Manil Suri, Mathematics, in India Currents

The Indian-American magazine India Currents is a monthly publication that focuses on exploring the heritage and culture of India as it exists in the United States. The magazine is published in three print editions across the U.S. in Northern California, Southern California and Washington, D.C. and is also accessible digitally. It has the largest circulation among Indian publications in the United States.

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In its August issue, India Currents featured a cover story and discussion between Mathematics Professor Manil Suri and A.X. Ahmad, author of The Caretaker (IC, September 2013) and the recently-released The Last Taxi Ride—books one and two of the Ranjit Singh Trilogy. Suri is author of Death of Vishnu, The Age of Shiva, and City of Devi. The two authors discussed how Bollywood has influenced their writing. Below is an excerpt from the article in which Suri discusses how Bollywood resonates in the City of Devi:

The book is made to reflect on some of the larger-than-life aspects of Bollywood movies. The Superdevi herself arrives in one scene, she’s made up like a Bollywood star, and there are special effects and all of that. Once I got into this, the whole book became immersed in this Bollywood imagery….it was a deliberate playing with the genre. My book is about the end of the world seen through the eyes of Bollywood, and that was something I liked because it gave the novel the right flair. You don’t want the end of the world to be depressing! If you’re going to go out, go out in Bollywood style!

The magazine also featured a review of the City of Devi in which writer Jeanne E. Fredriksen wrote, “the story is beautifully told as an all-encompassing romance and present-day end time saga via alternating sections of Sarita’s and Jaz’s chronicles. Moreover, their stories internally alternate between past and present until there is nowhere to go but to move forward together.”

To read the featured article with Suri, “Bollywood Ties, Literary Knots,” click here. To read the review of City of Devi, click here.

UMBC Postdoctoral Fellow Evelyn Thomas Profiled in SIAM News

Evelyn ThomasEvelyn Thomas, a faculty diversity postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and statistics, is featured in a new profile in SIAM News, a widely read newspaper sponsored by the professional organization Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. The profile was written by Mathematics Professor Manil Suri.

The article illustrates the challenges and opportunities Thomas has encountered over the course of her career and describes her motivation for researching her doctoral dissertation.

In the article, Suri also writes about the work Thomas has begun since arriving at UMBC for her postdoc, including starting a new epidemiological project based on the rise of cholera in Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010 and continuing work on projects with social engagement.

“I hope to communicate to everyday people that if there are problems they see in their communities: HIV/AIDS, gun violence, racism, sexism, homophobia—anything—a solution does lie within mathematics,” Thomas said.

To read the full profile in SIAM News, click here. For more on the 2013-2015 UMBC faculty diversity postdoctoral fellows, click here.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, Writes Washington Post Op-Ed

ManilSuriHeadShotIn a Washington Post op-ed titled, “Court ruling ignores India’s rich heritage of diversity,” UMBC mathematics professor Manil Suri critically examines the Indian Supreme Court’s recent decision to reinstate a 19th-century law criminalizing homosexual acts (Section 377), a law which had been repealed by a lower-court decision in 2009.

In his analysis, Suri draws attention to how the ruling “criticized previous judges for relying too much on foreign precedents in their ‘anxiety to protect the so-called rights of LGBT persons.'”

Suri argues that the foreign imposition in this case is actually the statute itself. He notes: “The statute was passed in 1860 as part of Britain’s colonization of India. Other former British colonies, from Malaysia to Jamaica, have the same law on their books, also labeled Section 377.” He concludes, “India needs to be reminded of its rich heritage of diversity, its historically liberal attitude toward variations in human behavior.”

You can read Suri’s full op-ed here.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, to Present Lecture at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery (12/7)

Mathematics professor and affiliate professor of Asian Studies Manil Suri will be presenting a talk on his “Trimurti” trilogy, based on the trinity of Hindu gods Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi, at the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian on Saturday, December 7, at 4 p.m.

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Suri, who is an award-winning author, will be discussing his use of mythological motifs in his three novels: The Death of Vishnu (2001), The Age of Shiva (2003), and The City of Devi (2013). His novels have been translated into 27 languages. The talk will also include a discussion with curator Carol Huh and artist Rina Banerjee. Banerjee’s work has been exhibited in India, Japan, and throughout Europe and her talk will focus on her use of materials to call forth the long history of migration.

The talk is free to attend. The event is sponsored by the Embassy of India and Freer and Sackler Galleries. You can find more information here.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, in The New York Times and on Public Radio

ManilSuriHeadShotMathematics professor Manil Suri has made quite an impact with a fresh New York Times op-ed ed that re-introduces readers to mathematics through an approach based in the humanities.

In “How to Fall in Love with Math” Suri writes, “Despite what most people suppose, many profound mathematical ideas don’t require advanced skills to appreciate.” One idea that he finds often intrigues people is the origin of numbers.

He writes, “Think of it as a magic trick: harnessing emptiness to create the number zero, then demonstrating how from any whole number, one can create its successor. One from zero, two from one, three from two — a chain reaction of numbers erupting into existence. I still remember when I first experienced this Big Bang of numbers. The walls of my Bombay classroom seemed to blow away, as nascent cardinals streaked through space. Creatio ex nihilo, as compelling as any offered by physics or religion.”

The op-ed received the maximum of 360 comments in its first day online and quickly became the #1 most emailed article of the day. Read the full op-ed on The New York Times website and stay tuned for recaps of Suri’s upcoming radio interviews on the beauty, power and mass appeal of math.

Update: After Suri’s New York Times op-ed appeared in print, he was invited to interviews with Joy Cardin on Wisconsin Public Radio (listen) and Michael Cohen on 1320 WILS radio in Lansing, Michigan (listen). Suri’s Times piece remains the #4 most emailed article of the month.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, on BBC’s “The Forum”

Manil Suri, professor of mathematics, was recently a guest on the BBC World Service program “The Forum” to discuss “Obsessions, new and old, in literature and technology.”  Joining Suri on the show, which was hosted by Bridget Kendall, were internet analyst and cyber-sceptic Evgeny Morozo and Spanish novelist and translator Javier Marias.

Suri discussed his recent novel, “The City of Devi,” in which the main character is obsessed with bringing a pomegranate to her missing husband.

“She feels that having this symbol almost will somehow lead her to her husband. And in a way it does tell her something about her marriage, but in a very unexpected fashion,” he said.

The guests also spoke about our obsession with technology.  “There’s this belief in technology and computers – these are going to really save us from having to think,” Suri said.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, on the Marc Steiner Show

Manil Suri, professor of mathematics, was a guest on the Marc Steiner show on March 14 to discuss his new book “The City of Devi.”

Steiner asked Suri how he reconciles his background in mathematics with the spiritual themes that run through his books, which feature Hindu deities.

“There’s a lot of contrast. On the one hand, I’m very enamored by these ideas from spirituality and almost mysticism,” “But on the other hand, the logical part of me says, ‘hey, wait a minute, that’s not really what’s happening.’”

The full segment can be heard here.