A tribal boy from Maharashtra becomes a scientist in the US

From struggling to get a square meal as a child in a remote village in Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, to becoming a senior scientist in the United States, Bhaskar Halami’s life is an example of what hard work can achieve and determination.

Raised in a tribal community of Chirchadi village in Kurkheda tehsil, Halami is now a senior scientist in the research and development section of Sirnaomics Inc, a biopharmaceutical company in Maryland, USA.

The company conducts research in genetic medicines, and Halami is responsible for the manufacture and synthesis of RNA.

Halami’s journey to becoming a successful scientist has been full of obstacles and has had many firsts to his name.

He was the first science graduate from Chirchadi and the first from the village to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D.

Speaking to PTI, Halami recalled that in the early years of his childhood, his family survived on very little.

“We had to fight so hard to get even a square meal. My parents until recently wondered how the family survived that phase when there was no food and no work,” said the 44-year-old scientist.

Some months of the year, especially the monsoons, were incredibly hard, as there were no crops on the family’s small farm and no work, he said.

“We cooked mahua flowers, which were not easy to eat and digest. We collect parsod (wild rice) and cook rice flour in water (ambil) and drink it to fill our stomachs. It was not just us, but 90% of the village had to survive this way,” Halami said.

Chirchadi hosts between 400 and 500 families. Halami’s parents worked as domestic helpers in the village, as the produce from their small farm was not enough to feed the family.

Things got better when Halami’s father, who had studied up to class 7, came to know about a job opening in a school in Kasansur tehsil over 100 km away and reached the place taking all the means of transport available.

“My mother had no way of knowing if my father had arrived at the site. We only found out about him when he returned to our village three or four months later. He had got a job as a cook at the school in Kasansur, where we later shifted,” Halami said.

Halami did his early education from classes 1 to 4 at an ashram school in Kasansur, and after passing a scholarship examination, he studied at the Government Vidyaniketan Kelapur in Yavatmal till class 10.

“My father understood the value of education and made sure my siblings and I finished our educations,” she said.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in science from a university in Gadchiroli, Halami earned his master’s degree in chemistry from the Nagpur Institute of Science.

In 2003, Halami was appointed as an Assistant Professor at the prestigious Laxminarayan Institute of Technology (LIT) in Nagpur.

While clearing the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) exam, Halami focused on research and pursued his PhD in the US and chose DNA and RNA for his research, anticipating- there is great potential.

Halami received his PhD from Michigan Technological University.

Top Researcher now receives at least a couple of emails each week from recruiters looking for talent in the DNA/RNA field.

Halami gives credit for his success to his parents, who worked hard and contributed their meager income to his education.

Halami has built a house for his family in Chirchadi, where his parents wanted to live. He lost his father a few years ago.

The researcher was recently felicitated by Additional State Tribal Development Commissioner Ravindra Thakre in Gadchiroli.

The tribal development department launched its program ‘A Tea with Tribal Celebrity’, with Halami as the first celebrity.

Thakre also invited the scientist as a guest at a tribal hostel in Nagpur, where the latter provided guidance to the students.

During his travels in India, Halami visits schools, ashram schools, universities and even meets students in their homes to advise them on careers and ways to achieve their goals.

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