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Last Week, Scientists from all corners of India descended on Ahmedabad to remember the architect of India's space programmed, a man whom the late president, APJ Abdul Kalam, had famously termed "Mahatma Gandhi of Indian Science".
They were there to launch celebrations on the birth centenary of Vikram Sarabhai, 47 years after his death at the age of
52, by when he had founded 38 institutions that are now leaders in space research, physics management and performing arts.
Former director of the Space Applications Centre Pramod Kale was a 19-year old science graduate, from MS University of Baroda, besotted by space technology, when he first met Sarabhai. "In May 1960, I went to Ahmedabad to meet Dr. Sarabhai."I met him and ended up talking for two hours," Kale says.
By June that year, Kale had done exactly as Sarabhai had advised him and taken up a master's course at Gujarat University.
In 1962, when Sarabhai was looking at studying the magnetic equator, Kale went on to be among the first few to go to NASA to learn radar tracking. The room resounded with many such memories.
Former ISRO chairman K Kasturirangan remembered how they ran into some trouble at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL),
founded in 1947 by Sarabhai, in their attempts to fly a balloon at 4 am, when in sailed Sarabhai. "He told us had the flight been successful. you would not have learnt even half of what you learnt because of that initial problem,"
said Kasturirangan. Many of those who said had collected in Ahmedabad in Sarabhai's memory were teenagers when they first met him. Gandhinagar-based entrepreneur K Subramanian was 19 and a student of National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli, working on a summer project at PRL, when a man in kurta-pyjama walked in and began turning all the wastepaper
bins upside down, inspecting their contents and putting them back again. "I asked a colleague who that was and was told it is Dr Vikram Sarabhai. He had come to check how much waste the lab was generating," laughs Subramanian.
Born to Ambalal and Sarla Devi, Ahmedabad's leading textile-mill owners, Vikram Sarabhai showed creative promise early.
He was 15 When he builds a working model of a train engine with the help of two engineers, which is now housed at the Community Science Centre (CSC) in Ahmedabad.
The CSC was Vikram's was of providing other children the privileges he had, of experimental research, says his son Kartikeya, 71, adding how his father wished to work with children at the science centre after he retired.
"He was essentially a researcher, and believed that people, especially children, should be allowed to think freely and come up with solutions on their own," recalls Kartikeya, who founded the Centre for Environment Education in 1984.
Kartikeya is carefully piecing together all the dog-eared notes he is discovering in the recesses of their three grand names - Shanti Sadan, The Retreat and Chidambaram.
To inspire the young to dream like Sarabhai, Kartikeya is building a permanent exhibition gallery on the Sabarmati Riverfront, expected to open this November.