surgeon, won a Nobel Prize for finding out mosquitoes cause malaria. But he got his first clue about this from which person? And Abhay, this question is for you. So I’m going to give you the three possible answers here. The first one is his assistant, Mohammed Bux, who was catching mosquitoes in the sewers around Calcutta. Second one, a person from a tribe in the Western Ghats. Or the third possibility is his mentor, John Snow and he was a pioneer of the science of epidemiology, which is disease tracking.
AK: I think third option is correct, John Snow.
MRA: Okay. Unfortunately, that is not correct. So per the rules of the game, we’ll move over to Lakshmi.
LM: Yeah, I remember listening to your podcast and reading something about or listening to something about Coorg. So it has to be the tribal person who told him about the mosquito which causes malaria, and he then worked on it to win the Nobel Prize later.
MRA: Yes, that is correct. Ronald Ross made a trip to Coonor, after studying the cholera outbreak in Bangalore. And he heard from a tribal member that the speckled mosquito may be linked to malaria. And of course that’s from Chatroom Eight which was called “A Disease Sleuth in Bangalore.”
GV: So question two, this is for Lakshmi. This is based on the news. During the first wave of COVID-19 in India, borders were closed and it was very difficult to get around. So how did one couple that lived in neighboring regions get married. Choice number one, they use bamboo sticks to exchange garlands across the state border. Option number two, they held a big fat Zoom wedding, which worked out fine especially after the groom tested COVID-positive that morning. It was the first Zoom wedding in their village in Uttar Pradesh. Or option number three, they married in front of the checkpost office at the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala after spreading out a blanket on the road.
LM: I would say it was a Zoom wedding but not very sure about the answer.
GV: Unfortunately, that is not the right answer. So Abhay, it goes to you.
AK: I think A is the answer.
GV: Unfortunately, no. The right answer is they married in front of the checkpost office between Tamil Nadu and Kerala after spreading out a blanket on the road.
MRA: So our next question. Abhay, you’ll like this one because it is a royalty-associated question. So Maharajah Duleep Singh, he was the last king of the Sikh Empire was good friends with which European monarch? And these are the choices: Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, King George or William the Conqueror.
AK: The answer is Queen Victoria.
MRA: That is correct. Yes, he was a great favorite of Queen Victoria. She had a court painter paint a picture of him.
GV: And this one is to Lakshmi. In the 19th century, the British took Indians to colonies like Fiji to work on sugar plantations. And once there, the women, and many of them were from North India, would sing songs that borrowed mostly from which Indian language? Option number one Bhojpuri, option number two Malayalam, option number three Telugu.
LM: I would say it will be Bhojpuri because the people were from North India.
GV: Yeah, that is correct. When Indians got to Fiji the women especially hailed from Uttar Pradesh and would sing songs in their native Bhojpuri language. That’s from Chatroom 12.
MRA: Abhay, you get the next question. And this one actually also comes from Chatroom 12. This bidesia borrows, from which popular musical form that has roots in slavery? And these are the choices: the blues, jazz, or gospel.
AK: I think jazz.
MRA: It’s a different answer. Can I go over to Lakshmi and ask you?
MRA: Yes, blues is the correct answer, because blues also had roots in slavery, of course in the United States.
GV: The next question is for Lakshmi. In the old days and still even today, whenever there’s a pandemic, people pray to disease goddesses for protection. Here are three disease goddesses. Which one is not matched to the right disease? Shitala, who cures smallpox, sores, ghouls, pustules and diseases. Coronadevi, who cures the coronavirus. And Ola bibi, who cures the common headache.
LM: Ola bibi would be the right answer because I’ve heard about Shitala even before and Coronadevi definitely would be related to corona. So Olabibi I guess.
GV: That is correct. Ola Bibi cures cholera, not the common headache. As you might have heard in Chatroom Nine, Disease Goddesses and Scapegoats.
MRA: Alright, so our next question is for you, Abhay. This is from Chatroom 11. The title of that one was Technology meets Ayurveda. The question is Ayurveda has borrowed modern technologies from Western science in recent years. Which of the following technologies did it borrow from? The stethoscope, the pocket watch, a blood test.
AK: A pocket watch.
MRA: That is correct. Excellent. Yeah. Do you know why they use the pocket watch?
AK: They use a pocket watch to measure the heartbeat.
MRA: Yeah, exactly. To detect the pulse changes.
GV: Lakshmi, your next question comes from something to do with scapegoats. Long ago, villagers would use scapegoats to drive disease out of their villages. And what were some of the popular scapegoats that they used? Option A, goats, option B, people of lower castes, Option C,women, option D, all of the above.
LM: I think I will go with option D, all of the above.
GV: That is true. So whenever there was an epidemic, villagers would do a puja and drive out goats, people of lower castes, women to neighboring villages thinking that the scapegoats will carry the disease out of their village.
MRA: So our next one is going to go to Abhay. When plague got to India in 1896, people saw that some states did worse than others. And later on, scientists figured out that it had something to do with the way the disease is transmitted. So we’re asking how is the disease transmitted? And here are the choices. The first one is by rats, second choice by fleas on rats, or third choice a virus.
AK: I think it’s rats.
MRA: Okay, actually, that is incorrect. So Lakshmi gonna go over to you.
LM: I would answer it fleas on rats.
MRA: Yeah, fleas on rats is the correct, correct answer. So plague is the Yersinia pestis bacteria and that is carried on not the rats themselves, but the fleas that are sitting on the rats.
GV: Lakshmi, which American Pakistani rapper is known as the pioneer of desi hip-hop? Option one, Bohemia, option two, divine, option three, Lazarus, option four Nas.
LM: I think it is Bohemia.
GV: That is correct. Bohemia or Roger David was born in Karachi and moved to the US at 13. That’s from Chatroom 14, the Rise of Desi Hip-Hop.
MRA: Okay, great. So that’s all the questions. That went pretty quickly. In our “Scrolls & Leaves” version of quiz, we are giving a trophy to each of you. And we so appreciate your, your continued support for us.
GV: And the trophy is a year’s subscription to a brand new comic book called Comixense that’s produced by Orijit Sen. And it’s the first such comic book in India since the 1980s, when there was the Target magazine.
MRA: So we hope you’re excited about Season One. Thank you so much for listening to our podcast. And we are really, really looking forward to rolling these out for you, after a very short break.
GV: Thank you for listening and see you soon.
Listen to Hiatus Episode here.