Balathandapani sir has more than 15 yrs of experience in Research and Development and holds patents. He also loves working with kids and has been teaching for the past 7 years. His passion for innovation and love of building things is evident once you visit his maker Lab in Coimbatore. He is the Director of Aatraal Academy and has been mentoring and supporting Aspiring Entrepreneurs and innovators through Aatrral academy for more than 5 years. We are collaborating with Bala sir to set up an Innovator lab- a makerspace for kids
“I will take up farming dad”. This was the suggestion, may be a decision which I shared with my dad in a pleading voice, at the age of 10. What has this to do with my learning journey? Let’s fast forward another 40 years.
So, why did I make this suggestion? As a child, I too longed for recognition. Most children do. Kids who get recognition were good at one or the other. Sports, Music, Academics, Mimicry, Jovial, Art etc, etc, etc. That had to do with some talent. There were other kids who were also recognized; not for their talent. But for the talent of their parents; not necessarily about their goodness, but on how much money they had and what cars they used.
What can I do to get recognition? So, tried singing. Alone of course. Could not bear myself. Can still hear those noises in my ear. Then running and timing it, long jump, high jump. Even tried with “Goli Gundu” and “Gill Thaandu”. After quite some practice, realized I was not even close to anything sort of winning even a third prize in any if those. So, refrained even from participation.
So, was a loner, eventually.
How can a child share all this emotion with a parent? Would any parent listen to this? So, the natural route was to revolt. And the revolt was “I will take up farming". Just did not want to go to school. But even I lost this game. Lost the game because, my dad said “You finish your studies up to college and then take to farming”.
So, I went to school. Just because my dad wanted me to. I loved my dad. School going was just a routine without any interest. When I was around 14 years of age someone introduced me to Crime Novels from Rajeshkumar. Those were the only books I read. In the process of collecting crime novels, bumped into “Arthamulla Indhumatham” by Kavingnar Kannadasan, which was to change my perspective to life. For ever. Then ofcourse Sandilyan’s ” Kadal Pura” and “Yavana Raani”. Not sure how many times I would have read them. History relived. I could visualize every situation and every event. What a way to narrate a story. Amazing. Stories were integral part of my learning journey
The year after I finished my college, all the lands that belonged to us were to be sold. I still could not take up farming and could not curse my dad. My dad was no more by then.
Years passed. Nothing eventful. Days after college were just job and money to sustain a living. But, there was always a question that was nagging in the back of my mind. Why am I doing all this? What is my purpose in life? Who am I? all those philosophical and spiritual questions. But only one thing drove me during this phase of life was money for survival. No time for books. All the learning was just to keep me in the job.
Some 7 years after college, Job and dollar dreams took me to Singapore. We were five of us who worked in the same company, same project and shared a same house. And one among the five of us requires a special mention in this context. He happened to love astronomy for whatever reasons. If at all he spent any money he spent on telescopes and books related to astronomy. But by and large he was a stingy person.
On one of the days, may be I was a little upset with the work and could not sleep. So, got up and found this guy staring into night sky in the middle of the night. I don’t know why, May be the project pressure got to my nerves, I vented it on this poor guy. My justification to the venting was this. Instead of staring into the meaning less night sky (anything that was not related to work or money was meaningless to me. At least that is how I thought in those days), why don’t you alteast help us finish the work.
He got irritated. Naturally. We did not speak to each other for almost 2 months. He kept doing what he liked. The anger got subsided and over time I got curious. Asked “Why was he doing what he was doing?; the night sky thing. He accepted my apologetic question, smiled and said, join me to the library. There were no more words. No more discussions. What a way to forgive?
The next day I followed him to the library after work. We reached the astronomy section. He left me alone and sunk himself into the books. Having nothing to loose, just strolled the library and bumped into a book titled “Great Feuds in Science: Ten of the Liveliest Disputes Ever”. This book made me a book work. And that was it. I had a reason to keep reading. From then on we became friends again and went to the library every day after work. Till the last bell. But then, there was no objective to reading. It was just nice. May be someone will shout at me in the middle of the night; For reading all through the night.
Another 10 years passed and objective driven learning begins. The objective is to understand fundamental sciences and math. The objective sets in due to the realization that i was not able to apply any of the science terms that I memorized in school and college days.
Realized had to do something about this. So, the strategy was to take both the academic and evolution approach (from the Singapore library experience). So, the academic approach was to join a masters degree in engineering and the evolution approach was to start reading science from the beginning; the beginning was from 650 BC. After almost 2 years of MTech and another 3 years of evolution, I was not heading anywhere. Life time would not be enough.
By this time, after MTech, I happened to take to teaching in an engineering college. This is when I realized that just the science and math syllabus till 12th was required to comprehend all that was done in engineering. There was no new learning except for nanotech and few other things that surfaced from time to time. But most of the basics were covered in the school syllabi.
The combinations of this along with product development lead to the “Aha” moment. Problem driven learning, The academic syllabi and Evolution based learning for difficult concepts.
This is my learning journey. My experience.