In conversation with

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

9 Questions


Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is a pioneer of biotechnology in India. She is the executive chairperson and founder of Biocon Limited and Biocon Biologics Limited, a biotechnology company based in Bangalore. In this 'in conversation with the mystic', she asks Sadhguru questions on moral dilemmas, society and technology. Q1: Sadhguru, how do you have so much clarity? ...


5:40 min

Sadhguru, how do you have so much clarity?


When I think about the word mystic, and of course you are a mystic, and yet when I listen to you, I can't help but feel that you have so effectively demystified so many complex issues for all of us. You simplify everything. And, to me that is really really something that speaks of your wisdom. So, when I think about the complex lives that we live in, the kind of complexity, and maybe we make things more complex than they should be. I just, you know, can't help but ask you, how do you basically cut through all this noise. How do you have this clarity of thought and word, that we all listen to and suddenly feel, 'oh god, it's so simple', 'it's so commonsense, why didn't we think of it this way?' And my question to you, guruji, is how do you, you know, help us to cut through that noise? To gain that clarity and to find answers to these problems or complex situations that are there, or maybe we create. To really make us better people? Can you share with us those secrets, those guidelines? Or, you know, those small, simple formulae that we can use in our lives. Or is it making things too simplistic?

17:47 min

Why is there gender bias in Indian society?


That's a very unique way of looking at it. And you know, you said, and I was very taken with that statement that you made that, "I am human". That is to say that you are proud of being a human being, and that you got this life in you which is very very unique. And, I want to actually take that sentence of yours and say, "I am a woman". And, I want to raise a very important subject which has always worried me a lot, and that is about, the very very serious gender bias that we have in society. Across the world, but I want to focus on our own country. [...] Well, I just want to say that, let me tell you that as a woman, I am very proud to be a woman in this country, but I think I know what this gender bias is about. Because, right from the time I was born, I have seen this gender bias in society. And, I really want to discuss this with you, Sadhguru Ji, because I really think it is very important for me to understand from you about certain things that have always been of concern to me as a woman. Because, I remember my mother telling me, when I was born, that although my parents were overjoyed, my late grandmother, you know, my father's mother, my late father's mother, was deeply disappointed that the first child born in the family was a girl child. And, my mother told me that, she didn't even come and visit me for a whole day. And yet, my grandmother, as I grew up, started respecting me, and you know, admiring me for some of the things that I was doing. And, I remember, when I came back from Australia, she looked up to me, and said, you know, your father doesn't have two sons and a daugher, he has three sons. [...] Even in that, I was achieveing so much, she still saw me, saw that strength in me as being a male, as being a man in a woman's body kind of thing. So, I just feel that this problem that we have in society is real. I mean, let’s not hide away from the fact, in Indian society, as much as we want to basically try and behave there is gender equity, there isn’t. There is a lot of gender-bias. I know that we are a strange society. On one hand we, of course, revear goddesses as very powerful goddesses. And yet we have wisdom and wealth as female icons. We have Durga, Kali as powerful iconic symbols. And yet, on earth, we don’t pay that same respect to women.

11:21 min

What are your views on morality & integrity?


So, now I want to move onto another question which I thought I should ask you. Which is really about morality and integrity. I know it sounds very serious and very profound, but the reason I ask you about it is that very often, you know, I feel we use morality and integrity as interchangable, and yet to me they are not. To me morality is something that is a social tenet. Where as integrity is something about yourself, it’s about the discovery of truth in yourself. So what are your words on morality and integrity?

11:54 min

How to deal with moral dilemmas?


So, you know, on that whole subject of, well, you have explained it beautifully, the morality [...]. But, lot of people go through moral dilemmas. Like you said, you know, don’t do this, you must do that. You have all these commandments. And sometimes I feel certain moral dilemmas are really, really very difficult moral dilemmas. For example, you know, you talked about genetics. And if you think about today, young couples who have pregnancy tests and they find out that the child has a genetic defect. When they discover that the baby has a genetic defect, then they are in this moral dilemma. This is quite a serious dilemma which a lot of young couples grapple with. For instance, some couples say that should we bring this child into the world because it will suffer for the rest of it's life? They feel selfish and say, we will suffer for the rest of our life if we bring this child with a genetic defect into this world. And others feel, no, this is god’s wish that this child should be born. Now obviously there is no right or wrong in this, taking this decision. But a lot of this moral dilemma comes from this feeling that if we do this, it is wrong, if we do that, it is right. They’re going by moral tenets of society. How does one figure this out, this moral dilemma? What is your advice to such young couples?

13:21 min

Are genetically modified crops good or bad?


