Sad saga of patriotic space scientist, Dr Nambi Narayanan

By Sridhar Subramaniam
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Dr Nambi Narayanan // Pic supplied

The unedifying tale of Dr. Nambi Narayanan

The poignant tale of an ISRO Scientist Padma Vibhushan Dr. Sankaralingam Nambi Narayanan has been forcefully brought out in the biopic of the scientist by the talented actor turned director, R. Madhavan in the masterpiece Rocketry—The Nambi Effect. It has succeeded in capturing the public imagination and there is an outpouring of empathy and remorse for this slighted national hero.

A travesty has been committed and the fair name of this national hero has been besmirched beyond repair.

His story is fascinating!

Belongs to the genre of a spy thriller! The sinister tale reeks of sabotage, skulduggery and the macabre machinations of various players involved. A falsely fabricated fictional narrative is deviously spun and our hero is implicated in a scandalous, subversive honey trap involving two Maldivian women. The accusation was that he traded space secrets while currying for sexual favours and in the process compromised the country. The fair name of a loving and peaceful family man is tarnished and he is also subjected to torture to extricate the “truth” from him. A classic case of adding injury to insult!

Our hero sinks into a quagmire of innuendoes and the local press goes into an overdrive dishing out lurid accounts, straight out of pulp fiction. The hero not only is viewed as a villain but his family also goes through the ignominy of slurs and insults, which is heart rending.

Pic supplied

Luckily for the hero, the story takes a turn for the better and he sees a light at the end of the tunnel. His ordeal eventually comes to an end. A senior Intelligence Officer diligently goes to the bottom of the episode and Dr. Nambi Narayanan is acquitted, eventually exonerated and absolved of serious wrong doing.

He gets a decent compensation for being harassed, tortured and for the ordeal that he has bravely endured and also as a recompense for the sullying of his reputation. It can never restore the ‘status quo ante’, though; His promising and illustrious career went into shambles and his family had to undergo humiliation, untold agony, stress and mental duress.

He has been awarded Padma Vibhushan, for his sterling contribution though. Looks more like an afterthought! He was a fertile brain, which was in the same league of other eminent scientists like Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan, Prof. UR Rao, Dr. Kalam in Space and scientists like Dr. Homi Bhabha, Dr. Raja Ramanna and Dr. Chidambaram in Atomic Energy.

He is credited with the invention of the Vikas engine, which has been integral to every successful space mission that India undertook including Mangalyaan. He is also an acknowledged subject matter expert in Cryogenics.

Pic supplied

His story is inspiring, especially his going to Princeton, his missions with the team to France and Russia and the zeal of a patriot is quite evident. But the murky and sordid episode, in that latter phase of his life, which took a heavy toll on him exposes the susceptibilities and vulnerabilities of Indian Scientists who work on critical missions, especially missions that could go to enhance the glories of the country and establish it, as a power to reckon with in these frontier areas of science and technology.

The strength of the chain is determined by its weakest link, they say; This story exposes the soft underbelly of the scientific establishment. The country whose anthem has been Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan and Jai Vignyan has to beef up its apparatus and prevent such serious exposure of the chinks in its armour.

It is a thin fine line. Here luckily the hero has come out fully exonerated. But the country’s progress in this field has received a serious setback, put the clock back by a decade, owing to the episode and in its wake has stunted the progress of an illustrious career.

A country which is forging ahead, can ill afford such lapses!


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