INDIA: Many of us are still going through a tough time this year. Every crisis brings challenges and threats to creative writers. Many aspects of private and public life had to be moved online. Creative writers were not an exception. They had to start adapting their activities online. However, not everything could be solved conveniently online. This is how Indian Engineer Niloy Chattaraj has taken COVID-19 Pandemic positively to redefine the era of journalism.
Niloy was born in a family that was solely dedicated to humanitarian works for a long time. His father, Atanu Chattaraj, was a Senior railway employee and his mother, Chhabi Chattaraj, was a house-wife and a social-worker. Niloy’s father was a ‘Common Man’s Leader’. Throughout his life, he fought for the laborers’ rights. He had to suffer a lot because of this. His father’s scientific attitude towards life made a great impact on Niloy’s pursuit of scientific knowledge. In his childhood, he was developing a passion for science on one hand and developed compassion by seeing his own two sisters’ sufferings as they were both handicapped since their birth. Talking to Transcontinental Times, Niloy said, “Since childhood, I have decided not to leave my sisters and home for any government or big private services. I was determined to be with my sisters lifelong which I maintained till they both breathed their last.
Undying love for Science and Cricket
From his early childhood, Niloy was averse to going to school. He preferred to be sitting either in the home or on the ground playing cricket.
While talking about his favorite game, he said, “Cricket was my ultimate pleasure besides the passion for reading. I used to play cricket throughout the entire day inviting the ire of my mother.”
Niloy’s mother wasn’t very supportive of him playing cricket every day. She believed that playing outside all day long could hamper his studies. But, Niloy was protected by his aunt Archana Sarkar who played a significant role in his intellectual development. Growing up, schools were the last thing in Niloy’s mind. His interest in school books was scanty.”I enjoyed reading books that were out-of-school syllabus. I understood a lot of scientific principles while playing cricket.” At an early age, his father introduced him to the works of scientists like Newton, Einstein, Faraday on one hand, and told him the stories of Tagore, Munshi Premchand, Sharat Chandra Chatterjee, Bernard Shaw, and Karl Marx. It created a lot of questions on Niloy’s young mind. In 1986, he failed his matriculation exam. “I was disappointed at that time and suddenly I realized the futility of schooling,” he told. Niloy’s father did not lose hope in him and encouraged him to reappear in the exam. On the second attempt, he passed his matriculation exam. The intermediate examination was even tougher for him. Due to his lack of interest in conventional education, Niloy somehow managed to pass this examination.
Diploma in Engineering and first encounter with Black Hole
While pursuing a three-year course in engineering at Vivekanand Polytechnic Sitasaongi, he read the book ‘The Brief History of Time’ by world-famous scientist Stephen Hawking. That book changed the entire course of his life. Niloy got attracted towards astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology in general and black Hole in particular.”After completing my three-year diploma in electronics, when I joined a degree college at Gondia, I stumbled upon a huge library of the college. I discovered Richard Feynman’s books and suddenly I got the answers to a lot of questions that were perplexing my mind since childhood.”
Niloy left the degree college without completing it and pursued his passion for astronomy and astrophysics.
The mathematics for understanding the origin of the universe was very complicated and Niloy learned all this by himself. During that period he used to discuss his philosophical questions with his friends. One of his friends, Gajanan Shukla, was very influential in his philosophical thinking. “We jokingly called it Sand University where we used to sit on the sand and debated for hours under the night sky,” he told. After dedicating his entire time to Astronomy, he wrote a series of letters to Stephen Hawking about his flaws in the Black Hole theory. Niloy discussed these flaws with a lot of renowned scientists and experts but they were adamant and said that Hawking could not be doubted. It took almost ten years for Hawking for admitting his mistakes. Finally, in 2004, the local newspaper flashed the story of Niloy’s scientific adventure.
Degree at last
Meanwhile, Niloy had joined Vivekanand Polytechnic, a local engineering institute, as an assistant lecturer. His way of teaching attracted many students to him. Soon, he made a lot of adversaries who were jealous of his meteoric rise and began to point his academic shortcoming of not being a degree holder. That propelled Niloy to appear for Bachelor’s degree in engineering. Niloy not only topped the University, but he was also awarded two gold medals, one from MIT Pune and the other from Bapurao Deshmukh Engineering College Sangali, Maharashtra. He also received an appreciation letter from Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund (JNMF), which was signed by the All-India Congress Committee President Sonia Gandhi. Soon, Niloy also got a diploma in Cosmology from the California Institute of Technology.
Journalism: A new innings of life with Transcontinental Times
Niloy lost his sisters back-to-back in 2013 and 2015. He was completely shattered after losing his beloved sisters. “It was a huge loss for me. I had lost my father in 2000. I was more emotionally shattered and suddenly, I lost my interest in life,” he told.
His better-half, Archita couldn’t see Niloy suffering every day as he was distancing himself from everything and everyone. So, she shifted to Nagpur with the entire family. She was sharp enough to take him out of his grief. However, quitting everything and restarting a new life was tough. A ‘difficult decision’ had to be made. So, Niloy quit his job and resigned from Head of the Department of the Computer branch. Five years of isolation and reading a lot of books inspired Niloy to write. Making good use of his time, he also completed the five-week course on Journalism from Pennsylvania University, America.
Niloy’s student Roshan Bhondekar, CEO of Transcontinental Times, approached Niloy for writing, he gleefully accepted the offer of the post of senior journalist and Director of Asia. His whole learning of life took a shape in writing. Niloy believes that journalism needs to be redefined.”I want to tell the story to my readers in a simple way. Most of the scientific and other writings are obscure and lack clarity.” He has covered almost every area of journalism, be it in science, social issues, history, politics, sports, or travel. Niloy has written many articles on consciousness, parallel universes, solar spots, and COVID-19. His way of writing is drawing readers from all across the world. Niloy has taken interviews of many eminent scientists Lawrence Krauss, Jonathan Crabtree. He is continuing his research in Cosmology and his passion for writing is growing day by day.
Talking about this, he said, “I aim to understand some complexities of the Universe and life, and to tell my readers these complexities in simple words. As I have learnt about the purpose of life from my favorite Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan and being an avid devotee of Lord Hanuman.”