The sky, moon, stars and everything that revolves around outer space has always fascinated Sanjay Sethi, co-founder of ShopClues. Although he had a PhD offer from the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, he chose to be an entrepreneur. Why? He replies, “Astronomy is just my hobby; I never thought of it as a profession. My interest lay in theoretical astrophysics. I was always curious to find out how big the universe is, about human evolution and more. I would have been called Dr Sanjay now, but that was not what I wanted.”
It was during his college days (IIT (BHU)) that he got hold of a telescope. “I restarted the astronomy club in my college along with the help of a senior, where I was appointed the club secretary. I got the telescopes fixed and that’s how my tryst with real telescopes began!”
Sethi loves stargazing and feels it is best done with naked eyes. “In India, it is hard to get a good view because of atmospheric and light pollution. So far, the best observation has been from Maldives, amidst the Indian Ocean. Not to forget Bali, where post 2 a.m. all lights go off, it is pitch dark and a perfect setting to view the sky,” he adds.
It is not just him, but also his 12-year-old daughter who seems to have a liking for astrophysics. “Recently, I got her binoculars when I went for a short trip to the US. Now, she can get a wider field of view of the sky. As a toddler, my dad used to show me the moon to keep me quiet during the night. He also got me comic books of Flash Gordon, a superhero who travelled in space. I was fascinated by space and rocket ships and all these played an important role in nurturing my hobby in astronomy.”
That’s not all. Sethi spends time reading books on Indian mythology with his daughter. “We pick books such as Devdutt’s Mahabharata and Ramayana and try to connect them with evolution. It is very difficult for her to comprehend, but she tries to read at least five pages and we have a discussion after the reading session,” he says.
Sethi has a huge collection of audio books on astrophysics, which he plays while driving or before bedtime. It includes lectures on astrophysics, TED talks and videos on the subject. “There is science, there is religion and there is a relationship between the two. I am always trying to connect the two and find out more about different culture, traditions, evolution, which is an ongoing thing.”
During his college days, one of his papers got published in The Royal Astronomical Society, a primary research journal in astronomy and astrophysics. So, is Sethi a part of any astronomy clubs in India? “I am not a part of any formal clubs, it is not because of time constraints, but I have never thought about it. I believe astronomy is a solitary activity and is best enjoyed alone. I make it a point to visit the planetarium in whichever city I am. So far I have visited planetariums in Delhi, Allahabad, Kolkata, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and New York.” Next on his list is GMRT in Pune, where there is an array of giant radio telescopes.