I am going to be honest in this blog, this will show you how holding on to something, and taking a tiny step every once in a while is the key to success for anything. I am going to tell you my story of Astronomy, and how, despite years of apparent inactivity, I kept on building my inner interest, kept on reading, and when i finally met people who were experts at it, they thought I was one of their own!
This is the story of how I got interested in Astronomy and how I ended up being the General Secretary of Pak Astronomers Islamabad (www.PakAstronomers.com) and how I am now starting up a new business targeting people just like myself. People who would rather look up at the sky! People who want to have ambitions and people who want to do more!
This goes back all the way to when I was perhaps in 4th or 5th Grade. Now those of you who know me well, know that I have always been close to my siblings. Back then almost everything I knew was because of my elder brother. One day he brought me a book. The book was about Star Charts, and how to identify objects in the night sky. It was summer, and I was really lucky what was I could think of, i'd spent entire nights or as late as our mother would allow me, looking up at the stars and trying to identify them. Well I did not get too far as you can imagine. A 10 year old, trying to figure our the night sky with star charts, and that too on his own. But I did recognize the big dipper, I learned what the north-star was and how to spot it using the big dipper in the northern hemisphere. I even learned the names of some stars, like Sirus, Vega and the Orion Belt. This was all due to one book! I just assumed that everyone knew a little about stars. It would be decades later that I would realize just how advanced my knowledge was just because my elder bro gifted me a book. I didn't keep it safe. Somehow, somewhere I misplaced it. I just don't know where that book went. But I can remember some pages it from memory and that is all that is important to me.
Then years later it was when I was doing my BBA that during some classes I would use my knowledge of the stars and star charts, and the entire class would learn of my passion. The most defining memory I have is when I was on a trip to the Northern areas with some of my friends. We came across another group, who were staying at the same place. So as we were talking about the night sky, one of the boys from the other group said something incorrect. I told them a little about what it was and I didn't even think twice about it. Later on, weeks after that trip, one of my friends, who is a NAVY officer now, said to me. That boy went from "I know better" to "Jee bhai" as in "Yes Sir" in less than 3 minutes!
That is the first instance of me realizing that I am actually good at astronomy. During this time, that is from school to my undergrad, I had developed a habit of watching shows. I had already watched shows like "How its made" and almost everything I could get my hands on. My interest had me hooked, and during school I remember reading a book by Carl Sagan. Then came the job years. I lost interest pretty much.
Fast forward to 2013, I am in Karachi and I find out about the Karachi Astronomy Society, and now I have made new friends in the really busy and bustling city of Karachi. I decide to go to their events. I fail to go there actually, plan it many times, but during your MBA studies, one hardly get any time. So I am there in Karachi for 2 years. One day, when visiting the Sunday market, I come across a hand held monocular for sale in on of the "second hand or hand me down" market areas. The price tag is something like $10, or around PKR 1000. That is the first dedicated astronomy equipment I ever get my hands on. Needless to say, my friends at the boys hostel have a field day making fun of me. But I know, I have had this interest from a long time.
That monocular is not in good shape. It has a blurred up vision, and I can hardly use it for any thing. It just does one thing right. It gives me my first ever experience of using any astronomy equipment. All its problem teach me all the fundamentals. What it means to have a blurred vision. How hard it can be to open up a simple eye piece and then put it back together. Most importantly, it taught me how to observe with patience. Holding it up was an effort. Observing something even more so. I did everything with it. Tried to at-least. But I did not really use it for long. After I got back to Islamabad (my home town) from Karachi I gifted that monocular to my nephew.
Soon after that, I started looking for my next piece of equipment. I tried local stores and local Sunday markets, but to no avail. Then I started looking online for people who might want to sell their used equipment. I found many telescopes for sale, but I could not afford anything above $30 at that time. That is around PKR 3000 mind you, and for me back in 2015 that's almost 5% of my salary. I might have been able to afford much more, but my experience with the first monocular has taught me that its better to spend less money. To be honest, even now, I am not able to purchase anything professional, but my idea is still the same.
"When buying astronomy equipment, this is the key "Keep your budget the lowest possible, learn using manual equipment and then spend the big bucks later on"
Once I got my hands on my first Newtonion my astronomy experience changed! It was back in 2016 and I guess the month was August, I was able to buy a simple Newtonion reflector, and once I viewed the moon through a proper telescope I knew I was hooked for life!
That was the time when I decided to get in touch with everyone already involved in Astronomy! I got in touch with the people who were at that time running Pak Astronomers Islamabad, the only Astronomy club of the Federal Capital Islamabad. Islamabad Astronomy had held only 10 events, and had been in existence for over a decade.
Over the last five years, there have been more than 50 events, some under Pak Astronomers and others in collaboration with institutes and universities. By the Grace of Allah we continue to hold events and for the latest events or any upcoming observation sessions, you can get in touch with us on 0321 5113643.