My walk from Garage to NASA, Md Adil Aman

We all are in pursue of one answer. What is life? For me life is Marvel movies, Dan Brown books and Ed Sheeran songs. You guessed it right. I’m a kid. I’m the person who dared to dream.

So, here’s my story. I was born and brought up in a small town named Asansol in West Bengal. My father was a peon in Eastern Railways and we used to live in a rented garage until my father was promoted and we moved to comfortable quarters. I joined St. Vincent’s High & Technical school. This was the part where I think God showered his blessing upon me. Being poor is not a very good option in this era of economics. Pardon me for using the word “option”. But trust me everyone has a choice. Vincent’s was my home. I learnt a lot in this school. Really a lot. Not rot learning, real learning. My life was more than perfect. I had just one little problem. My parents! Always had arguments. It went to the extend that my mom, along with my nine months baby brother and me went to commit suicide in a railway track. I never had good clothes at that time and I could feel the chill shivering my bone. Imagine my brother’s situation. I was merely only in fourth grade. That particular night it went too far. Even the tear drops were cold that night. I had only one thing in my hand. A book. Yes, a book. That day I prayed and prayed just so that I could see the morning’s light along with my mom. I think God listened to me. From that night my life changed. It might seem a light vague that how a small kid become so determined. Trust me, hunger pangs can change anything.

There were many incidents in my life. Mostly happy ones. One of them is science. I loved science. Not just for marks. I used to study to find answers. I used to study stuffs of higher standards just to quench my thirst for answers. In sixth grade we had a science teacher. I was such a mischievous fellow at that time! I really apologize to every teacher who taught me even after I gave pain. There my science teacher, Mr Paul Fernandes for me he was a star. No kidding, he was star for every kid at that time. He played his 11-year-old guitar and taught us how to sing in the school chapel. I couldn’t learn singing from him. But I learnt one important thing in my life in that one year. God is there with everyone of us. He called me ‘scientist’ at that time. I had this very bad habit of asking questions!

I was in high school in the eighth grade when a news was there in the newspaper. The news read,”Durgapur kid went to NASA”. This was pretty fascinating for me. NASA to me was like Mount Olympus to Greeks. I thought that yes, I can do it too. But sadly, I never had a computer to write my stuffs. So, I waited. Until latter that year that my mom gifted me a computer by selling few of her jewelleries. Our house needed renovation. My father had no money at that time. So, my mom sold some of her jewelleries. With the left-over money, my computer arrived. With the joy of a new device, I forgot everything. Really everything. Until one day the NASA thing hit me. At once I left everything and started my research work. Now let me tell you something about this NASA thing. NASA along with NSS conducts a project named “NASA Space Settlement Contest”. Individuals, small group and large group can participate in this contest. These are conducted for age group of 12 to 18. I asked my best friend at that time to help me in the work. I thought we can do this together. But he denied. I thought that may be this is too childish. Dreaming for NASA in ninth grade needs determination. But I went alone. Not because I was determined to do it. I did my NASA project just for fun. I knew I won’t get it and still it would be fun. I wanted to learn stuffs and this was the perfect excuse to my mom to skip study hours (Yes, I love science and maths but I hated subjects like history, geography and Bengali because my marks were pretty bad in these subjects). I did a lot of research. I used to get my monthly 1 GB/month net allowance from my parents so I had to manage with it. I used to sleep 5-6 hours at that time. But for me that didn’t matter because it was fun for me. I wrote a 110 pages project and sent it to NASA. I didn’t expect anything out of it. But then, on March our term for ninth grade was over. At that time, we never had this career tension banging our heads. So, we were more than just happy. Fiddle with my phone, I went to the NASA website. I was checking who all won it. I was scrolling and scrolling. Then there was a list of first prizes in ninth grade. The very first project was “Wings of fire”. I was like wo, someone copied my project’s name. Then I saw “St. Vincent’s”, beside the project’s name. Yes, by God’s miracle I won a NASA prize. That too the first prize. I rushed to my mom and told her. She told me, “Good now study, your ICSE exams are knocking on your door”. I just rushed to my teacher’s house and showed him the notification. He was so proud of me. He told me well done. I was so happy. I told my school principal and my other teachers. They were more than happy. I was happy that I don’t have to listen to my mom’s nagging because I did something good which made her happy. But God planned something else for me.

The next day, I opened my what’s app. Instead of some “Good morning” message there was a newspaper article. “Wings of fire”. Yes, I was all over the news. And guess what I was a celebrity. And by celebrity, I mean more delicious food! Yes, I was a kid. Friends and family meant everything to me and I wanted to enjoy my life. Time went by and reporters came to our house. At some point it went bad for me. I didn’t like so much exposure because I thought it will make me egoistic and I will topple as fast as I went up. So, I just stayed calm and stayed away from all these. But my friends, to whom I will always be thankful, were the same. They were the same kid snatching away my tiffin. But in my small world, it was the keyhole through which I could see the world. But my school principal(Mr. Ravi) opened the entire door. He decided to go with me to Canada where I was invited. Money never stood a problem at that time. My relatives furnished me with their support. I never had a very good relationship with parents and was consider a black sheep of my family. But this was a chance for me to make them proud. I went to Canada. It was a pretty good place. I saw people with white skin for the first time. They all were smiling all the time. I was shy at first. Then I opened up. As I won the first prize in the NASA Space Settlement contest in 2015, I was invited to attend the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) which was held in Toronto that year. I along with my teacher attended the five days conference in which we learnt a lot. I won the prize individually, so I was all alone in the conference. But as time passed, I made new friends. They were from all over the world. As I was trying to explain my project, I also got to know the project of other students and groups. Students from Romania, South Korea, China United States, United Kingdom and many more countries were present in the conference. On the five day long conference, one day we visited the University of Toronto. There we visited the aeronautical and physical science department. There we learnt a lot. Many post graduate students and researchers shared the projects they were working on. We even saw micro satellites that were used for navigation. For the first time in my life I saw a 3D printer. I was so excited that even stayed few hours extra to know its exact working mechanism! I was allowed to give a speech on my project. Many businessmen, scientists, students, researchers, teachers and students were present to listen to my project. I was so glad that my project caught their eyes. Back in India, when I asked my friends whether they will be in my project or not, they ridiculed me and called me “crazy” after hearing my idea. But when I presented my project as a first prize winner, that too working alone, I was happy. My teacher was really proud of me. I attended lectures by noble laureate Kip Thorne and astronaut Anousheh Ansari.

