CHAPTER – I
My tryst with technology…
I was not a popular kid at school. I was constantly bullied and humiliated because of my peculiarities like playing with Barbie dolls or because pink was my favorite color.
Because I had no friends, I made friends with my radio. One fine day out of sheer loneliness, I started talking to this radio. Then my fridge, tape recorder, study lamp and computer! From then, Day after day, I began to share with them all my days’ events, my biggest dreams and my deepest secrets.
As days passed, I wanted to know their secrets too, their stories. So I took a screwdriver from my father’s toolbox and opened up every appliance to see what was on their inside. What was inside fascinated me more than anything in this world. In fact, that was when I created myself a whole new world of PCBs, circuits and amplifiers. And my screw driver, (his name is Tony), became the key to my new world, my first best friend! I finally found a whole new world with all the electronic components. I was 5 years old.
Being a tech geek gave me lots of opportunities to play mischief. I put electronic jammers on automatic doors so the doors wouldn’t open. I used to sneak crackers into the school and set them on fire. My dad put me in a hostel in Aurangabad.
I used to get homesick all the time in Aurangabad, so I frequently travelled home. I never took a straight route to my city while travelling. I used to take detours to small villages and towns along the way just for the fun of it. On one such adventure, my bus stopped in Latur district. A boy of around 10 years got on the bus to sell something. I was drinking water in my water bottle and the boy started staring at me with a miserable face. I accidentally dropped my water bottle just then and spilled the water all over the floor. The boy saw this and was whimpered. When asked why, he told me that they barely had any water to drink at home and to see water getting wasted like that saddened him. That is when the deplorable drought conditions in the district of lathur hit me. I realized then, that all the technology and innovation I’ve been using for all the monkey business can actually be put to a much greater and noble use of solving problems of people around me. I decided to do something to make water available to everyone.
This is when I conceived the idea of getting water out of moisture in thin air. I called the project ‘Dewdrop’. It works on a basic procedure of sucking moisture out of thin air and passing it through chilled aluminum coils to trigger condensation. One break-through alteration in the coils is to improve its efficiency by coating it with an atomic layer of Graphene. So dewdrop is essentially a ‘smart and functional’ water bottle that can fill and refill itself. Four years later, I got a patent for this project and it was covered by over 250 news channels around the world as one of the best innovations.
My next call from the universe to solve a problem came when I was sitting in a café with a couple of friends. I noticed an elderly man of around 75years trying to catch the attention of the waiter to order something and failing to do so. It upset me greatly to see someone who has seen so much in life, sitting there helpless to get something as trivial as coffee. That is when I decide to work on making the lives of older people easier. I figured out that if I could try and tap the EEG waves of the human brain and then make a pattern out of their frequencies, I would be able to digitalize their thoughts and decisions! So if a person thinks of having some tea, the electrodes can detect the frequency and associate it with ‘wanting tea’, so the message will be sent to the server to order some tea. However, the problem here would be that not all people emit same frequency for wanting tea. So there has to be some universal code to get this right. I was looking for something every person in the world would look at and think the same thing! And the answer was color! Every person in every corner of the world would look at red color and think of it as red color and nothing else! So I associated the human commands with different colors. So when you want tea, you think green and your order is placed!
“You don’t have to spend days in solitude, cracking your brains open, to come up with miracles that can disrupt nations. Be an observer. Be an absolute observer of surroundings and you have the whole world showing what needs to be corrected”
So now that I have addressed some significant needs in health care, clean energy and water resource management fields, the next sector I identified that was in a dire need of a technology was agriculture. It was when I was still living in Maharashtra and farmer suicides were making headlines every day. When I observed the way the soya bean plants are being tended to in my backyard, I saw that there was a complete imbalance in demand and supply. I comprehended that like any other living things, plants also needed manure and water in certain fixed proportions and anything more or less than that is an improper plant diet. So I started working on a device called ‘Agritech’ that would monitor soil health. I put sensors to measure parameters like moisture in the soil, temperature, humidity in atmosphere and certain elements like phosphorous and nitrogen. I designed an algorithm for the whole process. I interfaced all these parameters with a micro controller and a water pump for water and a solenoid for manure. In about a month I observed that the soy bean production of these few plants multiplied by 10 times!
