Telescopes like these are best for bird watching or for sneaking on someone in a not so creepy way
As a child, Shafayat Azad preferred playing with radios and watched over toys. He would pry open the gadgets and break the pieces apart, only to join them back and marvel over their functions.
"The day I started a fire from short circuit in the house was the day my parents realised I was going to pursue a very different career!" chuckles Shafayat while talking to The Business Standard.
In his teen years, he grew a penchant for astronomy and optics. Eventually his degrees in Computer Engineering and Electrical and Electronic Engineering merged with it and he became a telescope maker, the only one in Dhaka.
He brought along one of his favourite telescopes with him to the TBS – a slim, black object which looks like a long, metal pipe. Made from plastic fibre, it is surprisingly light-weight and user-friendly. He widens his smile, "Telescopes like these are best for bird watching or for sneaking on someone in a not so creepy way!"
His voice shakes as he says, "My mother used to encourage me about science. She would buy me books and tell me stories on planets, stars and comets. I wish she were alive so that I could tell her that I've done more to make her proud."
His first telescope was sold in 2009 and ever since he has been custom making telescopes. There aren't many shops selling telescopes in Dhaka and the ones that do have a higher price range (Tk30,000-2.5 lacs) than Shafayat (Tk5000-50,000). So he is always in demand.
He says, "You would be surprised how diverse my client base is. I have students, teachers, photographers and even housewives who demand for very specific and modern telescopes."
Usually there are three kinds of telescopes, Newtonian, Galilean and Compound or Catadioptric telescope. Shafayat specialises only in Newtonian.
"Lenses are quite expensive and I always have to import them so I want to make them here and at affordable prices," the Sheldon Cooper of Dhaka shares his vision.
He also expresses his disappointment in the development of observational astronomy in Bangladesh. "In 1910 Radha Gobinda Chanda, the iconic astronomer from Bengal watched Halley's Comet with a tiny binocular. By 1918, he had discovered a star all by himself. It's been more than hundred years and the state of astronomy in our Bangladesh is still in shambles!"
The commercial aspect of making and selling telescopes in the country also disappoints him. "I have had many investors come and talk to me yet none led to anything fruitful. Those with big money just want to focus on commercialising the products but I can't compromise with quality just to reduce the price."
Although he might resemble Dr Sheldon Cooper from the television series 'The Big Bang Theory', Shafayat has another interesting hobby.
He needed atmosphere control for safekeeping lenses and other parts at his house which also serves as his workshop, so the humidity eventually turned it into an ideal place for orchids to grow. Right now he has around eighty orchids of forty-six varieties at home.
Shafayat Azad is running a Facebook page titled 'A Technologybd' where clients can put up orders for telescopes. He is also working on developing an online channel for the enthusiasts of astronomy. He has a five-year warranty for his products and is more than happy to help with upgrading if the clients demand.