He had two options -- pay up his children's school fees or spend the money for his scientific innovations.
He opted for the latter.
In the past 13 years, he has spent Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million) of his own money to satisfy his scientific and engineering curiosities, but steadfastly refuses to commercialise any of them and blames the government for not promoting scientific innovations, although only a few years ago he was making a hand-to-mouth existence.
Welcome to the world of Kanak Gogoi, an entrepreneur based in Guwahati, who has over a dozen innovations to his credit ranging from gravity-operated bicycle to a car which can run on air.
Felicitated by the President of India last week for his achievements, the 47-year old Gogoi is a celebrity in Guwahati's scientific and engineering circles.
Educated only till class 12, he developed his penchant for creating extraordinary things from ordinary materials used for day-to-day activities during his younger days.
"However, I have never received a single rupee in profit for any of my work and I will never venture to commercialise them on my own. But if anybody is willing, he is free to make use of my innovations for the greater good of the society," Gogoi told PTI.
Among his innovations are a solar hybrid car, whose 320 watt battery is charged by solar panels and is powered by a 100cc engine.
Another car that Gogoi made from integration of motorcycle and Maruti 800 engines runs on air energy powered by a hand glider and can reach a maximum speed of 120 km per hour.
He, however, has not bothered to apply for intellectual property rights (IPR) for any of his innovations, although they have cost in Rs 1.5 crore of his own money.
"When anybody talks about things like IPR or patents, it is generally assumed that the person must be a Ph.D or DLitt. Who will think of an undergraduate as a genuine and worthy innovator? Besides, paperwork of the kind that is required for patent filing has always been an anathema for me," Gogoi said.
In fact it is the National Innovation Foundation, headed by noted scientist Raghunath A Mashelkar, that applied for a patent on Gogoi's behalf for his gravity operated cycle, which converts gravitational force released by pedaling of the cycle into kinetic energy.
"I have a successful real estate business, which affords me the luxury of having enough spare money and spare time to concentrate on my engineering activities. I don't expect and nor do I wish for any monetary returns," said Gogoi, who had refused an invitation from a North Carolina-based organisation to shift to their campus with a daily stipend of $1,000.
His only regret is the apathy shown by the government for promoting individual scientific and engineering efforts.
"Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offered to build a fully furnished lab for me in Guwahati. The chief minister had granted me about 1.6 acres of land in 2007, but the file is still lying untouched at the local administrative office," Gogoi rued.
Talking about slow moving files, another of Gogoi's invention is the speed breaker that can generate electricity simply when vehicles pass over it.
Gogoi explains that a ramp under the speed breaker would absorb the static energy produced by the sheer mass of the vehicle and convert it into kinetic energy.
This is, in turn, transferred into electricity and stored in a battery cell.
A vehicles weighing one tonne can create electricity equivalent to one kilowatt.