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In the late 1950’s, my father was born - among six other siblings - in a South Indian farming village called Sorakolathur. His father had a second grade education: just enough to read and write Tamil. His mother had no formal education: she could only draw her signature. A quarter of their income came from harvesting rice paddies and sugarcane fields; the rest came from my grandfather’s handcrafted metal draw plates - a thumb-sized jewellery tool. Despite the burdensome conditions, each one of their children progressed through the twelfth grade. My father, stepping up from one college to the next, ended up at the Indian Institute of Science to complete his PhD in computational fluid dynamics. He was handpicked by the prime minister to work in the Defense Research and Development Lab, where he met my mother. She came from similar origins, working as a scientist - with a Master’s in mathematics and aeronautics. They began a family: starting with my brother, and ten years later, me. Despite how comfortable they were in India, my parents moved us here to give us better opportunities.
Growing up, I was quickly instilled with cultural virtues of work and education. I developed a sense of indebtedness, along with a genuine passion for the STEM subject areas. I wholeheartedly believed that I could change the world with creativity. I believed that the world was filled with infinite problems, each of which could be solved. I believed in altruism and empathy. I still do, because of my grounding in those cultural values. To meet my high expectations, I required more than just mundane erudition. With a balance between faith and skepticism, I explored multifarious religions and philosophies; these became the scaffolding for my ambitions. All this formed an aggregate of seemingly disparate goals, from eradicating extreme poverty to building space exploration robots. Several years ago, I created a unifying purpose statement: “to make the world more happy, sustainable, and beautiful through empathy and innovation.”
Because of my derived compassion, everything - everyone’s perspectives and problems - matters to me. However, because of constraints such as time, certain issues take priority over others. A few months ago, someone close to me was diagnosed with ALS - also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. My previously wavering interest in assistive robotics and technology is now my passion. I have been working relentlessly on robotics applications so that I am able to invent and modify technologies that would make the next few years easier.
My math teacher once said, “A lot of suffering happens in this world because many, who could only do a little, decided to do nothing; a lot of good can happen when many do their ‘little’ instead.” As a problem-solver, I do my little everyday, ameliorating the world around me. Regardless of how deep I delve into my studies, there’s always enough time to lend a hand to downtrodden metalworkers or rice paddy farmers.