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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 32 New Delhi August 1, 2015

Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: a Lover of Humanity

Friday 31 July 2015



by Vivek Kumar Srivastava

Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
And Immortality Emily Dickinson

Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s death was sudden, shocking and sad for the reason that the country lost a man who was really true, honest, literally simplicity incarnated and a darling of all Indians. He was a man of high scholarship and attained the zenith of achievements though he was born in a simple family.

His great values were shaped by the rich family traditions where the concept of a broad and inclusive family was the order of the day; this is rarely seen in the contemporary globali-sation-impacted society. He recollected his days of infancy in his autobiography. He elaborated: “My father, Jainulabdeen, had neither much formal education nor much wealth; despite these disadvantages, he possessed great innate wisdom and a true generosity of spirit. He had an ideal helpmate in my mother, Ashiamma. I do not recall the exact number of people she fed every day, but I am quite certain that far more outsiders ate with us than all the members of our own family put together


”(Wings of Fire: An Autobiography)

His father was a boatman. He proved that hard work with a single objective is the ultimate recipe of realising goals. India has maximum potential of demographic dividend but it can be realised only if young Indians adopt his work culture and concept of focused goal. He believed that everyone has certain talent, “a combination of talent and effort determines the quality of human life. The origin of talent and the source that inspire effort remains a matter of mystery. Different cultures offer different rationales.” (You Are Born To Blossom) He proclaimed that “self-realisation is the focus. Each one of us must become aware of our higher self. We are links of a great past to a grand future. We should ignite our dormant inner energy and let it guide our lives.” (Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power within India)

In his opinion, work culture of high quality is necessary to accomplish the task at hand. “All generations must understand that at the 21st century workplace, no needs or expectations of the generation have a monopoly. Everyone must be flexible, techno-savvy and knowled-geable, focusing on getting great work done every day. Consider yourself a free agent, responsible for your life, career, family and contributions.”(You Are Born To Blossom) Thus individualism was linked to knowledge, it was also linked to communitari-anism as his own life radiated. His post-retirement life, like that of Mohan Dharia, shows how a man after demitting political office, can contribute to the development of the country.

Dr Kalam was an embodiment of secularism. He was a practitioner of all the good values of every religion. He represented our composite culture in daily life, even worshipped Ma Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. Com-passion, divine purity and respect to all was reflected in his actions. Its seeds were sown in his childhood. He discovered its basis. “The high priest of Rameswaram temple, Pakshi Lakshmana Sastry, was a very close friend of my father’s. One of the most vivid memories of my early childhood is of the two men, each in his traditional attire, discussing spiritual matters. When I was old enough to ask questions, I asked my father about the relevance of prayer. My father told me there was nothing mysterious about prayer. Rather, prayer made possible a communion of the spirit between people. ‘When you pray,’ he said, ’you transcend your body and become a part of the cosmos, which knows no division of wealth, age, caste, or creed.’” (Wings of Fire: An Autobiography)

His major contribution in science lies in the development of Agni and other missiles, the first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle-III and in the enhancement of the country’s nuclear capability. As a President he had no political experience but looked at every issue with his independent, fearless mind and great acumen. He took his own line on the issue of office of profit. On the mercy petition he asked for reconsideration in almost fifty cases except one showing that he was in support of abolition of the death penalty. “He rhetorically asked why there were only poor people on death row.” (Hindustan Times, July 28, 2015) He conceptualised the Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA), a rural social-transfor-mation framework and identified the missing link in rural development programmes. He inferred that “rural development is not at all a loss-making proposition. What is loss-making is poor implementation—but then that holds true for any type of initiative at any place in the world.” (Target 3 Billion: PURA: Innovative Solutions Towards Sustain-able Development)

His love for children is well known. Like Nehru, he expressed his love in an open and concrete manner for the blossoming ones. He merged his ‘I’ with ‘THEM’ when he revealed that “It had been in my mind for the past few years to undertake research and teaching. For this purpose, combined with my desire to find time to meet schoolchildren, I have shifted to Anna University—my alma mater. What a great feeling it is to be among young people bubbling with creativity and enthusiasm! What a great responsibility the elders of this country have at hand to guide this tremendous energy in a constructive way for nation building! How can we make up for missed opportunities and the failures of the past?” (Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power within India) Thus he placed responsibility on the previous generations too.He also gave message to parents and almost proposed a new model of teaching in which free thinking and imagination was emphasised. “dream, dream, dream. Dream transforms into thoughts. Thoughts result in actions.’ I told them, ‘Friends, if there are no dreams, there are no revolu-tionary thoughts; if there are no thoughts, no actions will emanate. Hence, parents and teachers should allow their children to dream. Success always follows dreams attempted though there may be some setbacks and delays.’”(Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power within India) His conviction was that no greater power can exist than the commitment to dream.

Dr Kalam was the embodiment of a philo-sopher-king as conceptualised by Plato. Dr Radhakrishnan was another one in this galaxy. Indian politicians can learn a lot from these philosopher-politicians. Both were intellectuals par excellence and entered the political stream but never lost the great universal values. Politicians can also learn that lust for money and power cannot be the ultimate goal. Kalam, on the pattern of Lohia, represented this path of salvation. Therefore they will always live in each succeeding generation.

Dr Vivek Kumar Srivastava is the Vice-Chairman, CSSP, Kanpur. He can be contacted also in the

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