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ISRO Chairman pens autobiography; wants to inspire people chase their dreams

Thiruvananthapuram: He may have helped the country conquer the moon, is making a similar attempt for the Sun and is busy preparing sending Indianstothe space–all multi-crore rupee ventures, butISROchairmanS Somanath’s humble beginnings included an old bicycle and a modest lodgingtocut transport and hostel expenses while in college.

These little details, among many others, find a mention in his upcoming Malayalamautobiography, which he calls an attempttoinspirethe talented, yet not so confident.

Theautobiographyin Malayalam titled “Nilavu Kudicha Simhangal,” – loosely translated as – Lions that drank the moonlight – promisestobe a tale of motivation.

The book focuses on the power of hard work and perseverance in the face of difficulties. It wasinspiredby the massive success of Chandrayaan-3,ISRO’s moon mission headed by Somanath, that catapulted Indiatoan elite league of nations.

After the successful lunar mission and amidst back-to-back launches of Aditya-L1 solar mission and the Gaganyaan test vehicle, 59-year old Somanath has managedtofind timetochronicle his life story.

Though it is the story of his eventful saga from an impoverished village youth, growth through theISRO, elevationtothe current coveted post and his journey till the Chandrayaan-3 launch, Somanath said he would liketocall it as aninspirationalstory rather than anautobiography.

“It is actually the story of an ordinary village youth who doesn’t even know whethertojoin engineering or BSc…about his dilemmas, right decisions he made in life, and the opportunities he received in a country like India,” he told PTI.

“The book is not intendedtoteach my life story. Its only intention istoinspirepeopletochasetheirdreamswhile battling adversities in life,” theISROChairmanadded.

The veteran recalled his humble rural background, but said the country opened immense opportunities before him, and theautobiographyis an attempttohighlight this.

It was the historic success of the Chandrayaan-3 that persuaded himtocome out with a book soon.

“The lunar mission has made such a great impact in the society. When we looked around, we could see how manypeople, especially children, wereinspiredby its success. They understood that India and Indians could do such great things,” he explained.

Lack of confidence is one of the major issues faced by many talentedpeople, and the aim of his book istoshowcase them that, he said.

Pointing out his life as an example, Somanath said that despite conflicts and dilemmas, it is very importanttomake use of the right opportunities in life and choose the best career options.

In the book, he describes in detail how he was forcedtostay in a tiny lodge room in Kollam district as there was no moneytopay hostel fees while studying at TKM Engineering College there decades ago.

He commutedtothe college by riding an old bicycle as he could not afford the bus fare and was forcedtoskip the study tour duetopoverty in the family.

Somanath said there was no onetoguide him in the initial years of his studies, and if a person had not bought him admission form of the engineering college unexpectedly, he would have joined BSc or some other course.

If you ask him what worked more in his life-luck or hard work, he would turn philosophical and recite some Sanskrit slokas from the epic Mahabharata.

“We should have some luck initially, but we should also be mentally preparedtoaccept and make use of opportunities that come our way. Similarly, severalpeoplewill also come our way with a purpose, and we should be abletorealisetheirrole in our lives,” Somanath said.

That would help in our career growth, he added.

In his life, there were several suchpeoplewho came with a purpose, including his father, the person who bought him admission form for the engineering course, his first boss, Ramakrishnan, formerISROChairmanK Radhakrishnan, and so on.

Theautobiographywould evolve through such phases of his personal life and develop through his journey inISROtill the launch of Chandrayaan-3.

The stories of rocket manufacturing, PSLV, GSLV Mark III and Chandrayaan-3 are also mentioned in the book in parallel.

When asked why he chosetowrite the book in Malayalam, Somanath had a quick reply.

“Because I am a Malayali and I am more comfortable writing in my mother tongue,” he said with a smile.

(Published 25 October 2023, 09:10 IST)

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