Saturday, November 1, 2008
Posted by Vignesh
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Appa at email@example.com.)