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Monday, February 2, 2009

The Toymaker

This Sunday Arbitmind had the privilege of meeting a great visionary - the likes of whom
are  the last bastions of humanity in an increasingly consumption oriented world.

He was invited to talk to the BITS,Pilani Alumni-Pune Chapter as part of the 
half yearly meet.

He looks like the quintessential scientist. A rag tag kurta, unkempt beard & a bag.
He doesn't call himself a scientist though. 'The toymaker' is what he prefers.

Meet Prof. Arvind Gupta.
(A winner of the National Award for Science Popularisation)
You can explore the site to marvel at what Arvind Gupta has accomplished.
The site also has detailed instructions for scores of scientific toys.

A bit of personal interaction during lunch revealed much about the man.
His parents had never been to a school. He made it to IIT,Kanpur in 1970.
Joined TELCO as an engineer but (in his own words) soon realised that 
he did not want to make trucks. He was not sure of what he wanted to do but
was reasonably sure that what he did not want to do was to make trucks.
He wanted to make toys.
Toys that would catch the imagination of young children & fire their curiosity.
Thats what he has been doing for so many years.
As Arvind says "I have lived my life on the roads, rather, I have thrived on the roads".

The presentation itself was a pleasure. Arbitmind does not remember the last time when he was so captivated. 
Arvind created pumps from junk material, a fan from a pencil & paper & string helicopters from waste paper. 
The unique thing was that each of his toys had complex physics behind its functioning.
Theories which Engineers like Arbitmind have read about in Resnick- Halliday books without actually encountering them. 

..& what does he do with this expertise & vision ?

Arvind Gupta & his team visits hundreds of Municipal schools all over the place to ignite
the spirit. He says "They are the ones who need us the most". Very True.
His team visits schools , explain scientific phenomenon, teaches the concepts of 
vibrations, pumps, geometry, structures - all through simple & joyous toy making sessions.

This man left a high profile job to pursue his passion of teaching in a different way.
He may not be a wealthy man today. He may not have a fancy car to zip around the town.
He may not have a six figure salary. However he has earned a few things which money can never buy.
Respect & Admiration. 

How many of us would have the zeal & the passion come out of our cozy little cocoons
for the sole purpose of positively contributing to the society ?
Most of us have mapped the journey of our lives hopping from one material gain to the other.
'n'th stop - A degree. 
Next stop - A nice job. 
Next stop - a nice car. 
Next stop - a nice house.
(There's no harm in being self indulgent. All of us are.)
But along the way, how many faces we have managed to put a smile on?
How many dreams have we created ?

People like Arvind Gupta have their journeys peppered with those smiles & dreams.
That's why they are special.