Shillong, Sept 1: The country is euphoric over the successful launch of Chandrayaan-3. The occasion is also to remember Vikram Sarabhai, known as the father of Indian space research.
In May-June,1927, Vikram Sarabhai stayed in Shillong with his parents. He was eight-year-old then.
Vikram’s father Ambalal Sarabhai was a businessman from Gujarat and an admirer and friend of Rabindranath Tagore.
On his request, Tagore visited Shillong in 1927 summer as Ambalal had rented two adjacent houses at Upland Road, Laitumkrah in the city.
Solomon Villa (Sidli House) was given to Tagore who stayed with Pratima Devi, Nandini and others while in another adjacent bungalow, Ambalal stayed with his family.
Pratima Devi and the ladies of Sarabhai family learnt Manipuri dance during their stay in Upland road. Children of Sarabhai were regular visitors to Tagore and his family at Solomon Villa then.
History was physically erased when the new owner of Solomon Villa demolished the heritage building, including a plaque installed in 1961 which mentioned the contribution of Tagore, to give way for a modern concrete building which stands at Upland Road.
The family of Sarabhai had close connection with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his family. The Sarabhai family used to visit Kelsal Lodge at Oakland, Shillong to meet Bose and his family in 1927. Bose was 30 years old then. He came to Shillong to recover from his ill health after he was released from Insein Jail at Myanmar (Burma).
The Kelsal Lodge is currently occupied by a top official of the BSNL
A photograph of Sarabhai’s family and Bose’s family is preserved at Netaji Bhavan, Kolkata. In the picture,Vikram Sarabhai is seen (encircled) standing middle close to Netaji.
The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, (VSSC), known after his name is the base for ISRO. The vikaram lander was also named after him.
The information on the stay of Sarabhai in the city is from the book, “Their Footprints Our Pride” and ‘Rabindranath Abong Sailabash Shillong’ authored by Malabika Bisharad, who has petitioned the state arts and culture functionaries to preserve the heritage buildings in the city considering their historical value.