Small and Big Questions: Menaka Raman on Everyday Inquiry

By Prerna Bidalia, Educator

Take a minute and think about the number of questions you ask daily. What are the kind of questions that you ask? Do you always like the answer? Who do you pose these questions to? 

In the bustling heart of the city, amidst the hum of animated conversations, renowned author Menaka Raman delved into the intriguing world of questions on Day 2 of the Neev Literature Festival 2023. With her repertoire of thought-provoking books, including Topi Rockets from Thumba (Puffin, 2021) and How to Reach Mars and Other Impossible Things (Puffin, 2023), she led a captivating session, challenging our perspectives on the questions we ask every day.

Whilst working on her latest book How to Reach Mars and Other Impossible Things Menaka asked a wide range of questions – Why are humans interested in Mars? What is so cool about the mission? Who worked on it? How did they do it? When did it happen? Where did it go down?

Menaka’s inquiry led her to some interesting answers. She discovered that this time around, there were many women who worked on the project. Do you want to know something interesting about these women? Imagine a woman scientist. What does she look like? Did you imagine a woman in a saree with a gajra? No? Well, this is exactly what these women were like!

What’s interesting is that Menaka didn’t necessarily ask very many complicated questions while researching for her book. However, what shaped her work was where she collected her answers from. In today’s day and age, you and I often rely on Google or ChatGPT for answers. However, Menaka decided to work with people in the field. Of course, she used Youtube and Google, but she read books and held several interactions with retired ISRO scientists. 

Oftentimes, we fail to assess the source of our answers and how they shape our inquiry. So the next time you set out on finding answers, think about who you ask and where you’re getting your answers from! They just might shape what you find! 



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