This Article is From Sep 08, 2019

From "Barefoot" At Mango Orchard To ISRO Chief: Inspiring Life Of K Sivan

"Apart from school, we had to work in agricultural farms. My father was a farmer," ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan told NDTV

Chandrayaan 2: ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan (extreme left) with his friends


  • Dr K Sivan said he had to work in agricultural farms
  • Even during college, Dr Sivan would help his father in farming
  • He said the hardships couldn't stop him from achieving his goals

The life of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman Dr K Sivan, the rocket scientist who spearheaded India's latest moon mission, is a rags-to-riches story. Son of a marginal farmer, he didn't get to wear sandals until he was in college.

His deep commitment to the Chandrayaan 2 mission was visible in the highly emotional hug that he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared on the doorstep of the mission control centre on Saturday. PM Modi also gave an inspirational message to the scientists after the lander Vikram suffered a setback minutes before touchdown.

Dr Sivan didn't even own a pair of trousers for most part of his student life and used to wear dhotis. But the hardships couldn't stop him from achieving his goals. "I wasn't bothered about what I didn't get. I excelled in whatever I was given to do," he told NDTV in an interview on August 26 at the ISRO headquarters.

"A very interesting life we had back then in my village. Apart from school, we had to work in agricultural farms. My father was a farmer. He was also into the mango business during blooming season. We would go to mango orchard and help my father during holidays. When I was there, my father would not hire a labourer," Dr Sivan said.

Even during college, Dr Sivan said, he would help his father in farming.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs ISRO Chief Dr K Sivan at the space agency's mission control centre

"Usually, people have different criteria for selecting their colleges. But my father's criteria were that my college should be near my house so that I can help him in the orchard after returning from the college. We had a hand-to-mouth kind of condition," he said.

"I started wearing sandals only when I started studying in the Madras Institute of Technology. Till then, we used to walk barefoot. We also didn't have any trousers, we were always in dhoti," Dr Sivan remembers with a smile.

Despite the hardships he had to endure in his early life, Dr Sivan is thankful that his parents provided three full meals a day. "We were not that bad. Our parents were able to provide three meals a day with full stomach," he said.

Talking about his higher studies, Dr Sivan said he had to pursue Bachelor of Science as his father was unable to fund his Engineering course.

"I wanted to go for engineering but my father said the course was very expensive and that you should do BSc (Bachelor of Science). I resisted. In fact I fasted for a week to change my father's mind. Finally, I had to change my mind," he said.

"Then I did my BSc Mathematics. After doing that, my father said 'once I stopped you from doing what you wanted, but I will not stop you this time. I will sell my land to fund your Engineering course'," he said.

"After doing my BTech, I had to struggle for a job as at that time there were very limited jobs in aeronautical engineering. There was scope only in HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) and NAL (National Aeronautics Limited). I didn't get the job, so I went for further studies at IISc," he added.

Dr Sivan says during his entire career, he never got what he wanted, but he excelled in whatever job was given to him.

"I wanted to join the satellite centre but I got the Vikram Sarabhai Centre. There also I wanted to join the aerodynamics group but I ended up joining the PSLV project. Everywhere, I didn't get what I wanted," he said.