So, now coming to the ethics of modern science. I think which is what I was very keen to discuss with you. And you know that I come from a field called biotechnology, which is a bad word in the vocabulary of many many people. Because we are tampering with life. We are engineering DNA. So, this is a very very, this is an amazing science, this is an amazing technology, but it is also a very controversial and sensitive technology. And, you know, I want to start with a question that says - look, we actually embrace biotechnology when it comes to saving lives, when it comes to genetically engineered drugs which is saving cancer patients, and many many other types of patients who are suffering from debilitating diseases. And yet we have this huge activism against genetically modified crops, which is also saving lives, by the way. Because, you know, there is enough data and evidence to show that genetically modified crops never killed people. But hunger and starvation has killed many many lives. And, today if we have solutions to actually feed the hungry, feed the starving, and we know that genetically modified crops can actually do a lot for our kind of country, because you can have drought resistant crops, you can have crops that grow in salient conditions, and you know, the marvels of this technology are many. But people are not willing to have a scientific debate, people are not willing to look at data, people are not willing to look at evidence. They always want to look at long-term, absolutely guaranteed, safety of a new technology. How do we deal with this? I want your suggestions on how we deal with these kinds of questions?

10:22 min

Is gene editing good or bad?


So, now let's come to a much more scary aspect of biotechnology. So, I am not only going to talk about the good things of biotechnology. It's about designed babies, ok. Now, if you think about it, the whole thought of a designer baby is scary. But, if you think about saying, ok, I can actually make sure that the same case that I talked about, that you know, you are in this moral quandry about giving birth to a child with a genetic defect. But yet, you can have, you know, gene editing technology to fix that genetic defect and actually give birth to a normal child. So there’s a good side of designer babies but there’s also a very scary side of designer babies because, like you said, human beings don’t necessarily know where to stop. And you might want to have this superhumans, with the highest IQ. You know this has been done even Hitler's time. I think they tried to, they tried to develop these superhumans. Through various their experimental, nasty and horrific experiments. But that can also happen today. And, whilst you will have people who will be able to do this, maybe some countries will say, why don't we indulge in these kind of technoligies to create a super race in our country. How to deal with this?

8:06 min

How do we get a sense of civic-mindedness in our society?


So now, I want to basically, since everyone is here from Bangalore, I want to come to, you know, something that really plagues us everyday. And, that is, we are all so bothered about the decay that we are seeing in the city. Everything is looking shabby, we are seeing debris all over the place, we are seeing polluted lakes, we've got a lot of problems in the city. And, everything has to do with us. We can't keep asking the government to do everything. I mean, after all, if its 'Swachcha Bharat', which is what we are all really really commited to, we all sort of accepted the fact that, yes, by 2020 India must become a clean country. We must become a zero open defacation country. Everyone, there is no debate on that. And yet, three years later, if you look at what actually we are doing, we are not changing our habits. We still keep chucking litter all over the place, we pollute our lakes. I mean, nobody seems to have any civic sense in this country. So, how do we get a sense of civic-mindedness in our society. It is very difficult. Many of us tried to do it, but we finally give up. Today we are taking pictures of people parking on footpaths, which shouldn't happen. We've tried all kinds of things. We take apps, we send it here, send it there. At the end of the day, we almost just give up. How do we deal with all these issues?

5:30 min

Is technology leading to discontentment & desire for instant gratification?


Absolutely, well said. And, I see that we are running out of time. But, I want to ask you a final question, before we turn it over to the audience. You talked about technology and we know that technology of course also raises aspirations. And, I remember we grew up at a time when we didn't have phones, we didn't have television, we were very content with small things. We drove around in Ambassador cars, we were lucky if we had a landline. And, if we aspired for a telephone and we got a landline after three years, we were very happy, very content. If we got a Prmier Padmini after the Ambassador, we were very content. But, today things are so different. It's a great transformation that we are seeing in our country. You can choose any model that you want of cars, of smartphones, and yet you see that technology and aspirations are almost proportionate to discontentment. Do you feel that is true? There seems to be this instant gratification. We must have the next best thing.

4:24 min

Is it ethical to use animals for testing in laboratory?


My name is Sphurti. I am in my final yeat of biotechnology. And, listening to your talk, I have many questions. But for now, I will just want to ask one. So, from what I’ve studied, from what I’ve read, biotechnology is here today because of animals such as mice and microorganisms such as bacteria. But do you think that it is ethical to use these organisms, which help us so much, and later kill them? But, we are here today, thanks to them, thanks to those small creatures, and testing on those, we are here. But is it an ethical thing to do?