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A star is born

The space scientist recalls his childhood days as he is given a hero's welcome in his hometown

Photo: M. Periasamy

A special fan Vasanthi Annadurai with her husband

What a day it is! Our first stop is the Echanari Vinayagar temple - for thanksgiving and to invoke divine blessings for the safe travel of Chandrayaan.

As the project director, Mylsamy Annadurai, exchanges pleasantries and patiently signs autographs, his proud father, A. Mylsamy, a retired headmaster says: "Everyday, we get four or five visitors to congratulate us. I named him after Annadurai (former CM of Tamil Nadu) because I wanted him to get name and fame." After a special darshan and a tasty chakkara pongal drenched in ghee, our journey resumes.

The next stop is the Municipal Boys High School, Pollachi where he studied in class IX and X. His favourite teacher, a beaming C.K. Krishnan who taught him mathematics and English says, "He was a talented student. His journey to success is an inspiration for other rural children."

In Kodhavaaday, festivity is in the air. His photographs stare out of banners. Loud speakers announce to the villagers (from some 18 villages) "He has kept aside an entire day for us. Maintain calm," as they jostle for space to get a glimpse of their `hero'. Women line up to take arathi. Garlands, shawls and bouquets pour in.

Another big fan of his is in the car, his wife Vasanthi Annadurai. Every time we spot a banner, she requests the driver, "Slow down, I want to read all those verses written about him," and her eyes scan the lines.

Adulation is the order of the day. Youngsters walk about with badges carrying his photographs and the elders are dressed up for the occasion in white cotton mundu and shirts. "En magan alla, avan oor pillai'," is what his mother M. Balasaraswathi tells the crowd, with tears rolling down her cheeks.

The `moon' man is pleasantly surprised to see his attendance register at Panchayat Union School, Kodhavaady. "It shows their love. The efforts that have gone into locating the register; those soiled sheets are 40 years old and is not a computer disc," he says.

"I thank my parents, teachers and the Kodhavaady soil for instilling values in me. It is this strong foundation that has helped me achieve everything," says Mylsamy Annadurai. He tells the youngsters to value every minute of their lives.

"Opportunities are aplenty. And, you can make many more Chandrayaans."

K. J.

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