With all these innovations and my experiences that led to these innovations, I realized that what has once been my biggest monster has become my greatest gift! Being lonely isn’t bad after all. It was this loneliness that made me look around, observe and identify the needs of people. It was this loneliness that made me empathize with their problems and drove me to help them better their conditions. In fact, with imagination, one can never be truly lonely.
CHAPTER – II
Jawwad Patel- I keep a Record of the Criticism I Get
By- Mr. Harimohan Paruvu
Harimohan Paruvu is an Indian author, former cricketer, columnist, screenwriter and motivational speaker, known for his English-language books centered on the game of Cricket.
22 year old Jawwad Patel is a serial innovator. He has not graduated yet, he is studying his final year engineering, but has some 2000 innovations and 2 patents (Dew Drop and Smart Helmet). He is also nominated to the ‘Young Scientist Award’ I hear. I met Jawwad at the recent TEDx event held at VNR VJIET.
His story is fascinating. As a young child who preferred to play with Barbie dolls (in pink) he found he was shunned by boys his age. In his loneliness he started talking to a screw driver which he named Tony. He named all the gadgets in his room something or the other – the fan, the phone, the light etc and started talking to them – he made friends with them. In his loneliness he shared many secrets with the gadgets and was one day struck by this thought. ‘Maybe I should know their secrets too,’ eh thought and used Tony the screwdriver to open them up.
Inside the gadgets he found many secrets that led him to understand technology really well. He would find problems – like controlling the temperature of the output from geyser (not scalding hot, not too cold but just right from drop one), putting a toaster on or even the geyser on from his bed instead of going to the switch etc. His exploits also led to a healthy dose of mischief at school which earned him many yellow cards (they had a system of yellow cards like in soccer).
His father put him in a school in Aurangabad (away from his home) and Jawwad would eventually wind his way back to home through a circuitous route. One fine day, in Latur perhaps, he found a young kid selling samosas looking at his water bottle. When Jawwad dropped the water by mistake the boy started to cry. Jawwad asked him why he was crying and the boy said he was from Latur where there was a drought and there was severe shortage of water. Moved by the child’s problem Jawwad decided to use his mind to do something really useful. He put together a gadget called ‘Dewdrop’ which can produce 1.86 litres of water in one hour out of thin air. The investment in his invention is Rs. 2000. Many such ideas of his have been based on serious problems and most concern human equality, dignity. He has an empathetic soul and really feels for the people.
One thing he told me while we chatted was that he has been at the receiving end of criticism and even threats at times. ‘But I keep a record of all the criticism I get,’ he confessed. ‘If its over mail I take a screenshot and file it. I look at it every now and then.’
Wow! That must be some motivation. To see that criticism and to prove the critics right is probably as much motivation as one can get. I haven’t seen too many people do this – we somehow prefer the nice parts but if you want to grow in a hurry there is no time to be soft. Go for it.
I love Jawwad’s technique and I am seriously considering filing all the criticism and knock each one off. I do believe this is perhaps the best motivation if you have the stomach for it. Like Frank Bettgar who said in his book ‘How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling’ that he vowed to be the most enthusiastic player and the most enthusiastic salesman once he got feedback that he lacked, energy, ambition and enthusiasm. And voila, those went out of the window and he got loads of success thanks to that.
Jawwad is such an affable young man who bowled me over with his empathy to people (which drives his inventions), his lack of arrogance and his total lack of any defence mechanisms. ‘Sir, can i say this?’ he asked with complete child-like innocence. I told him – just go and tell your story, forget about how. We’re all here to listen to that. And tell he did in such a fashion that he got a rousing applause.
But this post is for this one important insight – that we can seek criticism, look at it in the eye and knock it over instead of flinching or hiding from it.
CHAPTER – III
My First Date!