If a boy who survived on two meals a day and studied in municipal schools can make it, anybody can. It is all about hard work, dedication and faith,” said Raghunath Mashelkar, who was named in the list of Padma Vibhushan awardees for his contribution in shaping India’s science and technology policies.
“I came to know about the award when I received a call from the Home Ministry around 7 am on Saturday. It came as a surprise. When your nation recognises your work, it is a great feeling and it is beyond words. I am grateful to the country,” said Mashelkar.
He added, “I wish my mother was here today. She has been the guiding light of my life. I want to thank my guru professor Sharma from UDCT (now the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai), who introduced me to research. I am also grateful to my mentor C N R Rao, who inspired me constantly to do good work. Last but not the least, I want to thank CSIR, where I spent the most important years of my life. I joined that organisation as a young man and retired at the age of 64.”
Born into a poor family in Mashel, Goa, Mashelkar was the only son. His father died when he was 6 years old, after which his mother moved to Mumbai. “We were extremely poor. My mother did menial jobs to raise me. I used to study in a Marathi medium municipal school. Till I was 12 years old, I didn’t own a pair of slippers. I used to walk barefoot. Even getting two square meals was hard for us. I used to study under the streetlight. The last train to Gujarat left at 10 pm, after which the Bombay Central Station wore a deserted look. I used to go to the station to study,” said Mashelkar.
“By conferring the Bharat Ratna on C N R Rao and considering me for the Padma Vibhushan, I think what the country is trying to say is that ‘Science matters to India and India wants to matter to Science’,” said Mashelkar.
“Awards are the nations way of saying that they recognise your work. But, more than that, work matters. Your work is your life’s message. When you do that properly, awards will certainly follow,” he said.
Yoga Guru B K S Iyengar, who has also been conferred the Padma Vibhushan, dedicated the award to Pune and Puneites. “The city and its people have greatly contributed to my success. I am so delighted that I am not able to express it. 80 years of my sadhana has brought name and fame not only to me but to the art of yoga,” said Iyengar.
“Credit for this honour goes to all Puneites. It’s their blessings which have brought me this award. Also it’s a rare event that two Puneites have got the award in the same year. I am happy for Raghunath Mashelkar as well. He is a great scientist and a friend,” said the 95-year-old yoga trainer.
The Padmashri to the late Narendra Dabholkar, Anish Patwardhan, his son-in-law said, was a recognition of the lifelong work put in by the activist for eradication of blind faith. “During his lifetime Dabholkar should have got the award, but we are glad that his work has been recognised posthumously,” he said. Dabholkar was assasinated five months ago in Pune while he was returning home after a morning walk. The police have arrested two people for their alleged involvement in the matter.
Dabholkar’s anti superstition movement’s long standing demand about the passage of the anti superstition bill also saw the light of the day as the state government passed the legislature during the recently concluded winter session of the state assembly.
Union minister Sharad Pawar’s brother, who is also the owner of the Sakal newspaper group, Pratap Govindrao Pawar and renowned tabla player Vijay Ghate were also awarded the Padma Shri.