I must have been in the 8th standard, when for the first time, I had given my name for a debate. I had opted to speak in the favour of the notion, “Can India be a super power by 2020?”. Looking for some content for the debate, I browsed through the books in our school library. Preoccupied in cursing myself for taking all this trouble, my eyes fell on a book with blue-green cover, analogous to the colour of a globe.
I picked up the book; it was titled “India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium”. Relieved to have found something suitable to my debate topic, I sat down to begin reading it without giving any attention to the author. After reading the preface, I was compelled to look for the author’s name. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, along with Yagnaswami Sundara Rajan was its author. I then recalled him to be the President of India and wondered at the length of his name! I continued reading and I got so lost in the book that the librarian scolded me of deliberately bunking classes.
That was my first acquaintance with this legendary name. The book might not have had the best of the endings, but I felt fortunate for having picked it up. Because from then, Dr. Kalam started to play a great role in forging my thoughts, moulding my intellect and igniting my mind. I read another of his amazing work ‘Ignited Minds’, which was basically a message to the Indian youth about how we should strive to achieve the Vision 2020. His books provided me that mental framework, that inspiration, and that urge for patriotism, which I felt my formal and technical education had failed to give.
Dr. Kalam not only made our generation aware of the problems our country is facing and would face in future, but also suggested the right solutions. He taught us about our roles in building India via Action-Plans framed in the form of quotes, among which my favourite one is –
They may be just three simple lines, but that quote contains the basic principle, which many of us fail to realize and abide by throughout our lives.
For me, Dr. Kalam was no less than a visionary of our generation! Talk about his stylish long grey hair that curled onto his face, or his lifelong bachelor status. He gave his very own example that you can look awesomely cool and still have a great scientific and visionary mind. You can be the ‘Missile Man’ of a military power like India and still be a preacher of peace and harmony on international forums. His unconventional, original and very realistic approach towards life made him a True Youth Icon.
Dr. Kalam came as a breath of fresh air into our contemporary Indian society, which suffers from an acute crisis of true leadership. He showed that one can lead a scientific and spiritual living, and be an administrator, statesman, and a youth icon without compromising on your values and ethics.
One of the biggest desires of an eternal being is to die in honour. Trust me, I have never witnessed such a deep and nationwide mourning for any public figure as for Dr. Kalam. I am stating so because I have seen my mother, a 50-year old woman whose world is limited to family, house work and daily soaps, in grief for the first time. Everybody respects Dr. Kalam, irrespective of their religion, culture, nationality, beliefs, political parties, age, and gender. Even in his death, Dr. Kalam gave us a message worth remembering. He died doing what he loved the most – teaching and igniting young people’s minds with his words of wisdom.
A leader, a visionary and a great scientist with a grandeur as high as Mr. Kalam deserves great homage and honor. But do we really respect our leaders who dedicate their lives our country? Sadly, it’s ironic that just hours after his death, cyberspace was going wild over an incident in which the Jharkhand education minister blundered as she paid a floral tribute to Dr. Kalam almost a week in advance of his death. The event organizers later defended the act by saying they garlanded his photograph as a mark of respect. According to the Indian beliefs, a living person’s image should not be garlanded. If done so, the person will die soon. It’s utterly painful and derogatory that in the hour of such utmost grief, people are using the death of this national hero to justify whether the myth is true or not.
Dr. Kalam, you may have heard it many times throughout your life. But let me say it again – WE ARE PROUD OF YOU! India is proud, and the world is proud of you!