Undeterred Jump: MARS to IIM LUCKNOW This story is part of our series “Lions ofLucknow” where we attempt to peek into thelives of some interesting and diverse profiles atIIM Lucknow. This is the first story in this series where we delve into the life of an ISROScientist, Raj Kumar.
Q. Raj Please tell us something about your background.
A. I was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta a congenital brittle bone disorder. Circumstances made the wheel chair the paddles of my life. I am thankful to my parents and near ones for their love and support because of which I never felt alienated.I was born and brought up in Malout, Punjab.After 12th, I joined an arts course for my graduation because everyone thought I should not unnecessarily strain myself. But my heart was somewhere else. I wanted to be an engineer. Life is after all not all roses so I challenged myself. I left the arts course and prepared for engineering entrance exams and got through a central government FUNDEDcollege in Sangrur, Punjab. This was an altogether different experience. It helped me come out of my shell since I was living away from my family.
Q. I want to know more about your college life.
A. I really enjoyed my college life. Engineering is very action oriented. You can implement what you learn and then learn more from peers whoreally influenced me. At home, I was not allowed to travel much but here I started going out a bitmore often. A couple of us got together and wewould regularly visit a school in the slum andhelp the children with whatever we could. Itreally opened my eyes to another world andmade me thank God for all that I had received.
Q. After graduation, you worked for an IT giant and then for the much coveted ISRO. Tell us about it.
A. I worked in TCS for about 10 months as a software developer and was awarded TCS Gems for being an outstanding performer in my project. But I found myself getting confined in the services sector rather than using my skills to develop something out of the box. So I started preparing for ISRO and ended up working as aScientist Engineer at Sriharikota for rocket launching of PSLV and GSLV missions. Needless to say, I was extremely thrilled. In January 2014, I was part of the team that successfullylaunched an indigenous GSLV mission. That wasthe most proud moment of my life. I also worked on the MARS Mission that was to belaunched 2 days after Diwali. But for us the successful launch of the mission would be the only reason to celebrate. Tireless, singlefocused 18 hours of work every day paid richdividends when we launched Mangalyaan on 5thNov, 2013. At last we did celebrate J.
Q. Are scientists as geek and nerdy as made out tobe?
A. Hahaha. No, not at all. We are as much humanas anybody else. But yes, our work occupies a substantial part of our lives and therefore there is little room for any extracurriculars so to speak.But as and when we find time we do engage in other things as well.
I worked in ISRO for 3.5years and it were these years only when I travelled the entire southern part of India.Any learnings from these 3.5 years?Oh yes, loads. During my induction at ISRO I gotto meet Shri V. Gnana Gandhi, an eminent personality in the area of rocketry. His line of thought, his knowledge and his journey inspiresme even now.Like a rocket, which requires the highestmomentum to kick start its journey, so do themilestones that we achieve in life. We have togear ourselves up and push ourselves to themaximum to be able to tread on a difficult path.Once we are able to do that, I believe, the battleis half won.Also, I feel many of us are living our lives likethe bonsai. Our whole life is spent in a shell andwe don’t even realize we could never discoverour true potential bonsai
Q. What are your hobbies?
A. As I said, I like to travel. I have traveled to more than 13 states now and I plan to visit the North East of India soon. I also like reading. My favorite book is ‘Delhi’ by Khushwant Singh. For me, none has been able to describe a city as beautifully as he did. I also like cooking whenever I get time.How has your experience been in IIM Lucknow so far?It has been enriching and welcoming. In India, there is still insensitivity and ignorance when itcomes to the differently-abled. But IIM Lucknowwas more than cooperative J. The ramp outsidethe HOSTEL was a little too steep for me. Sothey rebuilt it to suit my needs. I was evenprovided with a water cooler near my room sothat I don’t have to go too far.I also like the quality of students here.
There is so much to learn from everybody here.Camaraderie, the inter section competition, hasbeen my favorite part till now. It helped build arapport with so many peers.
Q. What is your long term goal?
A. I wish to become a social entrepreneur and cater to the dismal condition of health in India and also increase societal awareness for differently abled people and encourage people like me to be vocal about their rights.Alright Raj, I had a great time speaking to you. I hope you had too.
Q. Before we sign off, there is a rapid fire round for you. Are you ready?
A. Hahaha. Ohhkkk..
So here we go…
Life- A blissful journey
Success- Keep going
Money- Necessary but not everything
IIM Lucknow- An enduring experience.