Sonam Wangchuk
Sonam Wangchuk won the Magsaysay award.Wikimedia Commons

Sonam Wangchuk, also referred as the "real life Phunsukh Wangdu" is among the six individuals who were declared the winners of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Phunsukh Wangdu is the name of a popular character in the 2009 Bollywood movie, 3 Idiots. Rajkumar Hirani, the film's director, reportedly used Wangchuck as an inspiration for the character, which was played by Aamir Khan. 

Who is Sonam Wangchuk?

  • Born on September 1, 1955 in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir, Wangchuk did not start going to school until the age of nine, as there were no schools in his village.
  • Wangchuk, who is now hailed for his engineering wonders, was branded as a stupid boy during his school days. He was called dumb as he never responded to the classmates, who teased him for looking different and not speaking their language.
  • Wangchuk completed his B Tech in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology in Srinagar and then pursued Earthen Architecture at Craterre School of Architecture in Grenoble, France in 2011.
  • The 51-year-old Ladakhi engineer and innovator is famous for designing the SECMOL campus, which runs entirely on solar energy. The passive solar mud buildings became an instant hit as the students felt warm even in the harsh winters of the hilly region.
  • Wangchuk also started the Ice Stupa project, which has solved the problem of water crisis faced by the farmers of Ladakh. This technique helps create an artificial glacier, which supplies water during winter months when the natural glaciers are frozen.
ice stupa
Wanchuk also started the Ice Stupa project, which has solved the problem of water crisis faced by the farmers of Ladakh.Wikimedia Commons
  • In 2009, Rajkumar Hirani, used Wangchuck as an inspiration for the character of Phunsukh Wangdu in his movie '3 Idiots'.

Wanchuk has been given the Magsaysay Award Foundation for his work in the field of engineering, which has benefited the people in rural areas of India.

"His uniquely systematic, collaborative and community-driven reform of learning systems in remote northern India, thus improving the life opportunities of Ladakhi youth, and his constructive engagement of all sectors in local society... setting an example for minority peoples in the world," the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said in its citation.

Apart from Wangchuk, another Indian named Bharat Vatwani, a psychiatrist, has also won the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Vatwani was given the award for "his tremendous courage and healing compassion in embracing India's mentally-afflicted destitute, and his steadfast and magnanimous dedication to the work of restoring and affirming the human dignity of even the most ostracized," the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said.