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          A young Jayant Vishnu Narlikar in Venice (left), and with his parents (right). A snapshot from childhood (below).
and use of Mathematical, Physical and Astronomical concepts like geometry, Foucault Pendulum, Roche Lobe, etc. in its design. Statues of famous thinkers — Albert Einstein, Galileo, and Ary- abhata — dot the campus. A statue of Newton is there too, beneath a banyan tree. ‘Newton’s Apple Tree’ planted near Newton’s statue in the IUCAA campus aroused curiosity and inspiration in the scientific circles and general public. It was Prof Narlikar who brought a sap- ling — a descendant of the apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, England, the ancestral home of Sir Isaac Newton who discovered the law of gravi- tation. It has been a challenge to keep it alive in the Pune weather. The IUCAA is experimenting with grafting a Newton tree shoot onto Indian apple trees.
Prof Narlikar was the director of this institute till his retirement in 2003 and continued thereafter as Professor Emeri- tus. During his tenure, IUCAA acquired a worldwide reputation as a centre for excellence in teaching and research in astronomy and astrophysics. In 2012, the Third World Academy of Sciences awarded him the prize for setting up a centre for excellence in science.
Prof Narlikar was a president of the Cosmology Commission of the Interna- tional Astronomical Union from 1994 to 1997. He has received several national and international awards and honorary doctorates. He is a Bhatnagar awardee, as well as recipient of the M.P. Birla Award and the prestigious Prix Janssen award of the French Astronomical Soci- ety. He is an Associate of the Royal As- tronomical Society of London and a fel-
low of the three Indian national science academies as well as of the Third World Academy of Sciences. Even at the age of 83, he has accepted to be the president of the 94th Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sah- itya Sammelan, to be organised this year.
It is worth mentioning his personal- ity attributes here, one of which I ex- perienced during my stay at IUCAA. It was the National Science Day when Prof Narlikar delivered a popular sci- ence talk. As he ended his lecture, a huge crowd of students gathered to have his autograph. Prof Narlikar went back to the stage and announced, “Whosoever wants the autograph, will have to write
Once when people surrounded Prof Narlikar seeking his autograph, he asked all to send him a science question and he would reply with the answer and his signature!
a question on science and send it to me and I will reply it with my signature!”. In another incident, a group of organisers from Pune approached him to be the chief guest of an inaugural function. Listening to that, he categorically men- tioned, “I don’t attend any function as a chief guest, however, if you can ask me to deliver a lecture, then I may think”. Even today, he strictly follows this principle.
Prof Narlikar expanded the hori- zon of his expertise beyond the field of astronomy and astrophysics. He was part of the new space research in asso- ciation with ISRO in 1999, wherein he was heading a multi-institutional team of scientists to collect and diagnose the sample air collected from 41 km above the Earth from stratosphere. It was to test and verify the evidence of life on earth through microorganisms coming from outer space. The biological stud- ies of the samples collected in 2001 and 2005 led to the findings of live cells and bacteria, thus opening an intriguing possibility that the Earth is being bom- barded by microorganisms and some of which might have seeded life on Earth! This needs more exploration and studies.
I consider myself very lucky to get his guidance during my MSc and PhD period (1998 to 2004) at IUCAA. He encouraged me to contribute for develop- ment of scientific temper and popularisa- tion of science among the people. I wish my guru – a living legend — a long, ac- tive, and healthy life. His words and his work will continue to inspire the future generations of India.
* The writer is Scientist ‘F’ at Vigyan Prasar, NOIDA.
        Images Courtesy: Dr Arvind C Ranade

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