Mohan-Rocket Man

Mohan-Rocket Man

Ten years after their marriage, after much trying and praying, Rohini and Rajesh were blessed with a child. Their happiness knew no bounds as they welcomed their boy into the world. A few days later they had his naming ceremony and the priest asked them to name the child with the letter M. Rajesh had been a big fan of the movie Swades and wished his son would emulate the success of its protagonist, Mohan Bhargav. So, inspired by the character, he named his son Mohan. 

The early years of Mohan’s life were not as expected though. Mohan seemed to be a slow learner. They lived in a small town where awareness about child counselling was non-existent. Mohan went about at his pace, much to the disappointment of his father. Rohini put Mohan to sleep one night and went to the living room to join Rajesh. 

“What’s the matter?” She asked. “You look worried.” 

“Mohan.” 

“What about him?” 

“I don’t know, I had big expectations from him. But…” 

“Wait a minute,” interrupted Rohini. “Why do you have expectations? He’s not Rajesh, neither is he Mohan Bhargav. He is my Mohan. He’ll find his way in life, I’m sure of that.”

Rajesh smiled, “A mother’s confidence, that’s good. But that doesn’t work in this ruthless world dear.” 

“Maybe not, but why do you have expectations? He’s in this world to make his own life, which may or may not be in line with your expectations.” 

“You’re right,” sighed Rajesh. “I hope he picks up his pace of learning though. That Sharma’s son, he started walking and talking way before Mohan though he’s younger. I hope Mohan catches up with his peers!” 

“His time will come,” assured Rohini. “His time will come. And by the way, Mr. Rajesh, the world isn’t as bad as you think it is.” 

Rohini had a sleepless night following her conversation with Rajesh. In some way, she knew Rajesh was right. 

‘I won’t be around to protect him forever,’ she thought. ‘But then he’s too young now, are we being judgemental too soon? If we don’t push him from this age, would it be too late?’ Haunted by such thoughts and questions, she kept tossing in bed. In the wee hours of the morning, she made herself a cup of coffee and wandered into the veranda. 

‘If anyone can help Mohan, it has to be me,’ she thought. Confidence welled up in her heart. There’s no one stronger than a woman who stands up for her child. She made up her mind to devote extra time and attention to Mohan to ensure he doesn’t miss out. Since that day, her life changed, it now revolved around Mohan alone. From studies to extra-curricular activities, she made sure Mohan was putting in his best efforts. 

One day she received a letter from school asking Rohini and Rajesh to come meet the principal. 

“What would this be about?” Rajesh was worried. 

“Don’t worry, we’ll just go and find out.” 

“I hope he’s doing okay at school.” 

“I think he’s doing okay,” replied Rohini. “Though he’s not scoring well and his class work is untidy but…” 

“Do you hear yourself?” Asked Rajesh. “Clearly, though you’re working hard, he’s not improving, is he?” 

“He will, just give him some time.” 

“More time?” 

“Yes, he has his strengths.” 

“Like what?” 

“Mathematics! He’s so good at that. And have you seen him with his Lego blocks? He can build such amazing things. He has a strong analytical brain,” she argued. 

“I don’t know what you’re saying. I just know his grades are poor.” 

They went to meet the principal and it was just as Rajesh feared. Mohan was always distracted in class; his work was messy and obeying instructions was not particularly his nature. The principal suggested he be shifted to another special school. Rajesh was distraught. 

At the dinner table that night, Rajesh wore a stern look and Rohini was worried. Mohan quietly ate his food. 

“Mohan, I have made up my mind,” announced Rajesh. Mohan stopped chewing and fearfully looked at his father. Rohini almost knew what was coming. 

“We have tried to help you but you refuse to cooperate. I don’t know why you don’t understand what we are saying, it’s not rocket science after all. There’s only one place for children like you, boarding school!” 

Rohini’s eyes welled up with tears. Mohan dropped his spoon and mumbled, “I don’t want to go, amma.” 

“Your mother can’t protect you anymore. I have made my decision. There are some good boarding schools in Panchgani. We will go there this weekend and secure admission,” said Rajesh. 

He stood up and walked away without having dinner. Mohan wept profusely as Rohini tried to pacify him. In his mother’s warm embrace, he fell asleep. Rohini put him to bed and went into her room.

“I’m not stone hearted, Rohini,” said Rajesh, his eyes moist. Rohini remained quiet. 

“This is best for Mohan. I hope you will understand, I hope someday he will understand and maybe someday you both will be able to forgive me,” he said and pulled the blanket over his head. 

