Farah Deeba is a hard-core scientist with a passion for writing and music. She speaks of how she took on a multinational corporation for straying from its principles
The soft-spoken Farah Deeba is a hard-core scientist. “I am a qualified entomologist,” she says at the start of a long conversation over coffee. A writer, poet and singer, Farah was among the first women scientists in the country to have been recruited by an American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation, known to produce Bt-cotton. Over the years, however, she noticed how the company strayed from its principles. “I felt alienated in the company. They promised one thing and did something else,” says Farah.
Farah quit her job in 2009. In 2010, she wrote about her experience in her debut novel Corporate Curry, a fictitious and satirical view on corporate life. “The book is 90 per cent fact, 10 per cent fiction. It took me six months to write.” A topper throughout school and college, Farah says she worked hard to become a scientist. “I was born in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, in a place near Kushinagar. But I was always focused on my studies and wanted to be a scientist. I submitted my PhD thesis before my 26th birthday. I have no religious or gender bias. I am a rationalist,” she says as she recalls her childhood. “Music was a solace during my childhood. I practiced music during that period,” says Farah, whose scientific achievements include patents in Agriculture Biotechnology and papers in reputed journals.
Many readers identified with her story, Farah says. “My ex-colleagues thought I was courageous to write this book. When you are in a rat race, what are you willing to compromise and to what extent? Corruption is not just financial, but moral as well.”
“My book is like a Hindi film interspersed with some gaana,” Farah laughs as she takes me through her book, “ There is a satirical poem on the MNC’s pledge,” she adds.
There’s a logical flow in the book, says Farah. “It’s about how disillusionment sets in. The protagonist goes through a slow process of realisation of where she is going. She opts out of the rat race.” Disillusionment, Farah says, is a part of her. “It is a good quality to have because you will find ways of getting out of situations. You think out of the box.”
Speaking of what ails Indian science, Farah says: “There is hardly any research and development in the sciences. There are pockets of excellence, but there are no innovations, only service centres.” She says one has to be careful in producing correct data, particularly in Biological sciences.
“There have to be proper regulatory mechanisms. In the hurry of making money, you cannot shortcut processes.”
After quitting her job, Farah trained under Shyamala Bhave. The poet and singer in Farah blossomed during her school and college days. “Aligarh Muslim University, where I had studied, has a rich cultural base. I used to participate in debates, poetry and singing competitions. My husband, who is also a scientist, urged me to learn music.”
This year, Farah released her music album Zindagi Ka Saaz, which included lyrics as well. Her Hindi poetry is full of pathos and longing. She has also written Natakrangotri, a work of non-fiction in Hindi.