Tarmak007 -- A bold blog on Indian defence: Avatars of a space scientist | Of Kathakali, spiritualism, music and Mars

Monday, November 4, 2013

Avatars of a space scientist | Of Kathakali, spiritualism, music and Mars

As the countdown for India's most ambitious Mars mission began
on Sunday, Anantha Krishnan M captures the unknown side
of ISRO chief Dr K Radhakrishnan. The article is part of the
blogger's Talkathon interview series. A City Express Exclusive.

Antariksh Bhavan, the heavily fortified headquarters of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on New BEL Road in Bangalore has been abuzz with a series of activities ahead of India's big-ticket Mars Mission. Located on the first floor is the office of ISRO Chairman Dr Koppillil Radhakrishnan, who was at the door to welcome the Talkathon crew. When told that the interview will be hovering around 'the Man behind the Mars movement and not the much-talked about Mangalyaan,' RK quickly got into mission mode. “You see, I am a simple person. I will be happy to share whatever you want to know,” he said. Further, while explaining the template of the Talkathon interview series, RK said: “Although I hail from Irinjalakuda (Thrissur district in Kerala), I am more a Bangalorean now. It's an affair of over 22 years. I have sweet memories of this great city.” Excerpts.
Early days in Bangalore
I first came to Bangalore in 1963 as part of our school excursion trip. We got down at the Bangalore City Railway Station. I was in Class 9 and the huge city really caught my imagination. For me, Bangalore was a big world. The jhatkas, the double-decker buses – all of it impressed me. Later, I came to Bangalore in 1974 to do my MBA at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM). I was just 24 years then and was staying in Jayanagar. It was a pleasant place for all of us with the Lal Bagh gardens being the centre of attraction. Our morning walks were an unforgettable experience. We used to stay awake till 1 am completing our course work. On Saturdays, we never missed being on M G Road. We were the first batch of IIMB and I was the secretary of the Cultural and Debate Society. It was during my tenure, the first IIMB Day was celebrated. In 1976, I completed my MBA and returned to VSSC and came back again to Bangalore in 1981. Since then, the city has never failed to inspire me.

On today's Bangalore
I like the people in Bangalore. I even built a house here. The energy levels are very high here. The environment is clean. I am at absolute peace with Bangalore. I still remember having lunch for `13 at Woodlands Hotel. The city has grown and it's but natural that there will be some shortfalls. Earlier, beyond Indiranagar and Jeevanbhimanagar, there was nothing.
Today, you can't believe what has happened to these areas. Similarly, other parts of the city too have undergone massive changes. I always look at the positive side of growth and don't crib about the shortfalls.

Science & City
Bangalore is the Science and Technology city of India and we are definitely at the top of the chart. Hyderabad is there, but Bangalore has moved ahead. Then there are many aviation companies as well as IISc giving more impetus to the city's scientific fabric. The scientific temper of the people of Bangalore is exceptional.

Music connections
I started learning Carnatic music from H C Radhakrishna. Later on R K Srikantan became my guru and continues even till date. He is 94 now and we share a very divine guru-shishya bonding. I used to travel with him to various programmes as a shishya. My job then was to take care of him, his needs and at times, play the thambura. I am impressed by my guru's discipline even now.

Kathakali love
I was a student of dance from the age of seven. I began with Kerala Nadanam, a variant of Kathakali. In 1962, I shifted to Kathakali and had to stop it within few years owing to health reasons. In 1981, I got back to stage and performed the role of Parasuraman. Next year I was Bhima in Kalyana Sougandhikam; Hanuman in Lavanasuravadham (1986-87); Daksha in Dakshayagam (1986-87); Brahmin in Sandanagopalam (1994-95) and Kuchela in Kuchelavritham (1994-95). I haven't performed for a long time now, but I am longing to do so. I am confident of getting back to stage any day. These things don't die.

God and spiritualism
I am a god-fearing person. My hometown has a 1000-year-old temple with Bharatha as the deity. I have visited Sabarimala 51 times and will be going again after the Mars mission. Most of my predecessors went to Tirupathi before every mission and I made it a point to do so as a thanksgiving trip. From 2008 onwards, I have been singing some keerthans at the Guruvayoor temple. I have a very special liking towards Bhairavi ragam.

The calming effect
It comes from within. Music makes me calm. It has the healing effect. I have always kept my calm even during some of the tough times I have gone through.

On learning
I am a student even now. The art of learning never ends. I have learned a lot from my younger colleagues. I am not shy of learning.

Inspiration in Life
Prof Satish Dhawan has been a great inspiration to me. He once told me: “Don't do anything that I won't do.”

Youngsters in ISRO
You need to devote more time to these youngsters. You need to keep them motivated all the time. When failure happens, we need to be sensitive and ensure that their morale is never let down. I mingle with the people and have lots of one-to-one informal chats. Everyone should feel at home. The talk should come from within the heart.
And, on Mars mission
Any space mission is a challenge. To explore the unknown; to work with complex systems is really a massive challenge. There's nothing to hide. You cannot repair it. You will see everything for yourself.  You got to stay motivated and it comes from within. As the captain, I have to keep my cool. As the captain of the ship, you should not get petrified.

Copyright@The New Indian Express

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