A 63-year-old man arrived here to participate in the first India International Science Fair (IISF) on Monday, using a self-developed solar electric-powered car to cover 3,000 km from Bangalore to Delhi.
It took Syed Sajjan Ahmed 30 days to cover the arduous journey, that included crossing the Vindhyas. Born in Kolar, 70 km from Bangalore, the Class 12 dropout, says he began his career as a fruit vendor and went on to set up a shop for electronics repair.
His work included assembly of electronic goods, starting off with transistors, tape recorders and television sets and antennae. Later, he moved on to computers before attempting to realise his childhood dream to do something for society.
"I had to leave school at 15 to start earning for the family. But the fire to create something that would be of use to humanity kept burning within me." The break came in 2002. "I told myself that I am 50 now and I must do something before I become too old and infirm."
Ahmed started by modifying a two-wheeler to run on electric power and then a three-wheeler and later a four-wheeler. He bagged the Karnataka government's award for environment protection, instituted in honour of former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, in 2006 for his innovation.
Participating in December 4-8 IISF at IIT-Delhi campus, Ahmed said the modified car is equipped with a set of five solar panels, each with a capacity of 100 watts. The power generated by the panels propels the machine through a bank of six batteries, each with a capacity of 12 volts and 100 amps.
He takes pride that his small car withstood the test of the 3,000 km trek. "There were times when we thought we would not be able to take the steep climbs on the Ghat roads. But, it crossed all the hurdles without much trouble," he said.
Ahmed says he has travelled 1.1 lakh km in his 'four-wheeler' across the country so far. He is accompanied by a cousin, Salim Pasha, who travels in a regular car alongside. Both started their journey to Delhi from Raj Bhavan in Bangalore on November 1.
On Monday, Ahmed explained about his car to union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan, who inaugurated the Expo. Ahmed, who says his vehicle costs around one lakh rupees at present, would now be driving from Delhi to Dr. Kalam's hometown Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu.
"I wanted to make this journey an adventure and I have driven this vehicle 40,000 km for 10 years and I am going to keep this caravan moving and go to Rameshwaram and spread the message all over India," Ahmed said.
He will return to Bengaluru via Kanyakumari. "Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is the inspiration to the whole of India but more to me. It is a journey for change to inspire, ignite, innovate, and educate the public, especially students, about Dr Kalam's Vision 2020 for uplifting the country," he added.