The 79-year-old Nambi Narayanan has been feted much belatedly as a man who was not only brilliant but someone who was unendingly wronged.
For 27 years of his life, the former ISRO scientist has been tangled in litigation to clear his name and win some of his dignity back.
The same governments that continued to hound him by challenging court orders have now given him monetary compensation.
None of that suffices, of course, as he told CNN News18, after he won yet another legal battle with the Supreme Court ordering a CBI probe to get to the conspirators who fudged the ‘espionage’ case against Nambi Narayanan and others.
“I had a dream of developing a cryogenic system and making India a space power. That dream is finished for the time being and that can never be given back to me,” he said.
“That dream is gone. This entire case was not for compensation. The SC was kind enough to order it and it has helped me, of course, in paying back some loans, etc. I’m unhappy because of the first part, but I will be happy if the case reaches the logical conclusion so that no one dares to do this again,” he said.
India’s cryogenic programme, which Nambi Narayanan headed at the time he was arrested, could have propelled India to great space heights for the same reason like our indigenous moon and mars missions are.
The cryogenic programme was designed to be much cheaper than what was already available and could have been ahead of its time.
“It is not me they were targeting. They were targeting our programme. If they remove me as the project director, the programme will be derailed. There are always some key persons in a project. If you remove one or two of them, the progress can be if not stalled, delayed. That delay can be big or small but in our case it was very big,” Nambi Narayanan said.
“ISRO’s success was because we had a unique way of developing our technology. We take shortcuts but not gambles. We employed an intelligent analytical iteration of other successes or failures. In the process, you can save a lot of money. This is not possible for everyone. It is possible only by some. I was holding several positions in the programme only because that way you can often work faster. That is not a universal approach. One does this for some time till you become operational, for example.
Since I was holding more than one position, my removal was key. And they succeeded in that.”
So can Nambi Narayanan still contribute to ISRO’s successes? He was hopeful but not very confident. But it is clear there is a desire within to do something still.
“I’m not young anymore. I used to travel a lot, my physical energy was high but not anymore. Also I’m not used to working slowly. That’s not me. So it won’t work if it’s not myself,” he said.
“I can contribute to planning. The entire outer space work is not well planned according to me. I used to dream that for America there is NASA, for Europe there is ESA, so for Asia there can be an ASA —Asian Space Agency.”
“There are many ifs and buts. So in that kind of an area, where such consultancy, innovative ideas are needed I can contribute provided my health is doing good,” he added.
Hopefully, the government and India’s Space Research Organisation are listening. A part of giving Nambi Narayanan his dignity back will well be giving him the pleasure to contribute again.