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A Tribute to Satish Dhawan

Satish Dhawan was the embodiment of the fusion of science and human values. His humanity is what lifted him above the ordinary, and made him a giant among pygmies and a prince among men. Whereas his talents as an engineer and craftsman were a gift of nature, his human values are within our reach to emulate. If we do so, that will be a real tribute.

Satish Dhawan’s death was un-expected because he seemed to have bounced back to reasonable health after hospitalisation three months ago. Then, without fuss, in a manner so characteristic of his life, he slipped away on January 3, 2002, “to cease upon the midnight with no pain”. A peaceful and dignified death in his own home was a truly fitting and just reward for this exceptional man.

In the days that followed, hundreds came from all walks of life and from his many associations to pay their homage. There was Ramu, his trusted ‘Jeeves’ whom he employed, befriended and encouraged. The president of India issued a condolence statement as a former colleague. The newspapers had many eulogies praising this or that aspect of the man. There were facts galore about his illustrious career. Interesting anecdotes were revealed. But sincere as all these were, the tributes could not describe the complete man. The problem was that Satish Dhawan had so many dimensions. He was a leader of missions, inspirer of subordinates, excellent teacher, genuine patriot, visionary, builder of institutions, designer of engineering facilities, experimenter par excellence, loyal and helpful friend, counsellor to the troubled, lover of children, a gifted storyteller, friend of the underprivileged, supporter of radical causes, a highly ethical person who never sacrificed principle for expediency, a man of impeccable integrity. And of course he was dearly loved within his immediate and extended family, as well as by a large circle of friends.

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