There were many lectures going on during the entire session of conference. I, along with my friends from other countries attended those lectures. We were astonished by the similarity we shared in our views even though we live miles apart. During the break we were even playing games. After all we were all teenagers! We learnt a lot about each other and the way of studies. We even exchanged our projects and discussed about the improvements we can make in them. There were sessions where we had to make groups and visit the project made by other groups. We literally learnt a lot from these sessions. After that we even visited US. For me US was the factory for Marvel Heroes. I visited that factory! For me it was like visiting Willi Wonka’s chocolate factory. Guess what? I went to the home of Captain America and Spiderman, New York City. For me it was a dream come true. I returned to India with more knowledge and more determination. I was pretty much determined to do something and make a mark. I decided to do something. I wanted to become a scientist. Yes, a scientist. I wanted to become the person my teacher wanted me to be. A scientist. I won first prize in the NASA Space settlement contest in 2015. After winning such a prestigious award, I was confident. I wrote another project for 2016. I used to sleep only a couple hours for three months to complete my project. After a lot of struggle, I wrote it. When I sent my project to the United States of America in the month of January, 2016, my project was stopped by customs. I used to track my mail. My project went into a black hole. I don’t know why my package was stopped. It didn’t reach the correct place before the deadline and so it was not evaluated. I was really hurt. I didn’t get a prize that year. I really put a lot of effort in my project but it didn’t reach the real place. I was so frustrated that I gave up on studies. My grade in 11th grade degraded a lot. I was under a lot of pressure and was depressed. After a phase I started working again and came back to normal life. I was so heartbroken that I didn’t want to continue any of my research work. I just wanted to do my normal academic studies. But then I saw a video depicting the life story of the famous rapper Eminem. I was like, “Hey Adil if he can do it why can’t you. Don’t lose hope man.” I started working for another project for the next year. This time I wasn’t afraid of losing. In the month of November, 2016, I decided to do another project. I was again filled with hope and had the mental energy to pull this thing up again. This time I wasn’t afraid of being rejected. I was morally stronger now. I worked harder this time and again won it in the year 2017. This story of mine is known to only few of my close friends. After I won the prize for the second time, I told my parents what happened. All along they thought my project was not good enough and they were really also very sad about it. When I told them that my project never reached and then the following year I again tried to do another project, they were like supper happy. I didn’t share my achievements with my friends and teachers because they might distract me. I was happy. From that day, I was never ever afraid of making mistakes or failing in life. This made me cool minded and help me focus on my work. The thing I learnt from this part of my life is to never give up on yourself and to keep faith on God. I would like to say something to anyone reading this. I am a kid. Just a normal kid who was playing in the garage. From the garage I went to NASA. This might not be the part where I will stop. This is the part where I realised that I was much than just a kid. My parents couldn’t support me because they had their personal issues. I wanted a family, a happy one. I wanted a mom who isn’t depressed about her life. I want a family! But guess what, God is the best playwriter. Characters appear in a particular scene, incidents happen in a particular act. Not before or after. Just at a particular time. I pray I don’t commit a sin, for God is the greatest. I don’t open up myself to anyone. Literally no one. I have worked hard in my life. I used to wash clothes for my mom couldn’t when she was pregnant. I used to eat less because my mom couldn’t cook when she had pain. I used to cry when my father didn’t stay up in home for Eids. But guess what, life is more than just asking from God.

I have failed a lot of times in my life. But one thing I am sure of is that, I will never stop. There are times when I wanted to end my life all at once. I cried, I winced, I fell. But I didn’t stop. There are people like Eminem, Chris Gardner, Malala, Mahatma Gandhi, Barack Obama, Napoleon Hill who inspire millions. But one thing they had in common. They all dared to dream. So, did I. The journey wasn’t pleasant. But the results are always happy. I have to achieve a lot. I won’t stop till the day my father has a smile of his face or till the day my mom says you did it. Till then I will work and work. As Frost said,” Miles to go before I sleep, Miles to go before I sleep”. Mr. Paul Fernandes told me write about my NASA experience. But this was more than just an experience. It was a lesson for me. To this date I remain thankful to him who trusted me. Friends and teachers will always be the “BOB the builder” of my life. Thankyou!

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5 comments

  1. Wow,it is inspiring indeed.Didn’t knew about this whole thing.The kid from durgapur who went to nasa was my classmate amik mondal,he won the third prize.Well I wish you become a scientist and when we will argue about dc and marvel,i’ll feel proud that i was arguing with a scientist. Anyway best of luck.

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  2. Adil Amaan just v proud of U….now U know d meaning of FEAR….Face everything and Rise….as said by respected Mr.APJ Kalam….Ur dreams ve been ignited n will definitely reach d Space

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  3. Extremely proud of you dear Adil! Thank-you for sharing your journey which will inspire many. Thank-you Mr. Paul for your efforts to make us aware of the entire episode.

    Liked by 1 person

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