Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Curious Case of Choosing Sriharikota (SHAR)

I was myself surprised by my determination to choose Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) or SHAR as it is popularly known, over the more preferred Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) or Liquid Propulsion System Centre (LPSC). It was not a decision taken impulsively, as many of my friends thought. The purpose of writing this article is to put forward my views on working in SHAR to my friends and juniors, who have been questioning the sanity of my mind.
For those who don't know, SHAR is the rocket launching centre of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). According to Wikipedia, some 358 launches have taken place from there (included sounding rockets too) till date. The activities that are carried out in SHAR presently include launch vehicle integration and assembly, production of solid propellant rocket boosters, ground and environment verification of rocket motors, liquid propellants and cryogenic propellant storage and servicing facilities, tracking and tele-command stations, real-time data processing and range and safety. Academic research is not carried out there, but it is the large scale engineering, that attracted me. And as for research, none of the ISRO centres actually do research. What they do can be possibly explained as analysis job on already done research.
Now everyone knew the fact that VSSC despite being the largest centre had very limited seats. For us (Aerospace), there were only 13 seats. This created an atmosphere of confusion, as we all had expected that more than half the students of our class will be absorbed there. A few of us had asked our previous guides about the division wise vacancies, and came to know that only a few seats (2-3) seats are in the core Aerodynamics area. This was a rude shock for most of us, and further deepened our suspicions that other than the top few people, others might be sent to dreaded divisions like quality, reliability, RFF, etc.! The unwillingness to divulge division wise vacancy details further propagated this fear. With 15 seats available in ISAC, Bangalore, people opted to play safe and choose ISAC over VSSC (yes, aerospace people wanted to actually work! ;) ). Although very minimal work goes on in ISAC for aerospace people, still it was given higher preference as their was no point in doing a job that you weren't interested in the city which you have been abusing since the last 4 years.
Now came the case of LPSC. I did my final year project there in a division called Propulsion Research and Studies (PRS) and had done my first internship in the same division 2 years back. There by I knew everyone there and vice-versa. Had I chosen LPSC, I would have gladly got the division of my choice there. But I didn't want to keep doing the same job and see the same faces for the next few years too. Also, my intention is to prepare for GRE which I wish to give next year. If I had chosen LPSC, I was sure that I wouldn't have got enough time to even breathe freely (the travel time from city and the immense workload there). Moreover, by working in the same area repeatedly, I would have initiated my own cubicalization at an early stage of my career.
At SHAR, which is the second biggest centre of ISRO after VSSC, I will be doing something which I have never done or read about. That! I do plan to leave ISRO, like many of my colleagues and friends. SHAR got my attention due to the immense scope it beholds, specially in the light of the project for development of the heavy third launch pad for GSLV MK-III, which is going to start from next month. This launch pad is to be built keeping the requirement of the human spaceflight program in mind. Since the number of engineers working in SHAR are less, all of them have to be involved during launch and big projects as this. This is an advantage that VSSC or any such centre lacks, where you can continue to work in a certain division for your entire life, be a master at it and yet do not know simple details of the other subsystems related to rocket science! Working at SHAR, I will need to know and understand the details of interaction of all the systems when integrated together, i.e., do the work of a system engineer. Such an opportunity would have taken ages to come had I chosen other ISRO centres. And as far as my preparation for further study is concerned, I will have ample amount of time when there is no launch due to lack of activity there. Hence, I get the opportunity to learn something new as well study by choosing SHAR. Also, it keeps my options open for either MBA or MS after maybe 2 years of work experience. Since the work at SHAR is project based, engineers are encouraged to go for MBA too, unlike in other ISRO centres. The last point that struck me was that if I did want to continue in ISRO for some reason in the future, then being in projects from an early stage helps in your career at ISRO. And if I left, the work experience at SHAR will only add to my value in private aerospace industry. I came to know many of these details from the father of a friend, who works at SHAR as Scientist-G. Had these things been told to people beforehand, I am sure some of my friends would have considered it an option.
The only drawback of SHAR is maybe its location. But I had the advantage of family, as my brother and sister in law live in Chennai, which is some 80 odd kilometers from SHAR. It takes only 1.5-2 hours from SHAR to Chennai (same time as valiamala to trivandrum city) because of the four lane NH-5 that connects the two places. And considering the social life, I think it depends on person to person whether he can adjust in such a place. A city life does not guarantee that one will not be lonely. My monetary savings for future studies will also be higher by working in SHAR as there isn't much to spend on there :) So whoever thought that I have made a mistake can bite their nails, because I believe that it was worth taking a risk. Things can go terribly wrong, but I am prepared for that. I hope after all these arguments, people will stop raising eyebrows at the mention of my future workplace!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Secret Crush

I once had a secret crush,
that people said must be lust
Dark Hair, hazel eyes
with a radiant smile that spoke a thousand lies.

This crush just won't leave me,
I thought maybe one day, the feelings will be free
I wanted to make her understand,
I wanted her to be my woman.

You have no idea; you have no clue,
just how much I have thought about you
I hope that one day you will be able to see
I had loved you unconditionally.

Give me a hint, just one little clue
To let me know why I still have a crush on you,
I will never forget you no way, not now
because I know we'll be together some way...and some how!

P.S. This poem has no reference whatsoever to any person living or dead! :P