I stumbled upon a report in the edition of a leading newspaper (dated 15th January), that a new algal gene of an alga called Chlamydomonas had been cloned in the Kalina campus of the Mumbai University. As health and science journalism enthusiast, I jumped at the idea of doing a follow-up of the story.
I picked up the phone to call the university and fix an appointment with the researchers involved in the cloning. The idea was to focus on the bio-fuel aspect of the alga. Like all government institutions, my call was transferred to all possible extensions. And to my surprise, I found out that there is no Biology Department in the Kalina campus. When asked about Life sciences department, the guy said ‘Ha, life sciences toh hai madam’. Further, they couldn’t get hold of the professor incharge of the research. ‘Arey madam, ye naam ka toh koi nahi hai yaha pe’, was the answer I got.
Luck was absent that day, in my case. Finally, I got through one of the PhD student who was a part of the whole research. He was reluctant to say anything. He told me to call back and then disappeared into thin air (because he was not there when I called back). A girl picked up the phone and said, ‘I am from the Physics department and have come here to take a test tube.’ Gosh… their Physics department doesn’t have test tubes! I called back after an hour and she was still there, accusing me for calling back.
I have to do something now, I felt, so I told my colleague to call up disguised as a university student asking about the research. And as I thought, she was given the information about where the researcher was. Now things are getting interesting, I thought. So I called up again and got hold of another researcher. ‘Rudeness’ could be another name for her. She told me that I should improve my manners and if I want to know more about the research I should read today’s newspaper for the same. When asked about meeting she said, ‘We are very busy and can not meet.’ If the research was so secretive and if they wanted to refrain from giving any information to press, they should have said it clearly and in a better way.
In all, I feel that something is definitely ‘fishy’ in their genes… ;-)