Wednesday, July 23: The settlement of Watapora in Bandipora, north Kashmir, is recognised for generating numerous notable individuals, but one of them stands out with the moniker “Newton.” This guy has been motivated by creativity and curiosity for more than six decades, producing amazing discoveries across several industries.
For his creations, 63-year-old Mohammad Ismail Mir has garnered praise from people all throughout the valley. Ismail, a school dropout who founded a radio station, was given the moniker “Newton” by his instructor because of his creative thinking and intense interest in Newton’s principles.
When he established a radio station in his hamlet in the 1970s, he astounded his neighbours and classmates. “I used to argue and converse about Newton’s laws in class, and then my instructor began referring to me as Newton. I’ve been going by this moniker ever since, says Ismail.
Ismail, a self-taught engineer and electrician, became fascinated with electricity and mechanics at the age of 7. He would play with the electrical cables and other stuff that his grandpa, an electrician, had kept in the attic for him for hours at a time. “I was interested in everything, whether inside or outdoors. How they operated has always intrigued me.
He visited Srinagar with his father when he was 8 years old and came across a magazine in a store. When he approached the store for it, he was told that a subscription was necessary and that it was only for engineering students. With persistence, Ismail was able to get the “Electra” magazine. I was unable to fully comprehend the book, but I was able to study and practise the circuits and schematics at home.
Ismail had already acquired a passion for books as he got older and had ordered them from other locations. To pay for his schooling and books, he also worked as an electrician and mechanic. He also had a keen interest in physics and created or came up with new ideas while still in school. However, his abilities became a barrier to seeking further education. I received teasing and reprimands from several instructors, who barred me from class. I too had a negative ITI experience where the teacher was so irate that he deleted all of my data. Ismail says that he had another Hindu buddy who also had the same outcome.
Ismail continued to develop his inventions while earning a career as a mechanic and electrician. He created a brushless motor as one of his creations in 1983. Ismail claims that they are widely available these days. However, he didn’t get much praise or support for his efforts; instead, several businesses in the market took advantage of his abilities. “One of the businesses employed me as a ‘engineer’. They had offices in South Kashmir, Baramulla, and Srinagar. Ismail claims he made a respectable income, which he used to support his family and purchase components for his inventions.
In the 1980s, he also created the electric and infrared remotes, which were unknown to others around him. He created a completely automated digital lantern in 2010. The radio station owned by Ismail had to be shut down 15 days after it began broadcasting in 1978. It grabbed the attention of security personnel and had a 3 km range. “They considered it a security threat and asked me to close it down, so I complied,” Ismail says.
Since FM radios were not yet available, he claims that it was an AM radio. Ismail later started his own shop in Bandipora Market, but he never lost his love for innovation. Ismail thought it was time to take a break from business and innovations but the story had to continue.
Ismail was prepared for the situation by the time COVID attacked. He felt the need to do his part, as ventilators and oxygen concentrators were in short supply for the patients suffering from the virus. He used his skills and resources to create a sanitiser dispenser based on the LDR, a disinfectant tunnel, and a ventilator. He also made an oxygen concentrator that drew attention and praise from different quarters. “Many people appreciated me and came to see my innovation for the concentrator. Even an NIT forum in Srinagar awarded me cash and certificates for the same. They also gifted me a laser, a 3D printer, and a router,” he says.
Ismail says he is currently working on multiple projects and has submitted nine innovations to the Science and Technology department. He also has some ongoing collaborations with NIT, where he has to work on three to four innovations. He was also inspired to innovate with Kangri (the firepot), which he did. “My version is multifunctional; it prevents spilling and also boils water,” he says.
Ismail is generous with his workshop and offers it to anyone who wants to innovate and bring their ideas to life. He says, “Ideas are what matter, and for those students who need help in making them a reality, my workstation is open all the time.” He also assures them that their ideas will be safe and not copied or stolen, which he says has happened to many, including him.