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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

All in the name: Bangalore’s Armstrong to miss moon man forever

HAL employee Rajesh Armstrong's pencil-sketch tribute to Neil Armstrong.

Rajesh Armstrong
Express News Service
Bangalore: July 20, 1969. Ulsoor Corporation Hospital. Antony Dass was waiting anxiously outside the delivery ward. “Payyan kolande (you are blessed with a boy),” the nurse said. He rushed to meet his wife Kamala and the little fellow. Just then, there was another news that was catching the wavelength over the radio. “Neil Armstrong lands on moon. Man lands on moon.”
Antony Dass, an HAL employee then, did not hesitate for a minute to honour the moment by naming his just-born-son Rajesh  Armstrong.  And, the rest is
history.
That boy has grown up now.  He has dark brown eyes, thick mustache and a well-built body. He is 43-years-old, happily married to Vyjaynthi with two children — Sindhu and Jai Vishal.  “I was woken up by a friend on Sunday morning who said Neil Armstrong Sir is no more. I wasn’t sure how to react. I knew who he was. I knew why I too became ‘famous’ among my friends and officers. I am sad for only one reason that I could never meet him,”  says Rajesh Armstrong, a senior assistant with HAL’s HR wing.
What makes Rajesh different is not just his famous second name Armstrong. Before shifting to HR department, Rajesh was a security official with the old HAL airport. Known for his simplicity and military-like discipline, Rajesh was the most sought-after-man during VVIP movements at HAL airport.
In October 2007, Rajesh was on duty at the airport when former President A P J Abdul Kalam was waiting at the VVIP lounge,  on way to Delhi. Kalam, known for mingling with his security officials, started a conversation with Rajesh and was surprised to hear that he was named after Armstrong. “When I told Kalam Sir that I was born on the day when Neil Armstrong landed on Moon, he was very happy. Next 15 minutes, till the departure was announced, he (Kalam)  told me many things about Neil Armstrong Sir. Luckily, I answered all his questions as I knew a little bit about the moon mission,” said Rajesh.
However, Rajesh never had any interest in space  nor sought any help from his seniors to reach Neil Armstrong. “My daughter knows more about India’s moon mission (Chandrayaan) and she wants to become a scientist one day,” says Rajesh.
Man of the year: Having undergone training in civil defence and airport safety, Rajesh was chosen as the Man of the Year (2007) by HAL’s then-popular in-house newspaper Minsk Square Matters (MSM). According to details provided to City Express by HAL’s HR department, Rajesh’s presence of mind saved the life of a senior software engineer working with a reputed firm in Bangalore.
“Rajesh along with his senior Vijaya Kumar was manning the airport when a private airliner landed with a passenger onboard, who was in need of an ambulance on arrival. The family members had arranged for an ambulance, which couldn’t enter the airport owing to some delays.  When Rajesh  came to know about the incident he ran to an HAL ambulance and shifted the patient on to it and got him out of the airport. His presence of mind was appreciated by HAL management who also rewarded him,” an HR official said.
A talented artist: Rajesh is a talented artist, who has drawn over a 1,000 pencil sketches of various persons he came across in life. “I have drawn almost every prominent person in the world. I don’t publicise much. Today morning, I drew one as a tribute to Neil Armstrong Sir. It took me over an hour to finish his sketch,” said Rajesh, while handing over the sketch to City Express, wrapped with a piece of butter paper.
A name to remember: Rajesh, a post-graduate  in Sociology, feels that he will be grateful to Neil Armstrong as his one small step on moon became a giant leap for his life. “Everyone recognises me because of Neil Armstrong Sir. I will miss him,” says Rajesh.
R.I.P. Neil Armstrong Sir!
Copyright@City Express

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