Daya Varma


I have known Obaid Siddiqi since 1950. After a lapse of many years I met him when he was in Pennsylvania in 1960’s and again few times when he visited his son Kaleem and daughter Yumna in Montreal in 2000s.


Obaid spent some time at the laboratory of  Professors Mriganka Sur of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, another brilliant biologist. When I visited Mriganka and  the science historian Abha Sur, I asked about Obaid’s stay at MIT. It was Mriganka who summed up Obaid’s contribution to science when he told me that undoubtedly Obaid Siddiqi was the father of India’s molecular biology. Molecular biology examines biological phenomenon at the molecular level as opposed to system-based biology.


The obituaries in the Hindu and by K. VijayRaghavan  describe Obaid’s scientific contribution to Indian science. Obaid pioneered the field for which the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine of 2004 was awarded to American scientists Richard Axel and Linda Buck. I was disappointed that Obaid was not the third one. I asked  Mriganka Sur if Obaid was nominated for Nobel Prize; he said he does not know.


But I am not writing about scientific accomplishments of Obaid. Much has been written and I am sure more will be written.


I am writing about Obaid of 1950 and earlier. Those were the days when the Communist Party of India under the leadership of P.C. Joshi attracted the cream of India’s intellectuals, artists and writers into the fold of the Party. Obaid was one of them. Those were the days, which once PC Joshi described as the days when we believed that Revolution was around the corner. When it became apparent that the revolution was not around the corner, many whole time members of the Party went back to pursue academic careers and many  emerged as the best and the brightest and original in their approach. The late Sultan Niazi (Older brother of Iqbal Niazi) was one of the best debaters India ever had. Irfan Habib changed the face of Indian historiography and Obaid Siddiqi of biology.


As my tribute to my friend Obaid, I cannot but recall the glorious history of the Communist Party of India.

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