It is quite surprising that no Mumbaikar has become a scientist at ISRO, it is even more remarkable that Pratamesh Hirve became the first one to break that spell considering the odds that he faced. Pratamesh’s journey to the incredible heights of space research is all the more amazing because of his humble beginnings. Living in a 10×10 shanty in the densely populated Filterpada slums, Pratamesh concentrated on his studies and never lost sight of his goal.
His friends and neighbors would see him study day and night, and often asked him what he hoped to achieve, but Pratamesh never allowed his self-confidence to dwindle – not even when a career counselor told him he was capable of taking up Arts stream. His aunt and parents had taken him for an aptitude test in south Mumbai. The counselor said to his parents that his cousin brother had the aptitude for engineering, but he should choose a career in Arts instead. He was upset but refused to give up. He decided to become an Engineer, and his parents believed in him. In 2007, he got admission to Bhagubhai Mafatlal Polytechnic College for a diploma in electrical engineering. However this was just the beginning of his journey, and he had yet to overcome the most significant challenge – the language barrier.
Pratamesh studied in a Marathi medium school up to Class X. The first two years of the diploma course were challenging for him because he could not understand English and the complex engineering terms. He was a backbencher so the professor would not ask him questions. In the second year, he told his teacher about the language problem, and he advised him to refer to the dictionary as often as possible. During his internships at L&T and Tata Power as well, his teachers encouraged him to go for a degree, so he decided to pursue a degree from Smt Indira Gandhi College of Engineering in Navi Mumbai.
After getting his degree in 2014, Pratamesh had big dreams for his future, but not everything worked out the way he had planned. He applied for a coveted post in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) recruitment but failed. He then set his sights on the sky, and applied to ISRO in 2015, but could only reach to the waiting list. By this time, he had started getting job offers, so he took up the job of an engineer. But his goal was to make it to ISRO, so, in May 2016, he applied again,
There were there were 16,000 candidates, out of which only nine could be selected – Pratamesh was one of them. “On November 14, when he found out that he was through, it was such a happy moment for him.” I struggled for ten long years before I could reach ISRO. “I have got my initial posting at Chandigarh. Now I will give my parents a better home and life,” said ISRO’s newest electrical scientist.
Most of Pratamesh’sfamily members had never heard of ISRO until he landed in a job there, but his loved ones are thrilled by his success. Pratamesh’s mother, Indu, 46, said, “I have studied up to class 3. Initially, I could not understand what this job meant. When my husband explained that our son would be working with such an elite organization, I was in tears. I remembered all the difficult times since his childhood. I am very proud of him, he has realized his dream.”
Pratamesh’s achievement is even more exciting for his father, Soma, 52, a primary school teacher. He said, “When Pratamesh refused to join Arts stream and insisted on science, I cautioned him that he would have to work very hard, and he agreed. When he told me he got a job at ISRO, I realized he had been right all along. He would study day till late night, and our lights would never be switched off. Everyone at our native place in Dahiwadi, Satara, is as proud of him as we are.”
Pratamesh has actualized the famous quote from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist: ‘when you want something desperately, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.