Meeting Arvind Gupta
We were planning to meet Arvind Gupta for a long time on our Orkut Arvind Gupta community. At last after months of delay, we finalized meeting him on 4th of August 2007. Neelambari knew him and she spoke to him and helped us to fix an appointment with at IUCAA , Pune University. And we were waiting for the D-day!
We decided to meet near the main building around 3.30 pm before proceeding to IUCAA at 4 pm. For quite some time, there were only two of us – myself & Trishul; as Neelambari got stuck somewhere and rest were not seen anywhere…but soon some of them turned up and since it was almost 4 pm, I decided to move towards IUCAA along with Trishul & Ved to make sure Arvind didn’t have to wait. We reached IUCAA, found ‘Muktangan Vigyan Shodhika’ and Arvindji warmly welcomed us all and soon after Neelambari followed with other members.
We all got introduced to Arvindji, and soon after he took over with his lively charm and ability to lead conversation effortlessly – in his chaste Hindi and changing over to English if needed!! He even jokingly started to introduce himself one we finished our introduction…and that made us comfortable instantly! 🙂 And what Hindi man…….awesome!!!
I was watching him…had seen his photos earlier, but only a few! He has very sharp & smart features!! Brilliance exudes from his personality! Bright, sparkling eyes, friendly & warm smile and a very fluent conversationalist! He seems easily approachable unlike most scientists and down-to-earth enough to skip all jargons and explain things as simple as they get…or perhaps they can’t get any simpler & clearer than this!
I was amused to see how easily one can make a small DC motor and explain principles of electro-magnetism in a do-it-yourself model that won’t cost more than 10 rupees. And master-stroke was the way he scraped of only partial enamel on the coil to make it work like a switch! That was amazing…Why can’t we have more such simple, open do-it-yourself & observe-it yourself models for scientific principles?
Another awesome model was “Magnetic Levitation” – this really needs to be seen to be believed. It is just so fascinating even for us adults to see how pencil is hanging & rotating freely in air without any support purely based on opposite magnetic fores balancing themselves – with north & south pole repelling & attracting the pair of magnets attached to the pencil. We all forgot our ages and became kids again with so many new exciting toys inviting us! And as he said – ‘the best toys are the ones, which are left incomplete!’ so they give opportunity to the person to use his creativity and experiment with it!
He did live up to his reputation of being a ‘Magician With Toys’ and mesmerized us with so many new toys, experiments & ideas…he is just full of them! No – in fact overflowing with them! 🙂 We were only too happy to get lost in all those toys, watching him play “sa-re-ga-ma” with a simple straw and chopping its ends – and we knew instantly how flute worked!! It really doesn’t get any simpler…and that’s why you often feel why can’t our schools get more creative when it comes to teaching science – you understand things much better when you do it yourself – rather than remembering what you read in those all-words-no-experience textbooks. And it’s really so easy to create those models, toys and perform those scientific experimentation which are so much of fun – you’ve got to watch this video to know how children really enjoy his toys & scientific experimentations! –
We experienced it first hand – so we don’t need a video to tell us that, but we had an opportunity to watch this film anyway!! 🙂
‘Muktangan Vigyan Shodhika’ was funded by P. L. Deshpande (Pu La Deshpande) & Sunita Deshpande to popularize science among children. So that remains primary focus of this organization and Arvind Gupta looks into that. They have mobile planetarium (huge inflatable globe) and several small & big models of several scientific concepts there! Many children come there for a visit, learn science through his toys, experiments & take home the toys they make! In his own words, unlike many serious scientists who have lost child in them – he still very much enjoys being with children & all that exuberance, fresh outlook & joy that they bring.
Books are Arvind Gupta’s passion – he mentions so many authors & their books on variety of subjects that it becomes impossible to keep track of all of them. His main agenda is to make all those good books available to people at large in their own language and to make them easily affordable & accessible. He has used the Internet very effectively and its reach & low cost helps enormously. As of now, he has over 700 good books translated in various Indian languages available on his website http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/ with his relentless efforts. And as he knows that high bandwidth in India is still not very common in smaller towns – he has made all his site contents available on a CD that he freely distributes to teachers & anyone interested. (we got one as well! :-)) One could sense his passion when he talks about books, their contents, their authors, price, quality of ‘Newbery Medal’, ‘Dhan Gopal Mukerji’ and so on. He religiously translates at least few pages for 2-3 hours every day so that more & more books can be made available – talk about dedication of this man when he could have been so successful monetarily with his IIT brand. He spoke about how he thought he failed convincing people that making these small toys could be a sustainable small industry. He also mentioned that we all can help a bit by translating books which are still not translated (Neelambari has already translated few books for him).
I had only read one article about him before I met him. But that one article was enough to know him, and I am his fan ever since. This first meeting allowed us know so many more things about him – and it was sheer joy to watch his brilliance in action. He is very swift – and you can sense his high level of energy when he is showing those toys & see his eyes sparkling and smiling. I really loved watching him rustling around in his room showing us toys, burning CDs for us, talking on the phone, and answering our silly questions sincerely. He was so active during all this conversation that my camera managed to capture him only once clearly – with all that intensity & sparkle in his eyes (the snap you see here). All other photos were action-in blur! Can’t blame it on my S3IS – he’s really difficult to capture, whether its in words or in camera! 😛
He discussed many things in those 3 hours that he generously spent with us and we didn’t even feel that we were meeting him for the first time. He has so much to share & discuss. We were fortunate to get more than what we could have ever asked for…but there were still few things that we wanted to discuss with him – like his views on involved parenting & education system, the unconventional way in which he brought up his daughter…but we couldn’t because time ran out. But just as he said, “The best toys are the ones, which are left incomplete!” – maybe the best meetings are those which are left incomplete – so you look forward to the next meeting to discuss those incomplete things! Already looking forward to meeting him again…hopefully soon! 🙂
(DC Motor & Magnetic Levitation images are taken from Arvind Gupta website)