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Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Scientist from Madurai

It was a lazy Friday afternoon.Tired and drowsy i just hit the bed for a short nap. Eyes were closing by little, i was about to forget my senses and all of a sudden i heard Appa coming in. "Ahhhhhhhh not again!! lemme sleep" i cried within. Appa came in, and he was not alone. He had a visitor, i acted to be asleep and glanced him in the corners of my eye. He was a middle aged man, not dressed like the many other friends that my dad had, he looked very much a common man with simple looks, cheap clothes, uncombed hair and a very native face. I was judging him, and i had no urge in getting up and welcoming him. It was rude of me behaving that way, if it was some other friend of dad coming in well dressed, with a huge smile, and a laptop pouch i would have got up to wish him even if i was not aware of who he really was. But i have to blame myself for being rude to him.It was cheap.I acted to be asleep lying in an awkward position. He came in looked at me and sat in the corner of the chair by the PC, he was having some Cd's which he handed over to dad. I cried again in me "NO god not a movie in this time of the day, Dad you know what - u r killing me!". I turned my face to the other side, and tried hard to sleep. Dad called me -"Vicky......V-i-c-k-y". My options were thin, still at bed i looked at him sporting a drowsy face. He said "Meet Mr.Jeyapandi". I and smiled at him. Appa said "This was the person i was speaking about the other day, Pandi the Madurai Vignani(The scientist from Madurai)". He looked at me with a warm smile and lifted his hands and said "Vannakam" .I lost my sleep, i got up, i looked at him and gave a very genuine smile.

I had heard a lot about him from my dad, the man who has more than 100 inventions to his credit. Which range from simple personalized room alarm which automatically wakes you up by splashing water on the face to the complex Satellite shooter(for military purpose) which can be operated to hit enemies remotely from across the globe. He is a well known name in the media who celebrate him in this part of the world. His inventions have made people drop jaws and wide open the eyebrows but there is something about him which makes him special(?!) - he is an illiterate. He cant read letters or write his name on paper. There is more to him than that, he works as a load man in Madurai vegetable market who lifts gunny bags for a few rupees or two. His income is below par than the national average, his family lives in squalid neighborhood, his wife works as a daily wager in a cottage industry, he has three little children to bring up.He lives a life which always tries to corner him, which tries to beat him by his bones. But that has not stopped him from dreaming, a dream that started in his childhood while learning the mechanism of a old transistor, a dream built on junk, a dream that has made him the person he is, and the dream that has caught the fancy of people who look at him as an inspiration.

I was looking at the computer screen which was playing a video demonstration of his inventions. A little car which was remotely operated by a cellphone, a military tanker which shoots to the point, unmanned tourist boats and lots. Dad got a call and he left the room, now it was me and the scientist visitor. I took the chair nearby him and the monitor was showing something interesting "Automatic Un-manned level crossing manager". Pandi broke his silence and spoke to me, "this is the most ambitious of all my inventions, every year hundreds die of accidents at unmanned train crossings, i cant bear when i see a picture of a dis tangled body lying near the rail tracks, i wanted to do something and i invented this". It was a stunning invention. He had attached sensors in both the trains engine and the level crossing, whenever the train nears the crossing(say 1km away) the sensors get activated and a wireless signals are sent from the train to the crossing and vice-versa. The gates in the crossing automatically gets closed and the huge danger lights placed in the crossing glows with full intensity.The reverse signal sent to the train blows the train horn automatically and alerts the driver about the crossing. So people who try to cross the tracks are alerted by the red lights about the arriving train much earlier, preventing them from crossing the tracks. It may not stop deaths altogether but for sure this will reduce the fatality count. I was amazed, a simple and cheap mechanism that could save precious lives and the man who made it was sitting across me humble than ever. I asked "Did you show it people in the railways?". He grinned and said "I gave a demo to all the regional managers, they were impressed they shook hands, praised me and left. All they say was - decisions can't be made by us, you have to meet people in the very top of the ladder to get it approved, they totally ignored the responsibility of taking it to concerned people, and they ask me to meet the Minister of railways in person, now how do i do it?".I had no answers, the failure of the Government engine once again was evident from his words. He said " there is a new plan by the railways to put up dramas and plays in remote villages to create awareness about the dangers of crossing an unmanned gate and the allotted budget for conducting plays is Rs.20 crores, when i can give a solution for this problem by spending 10,000/crossing for 18,000 level crossings the total expense for finding a solution is 2 croses less than the amount spent on awareness". What an irony?, an irony that made me feel ashamed for so many reasons. I was silent, i had no words for him.