The following weekend they travelled to Panchgani and secured admission at St. Francis School for Boys. Mohan was to begin the next academic year at the new school. The year went by, slowly. No laughter was heard in the house and not a smile seen. Finally, the day came when Mohan was supposed to join the boarding school. Rohini hadn’t slept in many days. ‘How will Mohan manage? Will he be able to cope up on his own? Will the others harass my son because he’s slow?’ A myriad of questions troubled the mother’s mind and heart. But there wasn’t much she could do since Rajesh was adamant and to some extent she agreed with his decision. So, they drove to the school to drop Mohan. The most difficult moment of their lives had arrived. Watching a teary-eyed Mohan wave at them, shattered their hearts. They controlled their tears and got into their car. As they drove away, though Rajesh managed to hold back his tears, Rohini could not. She broke down and wept profusely. 

The genuine troubles of Mohan were assumed to be disobedience and mischief. So, his troubles continued in the new school too. He was slow and often lost in his own fantasies thus becoming a subject of mockery by his friends. As if that was not enough, bullying by seniors started soon. The teachers thought it was a settling period and would pass soon. When even after the first semester Mohan showed no signs of improvement, the teachers decided to take the matter up with the principal. 

“Mohan, how are you son?” Asked the principal. 

“I’m fine sir, thank you,” he replied. 

“We believe you are having trouble in class?” 

“Not all classes sir.” 

“Wait, let me see,” the principal checked his report card and the remarks by the teachers. 

“Ah! You have topped in Mathematics and Science with full marks in Mathematics! That is brilliant. Let me see the remarks, so these teachers are happy with you. What about the others? What seems to be the problem there?” 

“I don’t know sir,” replied Mohan. “I, I’m not sure, I just can’t concentrate.” 

“We need you to be good in all aspects. You will have to pull up your socks, son. Any more complaints and we will have to call your parents,” warned the principal. 

“No sir,” he blurted. “Please don’t call my father.” 

“Well in that case…”

The principal was interrupted by a knock at the door. “Come in.” 

The mathematics teacher walked in. 

“Yes, Mr. Simon, how may I help you?” Asked the principal. 

“Sir, I have come to talk about Mohan. Good morning, Mohan.” 

“Good morning, sir.” 

“What do you want to say?” Asked the principal. 

“Sir, I would like to be a mentor to Mohan.” 

“Mohan, can you wait outside,” instructed the principal. Mohan did as he was told. “Why Mr. Simon?” 

“Sir, this boy is a genius! Look at this,” he said. He removed some papers from his bag and handed them over to the principal. 

“He has scored 100 in mathematics. He grasps concepts so easily, it’s like he has a gift. Because he is so good, I did a little experiment. I taught him a few chapters from the higher grades to see how he responds. Look at this,” said Simon as he flipped the pages. Simon was really animated, portraying his excitement. “He was able to solve problems and equations from higher grades with the same ease! All I had to do was explain it to him once.” 

“This is impressive!” Exclaimed the principal as he went through the papers. 

“So, what are you suggesting.” 

“This boy is a prodigy. Let me be his mentor. I will ensure he continues to excel in mathematics and science, does enough for the other subjects, and I’ll make him street smart to face everyday challenges.” 

“Ok then, he’s your responsibility now. But, should you fail, you know what we have to do.” 

“I understand, sir. Thank you so much,” said Simon and left. 

That day marked a turning point in Mohan’s life. Every day after regular school hours Simon would take Mohan to the school library. There he taught him mathematics and science, as well as he could. He roped in his colleagues to help Mohan with the other subjects and the in-house school counsellor helped Mohan to deal with the other social pressures. Life changed for Mohan, his behaviour became acceptable to the other teachers and he fared fairly well in other subjects. While all this was happening, he became popular in the school circuits as the next Ramanujan! His exceptional talent won him many accolades in the field of mathematics and science, physics in particular. He won various national level competitions too. Expectations from Mohan sky rocketed! Mohan cleared his 10th standard board exams with an aggregate of 82%. He topped in Maths and science but the other subjects dragged his aggregate down. No one bothered though, for everyone knew that he was a rare and special talent. 

He returned to his hometown. People found it hard to believe that this confident smart teenager was the same timid boy who was sent to boarding school. Mohan was focused now; he knew what he wanted from life. His aim was space exploration and for that he had to secure admission at the prestigious Indian Institute of Aerospace Engineering (IIAE). Once he returned from boarding school, he wasted no time and immediately started preparing for the entrance exam to IIAE. Looking at Mohan’s transformation, Rajesh’s heart swelled with pride. He knew, a tough decision he had taken, was paying off. Rohini was just happy her son was back for good after almost 4 years. Little did she know that Mohan was just in transit. Mohan worked hard and cracked the entrance exam with ease. He secured admission to the prestigious institute and once again was on his way. IIAE welcomed this young genius with open arms. Mohan’s reputation preceded him and his brilliant performance in the entrance exam just bolstered it further. 

