Citizens' Issues
President Abdul Kalam … Some personal reminiscences
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam came to this world, saw it and he conquered the hearts of the people. Our best tribute to him would be to emulate his example and live our lives, make life sublime and be of some use to our fellowmen 
 
"War is war. The only good human being is a dead one." - George Orwell
 
"Do something worth writing about or write something worth reading to become immortal." So wrote Benjamin Franklin. If that yardstick is applied, former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam has already become immortal by both those two counts. In addition, he lives in the hearts of every Indian child and youth because he loved them both most sincerely. Death, be not proud that you have been able to snatch him from our midst, for he continues to live amongst us. His childlike innocence, his transparent sincerity, his disarming universal smile, and his love for his motherland have made him the most popular President of India in recent times. Of course, there were great Presidents like Babu Rajendra Prasad and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan in the past.
 
Probably the one unfulfilled wish in Dr Kalam's life was his dream of becoming a professor in an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) or at Anna University, and to settle down in Chennai after exiting the Rashtrapati Bhavan. That was not to be, thanks to the small mindedness and hubris of some of our hard-hearted, fossilised minded, so-called scientists and educationists, most of who have not understood what education is all about. If having a PhD is the hallmark of becoming a professor, many of our professors should not be where they are.
 
 
None of our IITs or Universities have set the River Ganges on fire anyway with all the PhDs they have produced. By the same yardstick, Guruji Rabindranath Tagore was not qualified to be a teacher, let alone getting the Nobel Prize for English poetry in 1913, not having had any formal education worth the mention!  I do not think any of our present educationists and scientists have any idea what education is all about.  Dr Kalam made up for all that by teaching in schools and AIIMs all over the country, which made him the darling of our children's eyes. He would have loved it that he died in harness that too while still teaching-anaayaasena maranam-which, it is believed, only pure souls are lucky to get. God has been great. Kalam Saab was lucky in life and also in death. Luck is a certificate that comes from God without HIS signature affixed.
 
 
I first saw this great man and meet him when I was still very young a new entrant to Stanley Medical College, at what was then Madras, in 1956. I did not have space in a hostel. My cousin, Balachandra Shetty, was a final year student of a new engineering institute called the Madras Institute of Technology (MIT) at Thambaram, where they had a nice hostel with single rooms. Kalam saab was his classmate and lived in a room with another of my acquaintances, Surendra Hegde, in the same hostel. I stayed for over a month in their hostel until I got a room at Stanley. I met him a few times during those days.
 
 
I had not met him for decades after that when I saw him in a science conference where I was invited to lecture. I could not have the courage to go to talk to him because he was, by then, a big man. After the lecture he came up to me and remembered our meeting at MIT hostel and was conversing in Tamil. I was pleased to hear him telling me that when I was describing the plight of poor malnourished kids dying like flies in India, he had tears in his eyes. It made me realise how simple he was and how child-like his heart was. 
 
 
Our next meeting happened in curious circumstances. I was the Dean of a medical college. The then Vice Chancellor of Kanpur University came to meet me. I thought he had his child enrolled in our college, but no. He had come all the way to meet me personally with a request. It seemed rather strange. He had come to request me to deliver a Guest Lecture at their next Indian Science Congress. Of course, I agreed, but I was curious to know why he had to come all the way to meet me. Then he told me that the chief scientific advisor to the Govt of India who is in charge of grants for their conferences had told him to have my lecture to get grants. That was Kalam Saab. I was really moved to tears that such a big man had a soft corner for an ordinary person like me. That was our second encounter and the lecture went well, thank God.
 
 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in his wisdom, chose Kalam saab as a jewel in the crown of India- Bharat Ratna. As a technologist and a missile man, he had few peers and he went on to occupy all top posts in the Ministry of Science and Technology culminating in him being the back bone of the Pokhran Test. He had invited me to Delhi for his swearing-in ceremony but I wrote back saying that I could not afford the travel costs at such short notice. He had then given me a standing invite to meet him when I go to Delhi. I did go to see him several times, when we would discuss matters of common interest to the country. He always thought of the poor and the less endowed. He even released one of my books at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and got his own photographer to shoot the event. I remained grateful to him.
 
 
I had invited him to inaugurate our University’s Golden Jubilee event in 2003. He was reluctant, as he does not want to spend taxpayer’s money for private functions. At the last minute, he called me to say that he is going to Bangalore for some Government engagements and would come from there. He had one condition, though. I had to get him 1,000 copies of a book of mine, which he had bought himself when it was published from his own money to distribute to school children when it was published. I have given here under his letter about the book.  I also had to get 1,000 school children to attend the event so that he could distribute my book on the occasion of our Golden Jubilee. We did that and he was so pleased to see the children there. Interestingly, he did not accept any private hospitality that we offered on that occasion.
 
