Kalam and Kids

2.2 Kalam and Kids

The success of the strategic missile launches and nuclear devices made people, especiallythose in the government, realise that Dr. Kalam had a golden touch. There was growing feelingeverywhere that India’s advances in the aerospace sector were mainly due to the efforts of Dr. Kalam. The community of scientists and intelligentsia in the country knew the work of thisvisionary and they expressed the view that Kalam’s services should be utilised further. The Government also felt the need to make use of his talent and expertise to harness technology for transforming Indian Society.
      The Government offered him the post of Principal Scientific Adviser in November 1999. Even earlier, during the Pokhran tests period, he was serving simultaneously as the Chairman of TIFAC (Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council), an autonomousbody under the Department of Technology. The major task of TIFAC was to look ahead to the advances in technologies worldwide and to keep India abreast of the changing times. In its tasks TIFAC networked with the government, industries, scientific and technological organisations, as well as financial institutions, and intellectuals. For eight years, Kalam led a team of 500 experts in TIFAC and evolved Technology Vision 2020. Later, the Technology vision 2020 and the national security aspects got combined into Indian Millennium Mission 2020 (IMM 2020). It aimed at transforming India from a developed to a developed nation by 2020. As the Principal Scientific Adviser, Dr. Kalam focused on evolving a plan for implementing IMM 2020
      The marathon meetings he held with his colleagues helped to achieve a consensus on the importance of each branch of science in improving the various sectors of society and thereby contributing to the welfare of the nation. But, initially, the focus would be on five sectors: These were agriculture, power, education and healthcare, information technology and the strategic sector. Dr. Kalam felt that emphasis on these five areas would help in transforming India into a developed nation by 2020.
      As Principal Scientific Adviser, Kalam travelled all over the country meeting people from all walks of life and inspiring them to be partners in realizing vision 2020. He felt that an important stratum of society needed to be addressed- the youth of India. He felt the need to personally interact with them.
      He, therefore, left his job as Principal scientific Adviser and moved to Chennai to fulfill his wish and took up research and teaching at the prestigious Anna University, his alma mater. This provided him with lot of intellectual satisfaction because he could speak to the younger generation and share with them his thoughts.
      During this period, he began to travel all over the country addressing school students. He always said that he felt rewarded and comfortable in their company. He had set himself a target of meeting 1,00,000 children. By November 14, 2002, He completed this target.
      Prior to starting a session with children, he makes them recite a song which he has specially composed for them. He has called it the song of youth and titled it Me and My Nation - India.
      As a young citizen of India,
      Armed with technology, knowledge and love for my nation,
      I realise small aim is a crime.
      I will work and sweat for a great vision,
      The vision for transforming India into a developed nation
      Powered by economic strength with value system.
      I am one of the citizens of a billion,
      Only the vision will ignite the billion souls.
      It has entered into me, 
      The ignited soul compared to any resource, 
      Is the most powerful resource 
      On the earth, above the earth and under the earth.
      I will keep the lamp of knowledge burning 
      To achieve the vision …..Developed India.
      Once they have finished reciting it, Dr. Kalam asks the children to pose questions to him. He finds the questions interesting and thought - provoking.
      The questions reflect the children’s inquisitive minds. Everywhere, they look forward to the arrival of their own ‘Uncle Kalam’ because he never talks to them like a stern schoolmaster. Instead, he plays the role of a pupil while students become teachers putting questions to him. The mood is always relaxed and informal and the children enjoy themselves thoroughly.
      On his part Dr. Kalam feels delighted that he can satisfy the curiosity of the youngsters. He even allows the children to ask him questions on subjects which are not at all related to science or technology. They are curious to know about his hair style, his interests and hobbies and eating habits. He answers all of them enthusiastically with the familiarity of a dear uncle. With this a vernacular approach children never for a moment feel that they are meeting him for the first time.
      During a visit to the Anandalaya High School at Anand in Gujarat in April 2002, a question come up from the audience, “Who is our enemy?” Liking this question Kalam encouraged the children to come forward with their views. There were many answers. But the reply of a 12th standard girl, Snehal Thakkar, impressed him the most. She said India’s main enemy was poverty. To express his appreciation, he dedicated his book Ignited Minds to her. He also invited her personally for the swearing in company at the Rashtrapati Bhavan when he took over as the President of India on July 25, 2002.
      At the Tripura School, he was asked about the importance of role models.  He told his students that the bet role models are their parents and teachers. He also asked them to emulate the example of astronaut Kalpana Chawla. According to Dr. Kalam, Kalpana Chawla would always remain a source of pride for everyone. He also had a word of advice for parents and teachers. He urged them to guide children to be good human beings. He urged teachers to open the windows of knowledge and not to stifle creativity.
      Elsewhere, at Dindigul in South India, he emphasized the importance of dreams. He said dreams will transform into thoughts which in turn will convert into actions. He told the children that success would always follow dreams though there could be a few setbacks.
      While replying to questions at a school in Tezpur in north eastern part of India, he said that the vision of a Developed India by 2020 called upon the youth of this country to launch a mission to connect rivers, cutting across states. This project would benefit states, like Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, which did not have enough water.
      During a session at Cuttack, he was asked about his favourite books. He answered that they were Man The Unknown by Dr. Alexis Carrel, Thiruvallur’s Thirukkural, Light From Many Lamps by Lillian Eichler Watson and the Holy Quran. 
Interaction with children has been the greatest joy for Dr. Kalam.
Srinivas Laxman