The next four years were smooth sailing for Mohan. This was his territory now and he made the most of it. He graduated from IIAE as the topper of his batch and shattered all records in the process. Companies lined up to recruit the service of this young mastermind. With an offer too good to resist, Space Master USA managed to lure him. What lured him to the company was the opportunity for research. He returned home for a brief stay before flying to the USA for good. Rohini was helping him pack when he realised she was sad. 

“What’s the matter, amma?”

“Just the thought that you will be so far from me. You know, I hardly got any time with you I feel. As a young boy you went to boarding school, then to college and now to America.” 

“Don’t worry amma. It’s a matter of time before I buy a house there. Then I will call you and appa there. Then we will all live happily ever after!” 

She smiled, “A fairy tale ending.” 

“Yes,” he said and hugged his mother. 

Just then, Rajesh entered the room with a package in his hand. “Mohan, here is a small gift I have for you. Don’t open it now. Open it when you’re in America.” 

“Ok, appa. Thank you so much,” he said and shook hands with his father. 

They dropped him off at the airport that evening. He had a connecting flight to New York via Mumbai. 

Mohan took to America like a duck to water. He loved his job and settled into the rocket design and innovation team. His aptitude towards the subject, his education and the vast amount of reading he had done on the topic meant he quickly became indispensable. The more experience he gained, the better he became at his job. He quickly rose in ranks and was soon team lead for a mission to send a lander to the Moon. One morning a team member rushed to him. 

“Mohan, Indian Space Research Organisation has announced the launch date of Chandrayaan-2 with Vikram lander. We are lagging, but you must be proud. Your country is going to be the first to attempt to land on the South Pole of the Moon!” 

“Oh! That’s good,” replied Mohan. “We can get some valuable insights from the progress of Chandrayaan-2.” 

Since that day, Mohan carefully followed the progress of Chandrayaan. He noticed some design similarities between Vikram lander and his model, but also noticed some differences which bothered him. He stayed back late in the office one night, studying the differences. 

“What’s up? Still in office?” Asked his colleague. 

“I am studying this,” he replied, showing Vikram’s design and trajectory. “I’m a little concerned about its trajectory. I think it’s a little too fast. Though I hope it succeeds, my calculations suggest it won’t be able to slow down in time. Hopeful though, fingers crossed.” 

The landing procedure of Vikram lander was telecast live to the world. Mohan and his team were on the edge of their seats watching and hoping. Much to the disappointment of ISRO, millions of Indians and Mohan, the lander lost communication. It crashed on the surface of the moon. “Let’s call it a day, gentlemen,” Mohan was distraught. He probably knew what went wrong. 

Mohan went home and called his father. 

“Hi appa, how are you?” 

“I’m good, Mohan. How are you?” 

“Just feeling low and homesick.” 

“Oh, you saw the moon mission?” Asked Rajesh. 

“Yes, appa. It’s disheartening. The team did such a great job. I wish I was there to contribute, maybe the mission would have been successful. I wish I was there to serve my motherland.” 

“Mohan, did you see the gift I had given to you before you left for America?” 

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he replied. “I completely forgot about it!” 

“Go see it, we will talk tomorrow.” 

“Ok, appa. Have a great day,” said Mohan and hung up. 

He took the gift out from the cupboard and opened it. It was a DVD of the movie Swades, his dad’s favourite movie. Mohan ordered some food and started watching the epic story of Mohan Bhargav. By the time the movie ended, he understood why his father gifted him the DVD. He resumed work the next day but there was an inspirational unrest in his heart. He thought it would be a passing thing and continued to focus on the job at hand. But he was wrong. 

“Good morning, appa,” he called his dad one night. 

“Hey, how are you, Mohan.” 

“I’m good. I’m coming home, appa!”

“What do you mean?” Asked Rajesh, a little surprised, a little confused.

“Since I saw the movie, I have this strong feeling that there’s a lot I have to offer to my country. I got in touch with the head of ISRO, sent my resume and they are happy to have me on their team for Chandrayaan-3.” 

“Are you sure about this?” Asked Rajesh. 

“Yes, appa. I have gained some valuable experience here and I think I’ll be a valuable asset to my nation.”

“In that case, welcome home son.” 

Rohini overheard him saying that and rushed to him. 

“What happened? Is Mohan returning?” 

“Yes, here talk to your son.” 

Rohini heard him out. The mother was happy that her son was coming back. When she hung up, she saw Rajesh had a smile on his face. 

“Why are you smiling, Mr. Rajesh?” 

“Do you remember, Rohini, when we decided to send Mohan to boarding school. I scolded him saying, I don’t know why you don’t understand what we are saying, it’s not rocket science after all.” 

“Yes, I remember that night.” 

“Who knew back then, that one day he could possibly become the rocket man of India!” 

Rohini smiled, “I told you my son would do something good with his life.” 

“You did, a mother’s confidence!” 

Mohan put in his papers at Space Masters. A couple of months later, he packed up and returned home for good.
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Zeyd Ladha
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