Thiruvananthapuram: Saji Thomas is 45 years old from Kerala and, while God did not give him the faculties of speech and hearing, he was given the talent of a different kind: after five years of effort he has built a small aircraft - all on his own - but now yearns for a full-time job.
His wife Maria said that they have been married for 14 years and right from the time they became husband and wife, all that she saw was her husband busy tinkering with small motors and machines she didn't have a clue about.
"Initially I tried my best to dissuade him to get work as an electrician, but when I found all my efforts were in vain, I decided to support him in all his endeavours. Today the entire village (near Thodupuzha in Idukki district) is steadfastly behind him as he built a twinseater ultralight aircraft, which has been filmed by the Discovery Channel," Maria told IANS.
Saji has studied only till class 7 and has always been hooked on to electrical gadgets and their repairs.
"The first thing he built was the frame of an helicopter. He got in touch with (former prime minister) Rajiv Gandhi, seeking money to buy an engine for it. It did not materialise because Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated (In May 1991). Then his interest shifted to building an aircraft and after five years of hard work, he fitted the small aircraft with the engine of a two-wheeler. Later it was given to a college nearby and they still use it to teach their students," Maria explained.
She said he then began work on this now successful two-seater and sourced all the materials from Bangalore.
"After a marathon five years of work, last year in April, it was taken to a private airline academy in Ambasamudram near Madurai. Since this aircraft has no licence nor does Saji have a licence to fly aircraft, he could fly it for a few minutes there. Later the chief instructor, a retired air force officer, also flew it for a few minutes. The aircraft flew only at a height of 20 feet as the rules are very strict," added Maria.
Today the couple is still hoping that the government will support Saji, who has performed this engineering marvel sans any qualifications.
"We see the present programme of Discovery Channel which has filmed his efforts as an eye-opener and it is expected to be aired soon. Our only wish is my husband gets a job, a stable monthly job as by now he has sold a portion of our land to complete this aircraft. We do not have a proper house even and we live in a small two-room home which was built with the help of the local village council in 2001," said Maria.
The couple has a 13-year-old son, Joshua, who is now the main support technician.
"For this aircraft we spent Rs.13 lakh and it was completed only after we sold a portion of our land. In all, Saji has spent Rs.25 lakh for his expensive hobby in the past more than 15 years. Now, we wish the authorities support him with a stable job. He 'says' to me he wishes he gets a job, so there is a stable income as he has proved his mettle. We wish the authorities are watching and hearing us," said Maria, her voice breaking down.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)