Aravind Chandramohan and Meera Iyer who are the co-founders of the heritage exploration company Carnelian spoke about the books they were immersed in at the time.

Aravind got a Kannada book called Vamshavriksha by S. L. Bhyrappa.  In Kannada, the title refers to the term family tree. This family saga spreads across three generations of the Rao and Shrotri households in Mysore.  Bhyrappa is well-respected in Kannada literature. This professor of philosophy is the recipient of many prestigious writing awards as well as the Padma Shri and many of his books have been translated and made into movies as well. Being a teacher of philosophy his books grapple with existential questions and deal with religious issues. He’s the Stephen King of Kannada literature, one of the readers said in the group, referring to his prolific output. Discussion of Kannada literature led to mention of  Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag and an anthropological study on the politics of the palaces of Mysore. Koshy’s, the popular restaurant and hangout on St. Marks Road, was also discussed as is inevitable in any discussion pertaining to Bangalore. Two camps emerged-one in favor of the conversation and discussion at this hotel with a history and the other more disillusioned camp who did not understand what magic Koshy’s had at all and why they had missed it.

Meera got a book called Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent by Pranay Lal. She was delighted to be gifted this book as it was the first of its kind in India. Hardly any books feature the natural history of the country or talk so passionately about our own rocks that we seldom admire for their age, but quarry instead. “The first few pages talk about the Nandi hills and the rocks at Lal Bagh. Can you guess how old they are?”

There was silence. No one was prepared to hear that the rock beneath our feet was three billion years old. Meera then educated us about various terms including the Dharwar Craton, the Deccan TrapsGondwana and magma chambers. The book is comprehensive and filled with photographs, artwork and maps. Apart from a few editing issues and references that he has made primarily because he is a biochemist and not a geologist, Indica tells a wonderful tale of our geological creation history.  If more people who governed read books such as these, we would be on more solid ground.

The conversation ultimately deviated to belief systems and Meera, the storyteller that she is, told us about the Scopes trial. It was formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes and commonly referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial. John Scopes was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school. The trial was the first of its sort to be broadcast on radio and threw light on the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. Then as now, the US was sharply divided about theological truth and scientific fact.

Truth and belief are seldom friends.