Which is the only sport played on the moon?
Which is the familiar bird that can fly about 1000 km a day?
Which is the rock that humans can eat?
How many teeth does a snail have?
In which liquid do pearls melt?
The Did You Know series are four books which explain several interesting facts around us that normally go unnoticed but have a bearing on our day-to-day life. These volumes will amaze the readers with their wide coverage of topics covering more than 2000 facts and excite them with the unexpected.
We had a chance to interview the authors of these series – Dr. Chinmoy Kumar Ghosh and Dr. Moumita Das. Here are a few excerpts from our conversation with them.
Interview with Dr. Chinmoy Kumar Ghosh
1. What persuaded you to work on the Did You Know Series?
There was a flood-like situation in the Yamuna in 2010. Newspapers reported that so-and-so ‘cusecs’ of water was released from Haryana. I found out that most of my colleagues in IGNOU and the general public did not know the meaning of ‘cusec’.
Then on 23rd September, the ‘autumnal equinox’ occurs yet most people did not know about it. I found out that there are interesting events which have a bearing on our lives and yet are not known to people. So we started bringing out a black-and-white poster in IGNOU with the help of Moumita Das and it featured subjects like:
Did you know ‘cusec’ means such and such . . . ?
Did you know ‘autumnal equinox’ means such and such . . . ?
Mr. D.P. Sapru (Viva Books) knew me (he had published the ICDE commemorative volume for us) and used to come to our office. When Mr. Sapru saw the posters, he said, ‘Why don’t we bring them out in the shape of a book?’ That’s how it all began.
2. What was your experience of being published by Viva Books?
Very, very, very pleasant. The important thing was that the offer came from Viva Books. I have written with McGraw Hill and PHI and textbooks take their own time in getting published. I was clearly told by McGraw Hill that Physics books are of least priority, other books sell better. With Viva there was no such case, the manuscript was well received in time for proofreading, then minor alterations were done and the final thing came out.
3. You have worked with four titles under the Did You Know series with Prof Moumita Das. What was the journey with her like?
Moumita is extremely talented and focused. It is a challenge to bring out something or the other with your junior colleagues. One way to keep academic viability is to publish papers. In my three-years-tenure, we had 24 publications apart from three books. The first person to respond positively was Moumita (though others responded too). I could make out her research bent of mind and we gelled well. So we came out with the Did You Know series. I told her that apart from the usual research she would have to do research for Did You Know. In all my papers I co-authored, I made my junior colleagues the first author. Moumita was surprised at this and said, ‘You are the senior’ but I said, ‘It is a pleasure you will not deny me!’
4. Although you are associated with Physics, what encouraged you to write about various topics in Did You Know?
It came naturally to me. I was studying in Ramakrishna Mission and it encouraged a lot of quizzing. It was great to be part of quizzes as a participant and later on as a quiz master as well. This helped me to indulge in a lot of discussions with like-minded people.
5. What was the feedback you got for the series?
Both Moumita and I decided to keep the same pattern as ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ for the Did You Know series. The arrangement of topics in ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ is very random and makes the show very vibrant. Then people gave the feedback that we should compartmentalize the subjects. In ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ a lot of people used to falter on questions on the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. That is why we are trying to make a dedicated book on ‘Myths and Legends’, as well as one on sports and one on science.
6. How do you keep yourself motivated to write more?
[Laughs] I am a retired person now . . . no slogging through the office. Learning is the motivation to write. Reading things and digging out information motivate me.
7. What is your advice to budding authors and professors?
For authors, I would say that retail space is getting occupied by digital space. Importance of books should never be over and well-researched books should always go on. No writing of trash novels and stories. For example, during Durga Puja, there is a rush to get more journals and books published wherein quality takes a backseat. Research can give the best possible input, even if it is a novel.
As far as advice for professors goes, I would say that professors should not indulge in politics. With what happened in JNU recently – right or wrong – it was not desirable. A lot of working hours were lost. Professors should be conscious of discipline in class. The ‘speaking–to-learning transaction’ is the most important aspect of an educational institute and should remain so.
Interview with Dr. Moumita Das
1. What was your experience of getting published with Viva Books and how was it like working with Viva employees?
It is a pleasure working with Viva Books. The people with whom I have been working are professional and courteous. From editing to cover designing to marketing, their services are praiseworthy.
2. What persuaded you to work on the Did You Know series and provide readers with a well of unexplored facts?
In my quest to know more about the world around me, I have been a voracious reader of diverse topics. One day Dr. C.K. Ghosh, co-author of the books and the former director of our centre, initiated the topic of igniting minds that set the stage for this work. We had started with posters on ‘Did You Know’ in our university, which later took the shape of a book. The incident is narrated in the preface of the first book. The readers might like to read more about it there.
3. You have worked on four titles under the Did You Know Series with Dr. C.K. Ghosh. Would you like to speak about your journey of working with him?
Dr. Ghosh provided me with a conducive and relaxed environment that enabled me to do research and write. He himself contributed heavily to these books. He wrote with colourful pens, and the manuscripts were beautiful to behold with all the different colours! Once when I expressed my appreciation for the colourful manuscripts, he gifted me with a blue felt-tipped pen. It is still on my desk. We worked as a team with perfect understanding.
4. Although you are associated with the branch of medicinal plant science, you have also been working and researching on general topics for the Did You Know series. What encouraged you to research about these topics for the books?
I have been fortunate to spend my childhood in natural surroundings exploring the environment around me. I used to read a lot to satisfy my inquisitiveness. These activities enabled me to notice many non-obvious things and I retained my quest for interesting information on things around us, even when I was doing higher studies or working in office. I wanted to express and share these experiences, which found resonance in the general topics in books that are interesting but generally go unnoticed.
5. How did you manage your profession while working on the Did You Know series?
The Did You Know books are aligned with my professional work and so managing time to write the books was easy. Since the topics are interesting to me, after office hours I would work late into the night researching about facts, establishing their authenticity and writing.
6. What was the best feedback you got from your work and from whom?
The Did You Know books are a good gift item and I usually gift the volumes to my friends, relatives or their children on occasions like their birthdays. The best feedback was from the little children. Several of them told me that they liked the book so much that they showed it to their friends and teachers in school. In one instance the child had made a project on the book at her school.
7. How do you keep yourself motivated to write more?
I just need a relaxed and beautiful environment, and good friends and nice people around me to be inspired. I make efforts to be in such an environment.
8. What advice would you like to give to budding authors/professors?
I would suggest to every budding author that you listen to your inner voice in peace. Give due attention to your original ideas and try to develop those ideas. Devote sufficient time for reading and thinking. This is very important. Read good books and articles. Thinking and reflecting are very important activities that help you refine your ideas. Work on your writing skills so that you can compose and communicate the exact idea or thought that you want to convey to your readers. Celebrate your ideas and enjoy writing!
For a glimpse at the Did You Know titles please click on the links given: