Art for science's sake

There are not many things that Sastry is not aware of. Mention V Shivashankara Sastry’s name in Kolar and that’s the first reaction one is bound to receive. And that reaction, by the way, is no exaggeration.

PAPER TIGER: VSS Sastry uses Japanese paper arts such as origami and kirigami to teach scientific concepts. Photos by the authorSastry can take a small piece of paper and give it any shape he chooses to. He can create paper insects that can put real insects to shame. He can create images of gods and goddesses with paper. He is an origami and kirigami (Japanese paper art) expert.

Thirst for knowledge

Sastry is also well-versed with other art forms, such as sculpting idols out of clay. He is an expert at deciphering inscriptions and is also a bombe aata (puppetry) practitioner. The list of his accomplishments is endless. Sastry is a translator, a science writer, an expert at sketching, and can hold the interest of an audience comprising entirely of children for hours, by way of his simple methods of teaching mathematics and science.

Talk to him about any subject, and eventually the conversation will return to his favourite subject, mathematics. For him, there is no life without maths. 

Sastry is a bank employee, but a favourite among students of many schools across the State. Any workshop on science and mathematics, and you are bound to find Sastry there.

Such workshops and science and maths teaching sessions take him from Mysore to Davangere, and Shimoga to Belgaum. Sastry’s firm belief is that one doesn’t need expensive science and maths models to teach children. He uses paper art to teach children many concepts of science. One needs to spend a minimum of Rs 150 to buy an aeroplane model.

But, Sastry can use a single A4-sheet of paper to make an aeroplane and teach children concepts of aerodynamics by way of this.

This paper artist has also written several books to teach concepts of science and mathematics by simple methods.

His skills as a science communicator have been appreciated by several science and technology bodies, including those of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Sastry’s journey started way back in the Eighties, after the Bhopal gas tragedy. His interest in science awareness was ignited at that point. “Not many were aware that the leakage of methyl isocyanate is toxic. I decided to create awareness among children in Kolar’s schools. That journey still continues,” he explains.

“I didn’t learn paper art for art’s sake. It was my way of responding to problems that teachers and students faced during their science and mathematics classes,” he adds. It was also a great break for Sastry from the monotony of bank work. Sastry has many admirers, among whom is Mysore Amateur Naturalists’ environment resource person and bird watcher K Manu, who appreciates his discipline and commitment to science studies.

To top it all, Sastry’s work has also been chosen for the 2011-12 award for science communicators instituted by the Vision Group on Science and Technology which functions under the Department of IT, BT and S&T. One more feather in the Kolar man’s cap.

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