Grandma's Tales

July 29, 2007

Who profited more? Kalam or the country?

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 8:30 am

Not a kind question, but let it be.
I don’t know when so much was written about an outgoing Prez of India. To me it reflects the love and affection he gained while in office and the anguish that a lot of us (oh, so what if we are called the “SMS” group?) felt when he left it. Kalam is news. More column space for him than the first woman Prez of India.
But then what Kalam says is worth reporting.
“I’m going away with two suitcases,” he said in his somewhat emotional farewell speech. He added he would be carrying all the books he had brought with him to the R Bhavan. In words recognised by all booklovers he said, “They are mine.”
Turning on the teacher in him, he said, “Don’t accept gifts given with a purpose.” He then quoted words from Manusmriti that say accepting gifts extinguishes the divine light in us. Once again he touched on his pet subject – making India fully “developed” by 2020. “Let’s hope we will be a great country with moral values,” he said.
At Anna University in his teacher’s garb, he corrected a speaker who referred to him as President. “I’m a Professor now,” he pointed out. He insisted his considerable audience interact with him if they wanted him to proceed. “What will be the dynamics in the Parliament if the 33% quota for women is implemented?” he provoked.
At Gandigram University he once again wowed the students. Here is an excerpt from a report:
Kalam walked in to thunderous applause. And when he waved out to the students, as is his wont, is they went berserk with happiness, the decibel deafening. When he rose to speak after the prayers the noise again reached impossible levels. He asked if students in the last row could hear him, and only after they replied in the affirmative did he continue.”
Kalam then talked about PURA, a project he proposed in 2003, I think in the parliament. “PURA is providing urban amenities to rural areas,” he explained patiently. He invited the Gandhigram University and the TN government to take up the project. “Drinking water should be clean. The village should be clean. I once spoke on this in Parliament. I am climbing, where is the peak? I am digging, where is the wisdom? I am deep in the ocean, where is the knowledge?”
This is where I see Kalam’s gain in his stint as India’s Prez. From a rocket scientist with nose stuck in the drawing board, Kalam has metamorphosed into a very personable man of wide-spread wisdom. His duties as President have given him a broader view of India’s needs and made him think more deeply about the application of technology for the kind of people he grew up with in his small town. It has given him a more mature, enlightened perspective of the real India, the marginalised India, the India of the backwaters that could become a creative wave, given the opportunity. From up in the clouds his vision has turned downward and now traverses the remote, thorny bushlands of India’s outbacks.
See, he chose to talk of PURA to these Univ students, not of ICBM, not of Insat Z B. His view from the hill became different from the one from his DRDO lab.
Five years ago, Kalam went in as the first Scientist to occupy the R Bhavan. Now we have an ex-Prez with a mind that encompasses the harsh realities of life in India’s neglected villages. Now, relieved of the ceremonial duties of the high office, Kalam is ready to exhort people to see the nation as he does. A nation that is so capable, a nation that should think in terms of equitable opportunities engineered through better infrastructure and education.
So what if Kalam wasn’t thought fit for a second term at the Raisina Hill? In the final reckoning, the nation hasn’t lost out at all. The right people are listening to him. May be out of those students who squealed when he announced he would be teaching them a term, there will emerge politicos and government officials who will carry his words with them.



  1. I was inspired by you to write about the first woman president for India, just a wish and a hope that time!
    I have been a silent spectator to all that happened in between and I don’t think I have anything much to say either. Just that this question you have over here, keeps coming back!

    Comment by Shreyasi Deb — July 31, 2007 @ 2:54 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks, Shreyasi Deb. Kalam raised the bar too high. Will there be another like him? [So, there is another question for you!] 🙂

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — August 1, 2007 @ 12:14 pm | Reply

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