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From rice fields to the field of science

From rice fields to the field of science
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First Published: Sun, May 30 2010. 09 22 PM IST

Photo: Hemant Patil/Mint
Photo: Hemant Patil/Mint
Updated: Sun, May 30 2010. 09 22 PM IST
Photo: Hemant Patil/Mint
Name: Lohar Sai Nag, 26
Occupation: Scientist, DRDO
Father’s Name: Ghasiaram Nag
Father’s Occupation: Farmer
The reason, Lohar Sai Nag says, he stuck it out through school was because he liked the sweet wheat gruel that was served during lunchtime.
Nag—now a scientist with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)—is from Lailunga, a village in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh. The school he went to was a broken-down structure, with a few unqualified teachers and fewer interested students. “Village schools are not meant for education; they are more like day-care centres,” says the 26-year-old, sitting in the scientists quarters of DRDO in Pune.
Nag’s father, Ghasiaram, is a farmer who cultivates rice on three acres of land. But ever since Nag can remember, the yield never translated into enough money. His mother and three elder sisters chipped in by working at construction sites during off season.
Nobody from Nag’s immediate family had gone to school and his late mother put him in one because she didn’t have time to attend to him. This annoyed Ghasiaram, who felt school was a waste of time—a sentiment that Nag assures is not wholly untrue: “Our teachers weren’t even interested in teaching us. We just played all day long.”
It was help from a distant relative, Chandan, that got Nag “hooked” to academics. Chandan would weave stories around concepts to help Nag understand better. “After that, all I could think of was studying,” says Nag.
He began topping every class, which delighted his teachers, who began to put in more effort. When Ghasiaram wanted to pull him out of school and put him to work in the farm, the teachers convinced him against it.
From the village primary school, Nag went to the neighbouring village’s middle secondary school. He graduated in engineering from the Government College of Engineering and Technology at Raipur (now National Institute of Technology).
Expenses were high and Ghasiaram had to pledge his land as security to be able to send him to Raipur. Nag pitched in by giving tuitions, but after his first semester, he got a scholarship that covered all expenses.
After a three-month stint in a steel company in Wardha, Maharashtra, he landed a seat at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi. After completing his master’s degree in thermal and fluid engineering there, Nag joined DRDO in May 2009 for research in explosives.
Now, when he goes home during holidays, his father proudly tells the other villagers that his scientist son is back. They come to meet Nag with their children and ask him to make them “smart” too. “They don’t know how to make good choices for future studies. Many get a bachelor’s degree in arts and then find out how tough it is to get a job with that,” says Nag.
Blessy Augustine
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First Published: Sun, May 30 2010. 09 22 PM IST