Rakesh Sharma, Rajeev Goswami: Jane Kahan Gaye Woh Log

April 04, 2006

Public memory is quite notorious for being very short. This post is about those people who shot to fame a few years ago. Their descent was almost as fast as their rise in public attention. Now that their names are off public memory, my curiosity got the better of me and I did some research about their current whereabouts.

I've managed to cover very few such people. Please feel free to suggest more names so we can find out what happened to them as well.

Rakesh Sharma - The Only Indian to Go to Space

"Saare jahan se accha, Hindustan hamara" - The second most popular recital of these famous words of Iqbal took place in outer space, by Rakesh Sharma. Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma (retired as Wing Commander) was the first Indian (we've only had Kalpana Chawla after him and she was an American citizen of Indian origin) to go into space. He acheived that distinction in 1984 when he flew aboard the Russian rocket Soyuz T-11.

During the flight, Squadron Leader Sharma conducted multi-spectral photography of northern India in anticipation of the construction of hydroelectric power stations in the Himalayas. Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma was awarded the Ashoka Chakra for the successful completion of the Space Mission, as were his Russian companions Malyshev and Strekalov, the first and the only time the Ashoka Chakra was awarded to foreigners.

After he retired with the rank of Wing Commander, Rakesh Sharma joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as a test pilot. He was based at the Aircraft & Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) in Bangalore and worked on the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft program. Current military status - Retired. Sadly, the website of ISRO doesn't provide many details about his historic flight or his current whereabouts.

Currently, he is working with Automated Workflow, Bangalore in the capacity of COO.

Rajeev Goswami - The Poster Boy of the Anti-Mandal Agitation, 1990

His burning body on the cover of India Today became the emblem of the student agitation against the Mandal commission report during 1990. His was the first in a series of self-immolation incidents all over India in protest against V.P.Singh's decision to implement reservation. Goswami himself never got a government job despite there being no hike in reservation as a result of the agitation.

Mandalites floated many uncharitable stories regarding Goswami's motivation. It was claimed that he had been paid heavily and his family assured a life of luxury in case he succumbed to his burns. Apparently, the dirty tricks department of the Congress was out to avenge V. P. Singh's humiliation of Rajiv Gandhi and no money was to be spared to bring the government to its knees. Others asserted that Goswami was intoxicated beyond any self-control and was prodded by some people to attempt an entry into history books. Yet others said his self-immolation bid had little to do with Mandal and more to do with intra-college gang rivalry. None of this, however, washed with youngsters across the country who seemed to have been electrified by his symbolic sacrificial act.

V. P. Singh was reported to have instructed the Safdarjang Hospital authorities not to let him die under any circumstances. The few brief reports that have appeared after Goswami's death suggest that the overdose of medicines administered to ensure his life in 1989 took its toll over the years as his liver and kidneys were damaged beyond repair.

The outburst against the Mandal order marked the revolt of a new generation that demanded opportunities; they demanded an environment in which they could pursue their aspirations. Looking back, Rajeev Goswami's attempted suicide can be said to have been a turning point in contemporary Indian history. It marked the cusp between the old politics and the new.

He died a rather low profile death in Delhi in February 2004 after a prolonged illness at the age of 33. Doctors attributed his death to the failure of his liver and kidneys. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Tathagat Tulsi - Youngest Post-Graduate, Guinness Book World Record Holder

This boy from Patna made headlines in various newspapers across the nation during the late 90's. Tathagat can boast of being the youngest post-graduate in the world! But the path to this success wasn't an easy one. He had to move the Supreme Court to get special permission to appear in class 10th exams at the age of 9 years. He completed B.Sc. Physics Honors at the age of 10 years and 6 months! He finished his master's degree in Physics in 1999 at the age of 12. The India Government sent him to the Nobel Prize winners' meeting held in Germany between June 25th and 29th, 2001.

Events took a depressing turn here. He was suspected of being a fake by the media. He was labeled "the programmed genius". But soon after this controversy, he silenced his critics by getting an admission to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, in their coveted doctoral program, at the age of 15! Now, he is a senior Research Fellow at IISc (his webpage is here).

The author is was a software engineer working in Bangalore - Now he's headed eastwards to join IIM Calcutta for their PGDM program. He hails from the desert state of Rajasthan & aspires to be an MBA (certified & qualified :-). Other than writing for his blog, he is also interested in Photography (See his photoblog, Photophilic) & Travelling. He's also a compulsive reader & an avid movie-goer. Contact him at vasingh[at]gmail[dot]com.
eXTReMe Tracker
Keep reading for comments on this article and add some feedback of your own!

Rakesh Sharma, Rajeev Goswami: Jane Kahan Gaye Woh Log


Author: Varun


Comments! Feedback! Speak and be heard!

Comment on this article or leave feedback for the author

Ritesh Maheshwari
April 4, 2006
01:50 PM

Any idea about the guys who saved the bus passengers in Delhi bomb blasts?

April 4, 2006
02:09 PM

Good follow-up - hope you will do more of these posts

April 4, 2006
08:53 PM

>> Goswami himself never got a government job despite there being no hike in reservation as a result of the agitation.

You are wrong about this.

April 5, 2006
12:24 AM

Ritesh: the conductor? I think he lost his hearing capability. Don't know where he is currently.

Sudeep: Could you correct me please?

If anyone remembers, there was one incident where 3-4 goondas got aboard a bus taking some females students to some competition. One girl, judo expert, kicked their @sses single-handedly. It happened in Delhi, quite a while ago. Can anyone get me the name?

April 5, 2006
12:26 AM

Sudeep: Found this on Rediff ( )
He was virtually jobless since the agitation and was dependent on his parents, who live abroad.

May 19, 2006
05:35 AM

Now that is quite an excellent compilation,hardly an iota of doubt regarding that.Well done,sir.I just wish that such enlightening columns were published regularly in our tabloids.

Add your comment

(Or ping:

Personal attacks are not allowed. Please read our comment policy.

Remember Name/URL?

Please preview your comment!