Durgadas P.V.

It is a practice to ask any young student about his ambition in life. The answer could be to become a doctor, scientist, IAS officer etc… need not be in the same order. The answer depends upon the tutoring each one gets at home and the learning one makes in the initial days.

I spent the very early days of my life in the 1950s in a remote hilly village of Malabar. As a curious child, I went to watch the agricultural operations like ploughing, harvesting, etc. One of the modes of local transport was bullock cart. I once watched  the act of castration of oxen in the barn shed. In the same way I had witnessed the blacksmith shaping the hooves of the bullocks and fixing shoes on them. Somehow it got imprinted in my mind that it was final act of "making" those animals. And when anyone asked me about my ambition in life, I said I wanted to become a big man capable of performing such deeds. It is said that I spelt out this desire of mine whenever asked by the elders. My father jovially told my mother that I might become a vet......!

And later when I saw the railway engines hauling the whole train with so many bogies, the preference got shifted. I watched with awe, the engine driver controlling more than twenty five to thirty bogies with a deafening whistle, there was nothing more prestigious than that job which I could think of. I must have thought that to be the most powerful job in the world, I don't remember the reasoning. I could be the sheer majesty of the massive moving structure which got preference over all other vehicles on the move. There was no airport in the vicinity and air travel was hardly common during those days. Perhaps that's why I never dreamt like the heroine of the film "Uyare".

There was the Chinese aggression in 1962 during my early school years. Then I was in class seven. During the morning assembly, I was assigned the job of reading the news headlines immediately after the prayers. The narration of heroic deeds of our soldiers at the border and collection of donations to the National Defence Fund followed. Then my ambitions underwent a change once again. I wanted to become a soldier and fight for my country.

As I moved to the college, the scientific pursuit got implanted somewhere in my mind. It got reinforced while sitting in class among Science Talent Scholars in the (in)famous University College, Trivandrum. Doing research and contributing to society became the aim in my life. After my PG course, I did get admission to one of the most prestigious institutes for the PhD program. But missed the last date of joining as the examination results were inordinately delayed that year......! But when I started attending the interviews in the science institutes for the vacancy of one or two Junior assistants, my hopes of Nobel prize, nay, not even a Bhatnagar Award were shattered. When I held on to a thin sixty page dissertation in my hand with great pride, there were at least ten/fifteen candidates with heavy bagfuls of xerox copies of  scientific papers published by them for the past nearly ten years and still awaiting a permanent assignment.....! An alternative was a teaching job in a college. But the junior lecturer's job was being "sold" for a minimum of two to three lakhs.....!

Then came the firm decision to shelve all lofty ambitions and started to apply for "any" job. Thus I got a job in the Bank as a probationary officer which was considered a plum post.....!

And one may wonder whether I had started writing my autobiography then itself....Just stray thoughts that came to my mind as my grandson stood before me with a T shirt with the writing "I want to be an astronaut!"

At least that was not anywhere in my list of dream jobs as back then rocketry remained only a Diwali affair.....!

But I am satisfied telling others that my ambition really had a good lift off. It continued to have different stages of successful steps and traversed in more than one trajectory. But due to some unforeseen glitches fell into the banking pool only to find a lot of similar rockets plunged deep within........!