The Interstellar Swashbuckler

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CAN ANY office reflect the energy of a man who, at age 80, sails the high seas in boats he has designed himself?

Venkatraman Radhakrishnan
Venkatraman Radhakrishnan
Age: 80
Profession: Radio astronomer and Professor Emeritus at Raman Research Institute
Trips fantastic: He and a three-man crew sailed from Mumbai to Aden (Yemen) in 2007. Right now, sailing a catamaran from Aden to Cochin Photo: Roy Sinai

Prof Venkatraman Radhakrishnan, or ‘Rad’ as he is most famously known, is a highly distinguished radio astronomer, with a cult following – he enticed many scientists away from their fields to radio astronomy and astrophysics. But Rad’s chronicle of true loves is not one of science. Eldemer, the catamaran that Rad conceptualised, designed and built in 2006 is on the first page. Years ago, he had delayed taking up a prestigious university position by a year because he was crossing the Pacific. If things go according to plan, a round-the-world trip is on the cards. A postcard on the office tack board signals another love. The postcard was RK Laxman’s parting gift for a ride in Rad’s powered hang glider. As stories go, Rad has an equally wild one to share about his trysts with microlight design and flying. Rad has held a pilot’s license for the US for 45 years. The Indian authorities claimed he failed his exam. When an amused Rad asked for his answer paper, they refused. The authorities did not think that the man who designed hang gliders was qualified to fly it! Hitches may have cropped up but the man who dismisses his distinguished career as a way of making enough money to pursue his loves is not easily deterred.

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