Thiruvananthapuram | He may have helped the country conquer the moon, is making a similar attempt for the Sun and is busy preparing sending Indians to the space--all multi-crore rupee ventures, but ISRO chairman S Somanath's humble beginnings included an old bicycle and a modest lodging to cut transport and hostel expenses while in college.
These little details, among many others, find a mention in his upcoming Malayalam autobiography, which he calls an attempt to inspire the talented, yet not so confident.
The autobiography in Malayalam titled "Nilavu Kudicha Simhangal," promises to be a tale of motivation, focusing on the power of hard work and perseverance in the face of difficulties and was inspired by the massive success of Chandrayaan-3, his headed moon mission that catapulted India to an elite league of nations.
After the lunar mission success and amidst the back-to-back launches of Aditya-L1 solar mission and the Gaganyaan test vehicle, Somanath has managed to find time to chronicle his life story.
Being published by Kerala-based Lipi Publications, the book is slated to hit the shelves in November.
Though it is the story of his eventful saga from an impoverished village youth, growth through the ISRO, elevation to the current coveted post and his journey till the Chandrayaan-3 launch, Somanath said he would like to call it as an inspirational story rather than an autobiography.
"It is actually the story of an ordinary village youth who doesn't even know whether to join engineering or BSc...about his dilemmas, right decisions he made in life, and the opportunities he received in a country like India," he told PTI.
"The book is not intended to teach my life story. Its only intention is to inspire people to chase their dreams while battling adversities in life," the ISRO Chairman added.
The veteran recalled his humble rural background, but said the country opened immense opportunities before him, and the autobiography is an attempt to highlight this.
It was the historic success of the Chandrayaan-3 that persuaded him to come out with a book soon.
"The lunar mission has made such a great impact in the society. When we looked around, we could see how many people, especially children, were inspired by its success. They understood that India and Indians could do such great things," he explained.
Lack of confidence is one of the major issues faced by many talented people, and the aim of his book is to showcase them that, he said.
Pointing out his life as an example, Somanath said that despite conflicts and dilemmas, it is very important to make use of the right opportunities in life and choose the best career options.
In the book, he describes in detail how he was forced to stay in a tiny lodge room in Kollam district as there was no money to pay hostel fees while studying at TKM Engineering College there decades ago.
He commuted to the college by riding an old bicycle as he could not afford the bus fare and was forced to skip the study tour due to poverty in the family.
Fifty nine year-old Somanath said there was no one to guide him in the initial years of his studies, and if a person had not bought him admission form of the engineering college unexpectedly, he would have joined BSc or some other course.
If you ask him what worked more in his life-luck or hard work, he would turn philosophical and recite some Sanskrit slokas from the epic Mahabharata.
"We should have some luck initially, but we should also be mentally prepared to accept and make use of opportunities that come our way. Similarly, several people will also come our way with a purpose, and we should be able to realise their role in our lives," Somanath said.
That would help in our career growth, he added.
In his life, there were several such people who came with a purpose, including his father, the person who bought him admission form for the engineering course, his first boss, Ramakrishnan, former ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan, and so on.
The autobiography would evolve through such phases of his personal life and develop through his journey in ISRO till the launch of Chandrayaan-3.
The stories of rocket manufacturing, PSLV, GSLV Mark III and Chandrayaan-3 are also mentioned in the book in parallel.
When asked why he chose to write the book in Malayalam, Somanath had a quick reply.
"Because I am a Malayali and I am more comfortable writing in my mother tongue," he said with a smile.