We spoke for long, he said about his childhood struggles, the economic constraints he faced, the way the educated treat him, the way people steal his work, the way he was let down by the people around, and his dreams for better future. He had no house to live, no vehicle to drive, no money to spend on luxury but he dreams. He has already started a lab in the neighbourhood in which he trains student from the nearby schools, he wants to catch them young, he teaches them practical lessons every day, he has dreams for them, he wants them to make India a superpower by 2020, he looked proud when he said a few of his students have won prizes in many science exhibitions. He still doesn't get any financial support to pursue his dreams, all he gets is just kind words. But he doesn't care, he works overtime, he lifts more vegetable bags, saves every penny of it and fuels his dream. He said "the old goods market (santhai) is my library and the old junk out there are my books, i learn from them".I did nothing but looked at him with awe and inspiration. His inventions may look like childish prototypes but his intentions aren't. His robos may be made from junk and waste and lack the looks of an azimo but-
if the robo is what it does and not what it  looks, then Pandi's  robos  behave like one. Sitting across me was a man who would have done his Masters in the US if he was born to rich parents, Sitting across me was a man who would have been one of the jubilant scientists clapping hands at Sri harikota if he was provided proper education. But he doesn't complain. He just dreams. When time ran, he left us for his work at the market, he would just become another faceless nobody whom you never notice in the streets. He would loose himself into the social anonymity which we created for him.Even then the dream in his eyes will never fade, his vision will never die, and his greatness will always remain an unsung truth. 

(Note: Guys, as Anu has said in the comments, if you think you(or we) can be of any help like arranging events at schools, mobilizing funds, or doing other promotions in your blogs that could help him fuel his dreams, you could mail me mail4vignesh@gmail.com or Appa at srengasamy@gmail.com.)

13 comments:

The Seeker said...

Sitting across me was a man who would have done his Masters in the US if he was born to rich parents, Sitting across me was a man who would have been one of the jubilant scientists clapping hands at Sri harikota if he was provided proper education. He doesn't complain. He just dreams.

This eccentric life has made such many men, This eccentric life had adored many men, and also has abandoned many such men. I don't know if I should wonder about him or this life!!!!!

ArchFULLY said...

I cannot think of a single comment that I can post here after reading this post.

It made me feel sad for his life, inspired by his dreams, proud of his achievment, motivated by his hard work and ashamed of my country.

Anu said...

I was speechless and sad,, buts its inspiring the way he is living his life, makes the rest of our petty struggles seem extremely small...

I also wondering ,if we as bloggers can do anything to help him.. bring recognition to his work or highlight it..start a blog or something and spread the word.. what do u think?

Travis Bickle said...

Thanks for the inspirational post.I complain about my life very often,i often get depressed when people around me does not understand the desire and the goals i have.But,compared to him,i am miles ahead in the resources and support that one may receive.Without the efforts of people like him,the world would not have seen the evolution.And please make sure this post reaches a larger pool of bloggers.

uma kumar said...

hi,
that was inspiring
ofcourse we all can do something.
I ll see if we can do anything about his railway crossing innovation. I ll be mailing u

uma kumar said...

check ur mail please
uma

Sandy said...

Wow, the guy is a real genius and life and the people around him, not unlike you and me have been so cruel to him!

Please let me know how we can help him and I am willing to chip in in any possible way!!!

Vignesh said...

@ All

Thank you guys for the moving responses... It is hearts and hope like these that will keep him moving...

I thank Uma for her keen interest...Lets stay in touch and decide what more can be done... All i can ask you for now is to spread the word so many who are willing to help may get to know about him... we can make the ends meet...

lets hope for the best and again thanks a ton...

Raj said...

Hi Vignesh,
Some breathing time at-last after hectic work. Now i know, why wall street technologist get burned out so quickly. Wonderful article. Let me see how i can help spread the word across.
Again, more inspirational than anything else, in testing times. Keep it coming bro

Regards
Raj

Vignesh said...

@ Raj

Bro, thanks for those words.... all the credit goes to Mr.Jeyapandi...

Shyam! said...

The guy seems to be a genius!....gr8 going by the SCIENTIST!!....its gud if we bloggers can contribute something....lemme knw more-ready to contribute in all possible ways....btw for an intro m Sridhars friend!

umeshkarthy said...

Someones dad might be in the railways.. We might want to try writing to Lalu.. He has already shown lot of good intentions...

Similarly someone might want to write to a famous magazine/TV channel...

You might want to get him a chance to demonstrate at a BIG university... Students will be impressed...

Wont be just words.. will work.

Alphonsa said...

Vignesh,
.. hmm no words actually. Good writeup about the scientist. Kudos to you!
and yes, if you guys have thought of some idea already to help the great scientist, i am with you!
the biggest reward/satisfaction/happiness that he would get is only from his works/thoughts being implemented na?? ... anyway we could help??

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