India’s first man in space, Rakesh Sharma, on how keeping a low profile has been liberating

Welcome to Season 3 of the Outliers Podcast.

We launched Outliers in December 2016 with Manish Sharma of Printo, who shared his life lessons in being an entrepreneur. Since then, we have produced 87 episodes over two seasons of Outliers. Outliers isn’t just a podcast for us. It’s a journey of conversations that has taken us from Leh, where we met Sonam Wangchuk, to Udupi with Robosoft’s Rohith Bhat, Dr Gullapalli Nageswara Rao in Hyderabad on shaping the future of eye care with compassion, to Mumbai with Uday Kotak and Harsh Mariwala, and so on.

With Season 3 of the Outliers Podcast, we’re going deeper, and slower. From this episode, we will produce only one Outliers every month. After all, outliers aren’t too many. As announced earlier, we are launching a new weekly podcast called The Playbook. So, you will get your weekly dose of conversations as before.

Once again, thanks for being a part of this journey, and more importantly, sharing your feedback and helping us shape the product.

Now back to Season 3.

The first time I heard about Rakesh Sharma was in school, like most of us growing up during the 80s and listening to stories about India’s first man in space. More recently, while meeting Madan Padaki, a social impact entrepreneur, I discovered Sharma again.

How can someone who has traveled space keep such a low profile, I asked Padaki, who had just met him.

“He told me he hasn’t been able to recover from the overwhelming feeling of being in space, feeling so small,” Padaki told me.

That got me really interested in chasing Sharma for recording this episode of the Outliers Podcast. We finally met Sharma at his hill home in Coonoor near Tamil Nadu’s famous hill station Ooty to record this episode. If you hear the sounds of birds and air as background noise in the podcast, it’s unedited intentionally. I’m sure you will love it.

Throughout the conversation, Sharma not only avoids sharing the experience of being in space but tones it down every time we even touch the subject.

“There’s nothing extraordinary about it,” he tells us. “You could feel the same way (about being too small) standing on this hilltop too.”

We will be publishing the full transcript of this episode soon. Until then, I really hope you will enjoy listening to Squadron leader Rakesh Sharma on how keeping a low profile has been a liberating experience for him.
I also found this BBC story about Sharma titled “Rakesh Sharma: The making of a reluctant Indian space hero” — an interesting read to help set the context.