Arvind Gupta, 54, Pune
For making science fun for the children of India
Arvind Gupta makes real the fantasy play that happens in every child’s mind. At the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) at Pune University, he creates teaching aids that he loves to call “toys”. His office is littered with finds from the local bazaar, garbage cans or his own house. There are broken CDs, used Tetrapaks, bicycle valves and tubes, film rolls, magnets, plastic straws, used refills of ballpoint pens, all types of paper, worn-out bathroom slippers, pins, matchsticks and matchboxes, mirrors, bangles and combs.
These form the bedrock of fundamentals in science for young students who visit IUCAA thrice a week in batches of 50. Dr Jayant Narlikar, the famous astrophysicist who set up the centre, assigned the space at IUCAA to Gupta in 2004 (until then Gupta was a teacher on the move). This year, in celebration of completing three years here, Gupta has finished uploading over 700 books for children, parents and teachers on his website, www.arvinduptatoys.com. Inaugurated by former president A P J Abdul Kalam in June 2007, the website is a treasure-trove of rare books, also translated into Hindi and Marathi by Gupta and his friends. Soon the library will also benefit the visually impaired who can read books online using screen-reading software like JAWS.
“It’s my dream to make this online library as big as www.gutenberg.com, the world’s largest online database of free books. Our focus will be on valuable literature that is out of print because publishers didn’t find it viable to print another edition,” says Gupta, who quit his job as an engineer at TELCO in the early 1970s to train rural teachers. Partners in the project were experts who had quit their respective fields to reshape the educational milieu.