28 July 2015

So Long, and Thanks for all the Inspiration!

We all loved him, and we loved him straight from the heart. An outstanding scholar, devoted teacher, brave-heart, passionate leader, and yet uncommonly down-to-earth and kind. Not to mention immensely popular. He truly was the proverbial 'rockstar'.

I've been a 'fan', like millions of others.

I think I should stop here, because all this and more has been said about him by far too many. And not just since last evening, but for years and years. I just feel tongue-tied saying all his one more time.
The real reason I'm writing this post is to urge you to read his autobiography 'Wings of Fire', if you haven't done so already. The book has many, many wonderful stories from his entire life, stories that inspire religious tolerance, hard work, perseverance, integrity, and respect for our teachers and mentors. 
The man talks about his monumental failures and successes, pays tribute to so many of his co-workers and seniors by name, gives credit to everyone on his 'team', and proudly acknowledges immense contributions of so many unsung heroes that made India's missile and space programs a success. 
Every story is a lesson and an inspiration. 
We all know he was a brilliant professor (duh!) who had more experience working on the industry shop floor than in a lecture hall. But when you read the book you will begin to see just how much he really knew about things ranging from aircraft design, to rocket technology, to material sciences (he taught composite materials after his term as President), to nuclear power, and the list has just started. 
Besides a hardcore techie, he was also a brilliant leader who knew how to bring people together and get them to work as a team, gave credit where it was due, stood by them in the face of great challenges, and led from the front by staggering example. 
When you read about his failures and disappointments (Nandi the hovercraft, RATO, SLV launch, more) you will also see how he bounced back from each of them. He was exceptionally brave. 
He was one of the first people who built India's space program by hand. Literally. There are stories of him working on rockets. So, yes, he got his hands and fingers into building the rockets that later evolved into what we see today. He's been there and done the real work, too. Rockets were not the only area of tech he specialized in: he played instrumental roles in the nuclear and missile programs as well. A blog post is too small for any more details, so go read the book if you are curious. 
Notice all those doubters and cynics who make a face when a PSLV mission succeeds, or a test fire of Agni passes with perfection? They seem to know that most of these are imported, assembled, and then simply branded made-in-India. Well, read the book and you'll never side with these people again. All the rockets and missile systems were made right here in this country: composite casings, precision electronics, motors, guidance systems, and everything else. Read the book to get it straight from the horse's mouth. 

Ok, how much do you know about Profs. Vikram Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan? Having worked with them closely, our dear doc has written some wonderful stories of them. 

If you like, you could search in the sidebar on this page and order the book. 
I'll call it a post now. :-) Looking forward to your comments!


P.S. He will be missed so much!

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