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Who is the real McCoy?

Ever heard the expression, is that the "real McCoy?" No, its not the musical group we are talking about. Real McCoy is actually a reference to one of America's most prolific inventors, Elijah McCoy. McCoy invented and patented all kinds of mechanical things to help them work smoothly, efficiently and safely. Over time, the expression "real McCoy" has been used...

Excerpts from Ek-kori’s Dream

Ek-kori’s Dream By Mahasveta Devi; Translated by Lila Majumdar; Illustrations by Judhajit Sengupta, Published by National Book Trust, India There was no other way but to take cover as early as possible. The village school would open as soon as it was light and Aunt would certainly send him to school today. The mango tree was outside the house, a huge fajli...

A Monster in Tokyo…

It happened one evening in May, 53 years ago, in 1947. Many people in Tokyo had switched on to the American Armed Forces Radio Station. It was two years since the Second World War had ended and Japan had been defeated. But the Americans were still around. And so was their radio station. Around 7 pm, the radio programme was...

Why Does Time Start in Greenwich?

Its six in the morning and the sun is streaming through the window of your home in Delhi. In New York, people are just packing up to go home as it is six in the evening! Nothing amazing about it. We know that the earth is round and that it revolves once in 24 hours. So while it is daytime...

Destination Mir

August 19: Dennis Tito is a very excited man. This businessman-cum-space-enthusiast has won the first prize in a game show called Destination Mir. He is now all set to be the world's first space tourist, and is training at Russia's Star City space-base for his unusually long journey. Russia has launched a television game show to revive interest in its...

Who Invented Traffic Lights?

Long before roads needed traffic lights, railways were using a system of signals to control train traffic. In the early railways, a single track was used for both up-going and down-going trains, and safety depended on spacing the arrival and departure of trains according to time intervals. These signals consisted of a ball and something that looked like a kite....

This Time Teachers are the Students

August 12: About 55,000 teachers in West Bengal are going back to school. They are going to be taught English so that they can teach the language to their students. The West Bengal government has realised that most primary school teachers in the state do not know the ABC of English. Rather, they don't remember. The reason is not hard to...

Quizzically Yours

September 6: Eight-year old Neha is the happiest girl in India. Her father has just won a huge amount of money at a popular television quiz show. Neha coached him for the show. The game show, 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' (KBC), is the Indianised version of the famous American show 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' Contestants are given 15 questions...

The dabbawalas of Mumbai

Late every morning at Mumbai, in India, rows and rows of neatly stacked dabbas (boxes) with weird markings on the top are trundled across busy office buildings. At fifteen to one, a cloth capped man delivers one of these cylindrical boxes on my table in the Fort area. At once I open the case and find the lunch my...

A Train Adventure of Wild Animals

An empty goods train was speeding through a jungle. Up front, in the engine, was the driver and at the back, in the last compartment, was the guard. Apart from them, the entire train was empty. A goods train carries goods. Like logs of wood, or boxes of chocolate – ummm, even cars and jeeps. But this train had been...

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Why’s the Sun Red during Sunrise and Sunset?

As day breaks, a reddish-white ball of light that we call the sun, rises. This red haze gives way to a golden-white sheen as...

Dress like an Egyptian

I am writing this as I am travelling in my time machine. I know how important it is to keep a diary of happenings....

The Butterfly in a Bottle

Poltu was wide awake in his bed. He had had a marvellous dream in which he had won the football match in the inter-school...

Why do Onions Make us Cry?

One of the earliest memories I have as a child is when I was approximately three or four years old. I remember watching my...

What is Cloning?

Which is the most famous sheep in the world? A sheep called Dolly. But why is Dolly famous? That is because unlike other sheep's, Dolly...