 The first time I met Kalam saab at the Rashtrapati Bhavan I was shocked to see that he had a big bundle of Bhavan’s Journals where I used to write a column. In one of them, I had written about him, he would be the ideal person for the Presidentship of India. This was long before he actually became the President. He wanted to know; “ade epedi eleAthininge? How did you write that?” Every time we met that warmth which never diminished in intensity even long after he demitted office. His personal secretary, Palghat Prasad, was good enough to connect me to him whenever I wanted to meet him and for that I remain grateful. Prasad was Kalam’s trusted lieutenant even after retirement. Prasad could read Kalam’s mind easily and would tell me if he is in a good or bad mood.
 
 
Kalam came to this world, saw it and he conquered the hearts of the people. Such persons are rare creations of God and are born once in a long time. Our best tribute to him would be to emulate his example and live our lives make life sublime and be of some use to our fellowmen. I, for one, have benefitted immensely from his example. May God keep his soul in eternal peace with HIM. May he become jeevanmukta. May Allah, the Most Merciful, shower him with HIS best blessings and give courage and right direction to Kalam’s fellow citizens to change themselves to be good humans.
May the people’s President become immortal.
 
"The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity." - Leo Tolstoy.

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COMMENTS

MG Warrier

2 years ago

Yadaa sattwam pravrddhe tu pralayam yaati dehabhoot
Tadottamavidam lokaanamalaanpratipadyate
(Gita 14.14)
When a man dies during the preponderance of Sattwa, he obtains the stainless ethereal worlds (heaven etc.,) attained by men of noble deeds.
*** *** ***
A poem by Malayalam poet V Madhusoodanan Nair published in Mathrubhumi Vaaranthappathippu (August 2, 2015) reflects India’s thoughts on Kalam. An attempt is made here to convey what the poet said:
The Fire has taken Wings!
The fire has taken wings, and flown
Beyond the skies, beyond boundaries of the Skye!
HE appeared, responding to the prayers
Walked across, spreading the Almighty’s message
With conviction of a teacher, in his eyes
Making wards keep their eyes open
Filled his words with fire
Made listeners dream awake, and
Move to realising their dreams
By replacing work for slumber!
He made India’s SOUL pierce through the skies
Making the world realise, that SCIENCE
Can bring peace on earth
Can make flowers bloom in deserts!
Head up above the Himalayaas
Thoughts rekindled by the roots down south*
Cool Soofi music encapsuling, the Fire
In every word energised by Quran
Bequeathed his heritage, to the millions
Of children, students and youth
He met, on the long path he covered
On foot, by cycle, by road, by air
During his unfinished journey!
The FIRE has taken WINGS, and flown
Into the unknown, leaving THE LIGHT OF LIFE
The attire, for anyone to done, which
Death cannot steal, weapons cannot pierce!
&&&&&
*Rameshwaram

Ganesh Johnson

2 years ago

Dear Prof B M Hegde,

You have been privileged to have received affection of Dr. Kalam who was no less than a sage or a rishi in his behavior and conduct! I was almost envious to read about your many interactions with him!
I think the 80s (especially after Rajiv Gandhi was elected PM) was a golden period for Indian science and technology and the seeds sown during that period have benefited us in the recent past. I do hope that the present generation of scientists in Indian establishments are diligent enough, because the fruits of research take at least a decade to accrue, and the scientist generation that had Dr. Kalam, Dr. Kasturirangan and others certainly played their roles very well.
I am sure your personal interactions with Dr. Kalam have created everlasting memories for you. Thank you for sharing.

China's manufacturing activity declines
China's manufacturing business activity declined slightly in July from the previous month, barely avoiding a contraction last seen in February, official data showed on Saturday.
 
The manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI), a key measure of factory activity in China, posted 50.0 in July, down from 50.2 in June, according to data compiled by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing.
 
Factory activities remained in expansion territory for a four-month period extending from March to June. July's reading demarcates growth and contraction, Xinhua reported.
 
Zhao Qinghe, a senior NBS analyst, attributed the retreat to continued weakness in both domestic and overseas demand.
 
The production sub-index posted 52.4 last month, down from 52.9 in June. The sub-index for new orders came in at 49.9 in July, down 0.2 percentage points compared to June.
 
"The slight decrease was a normal fluctuation," said Chen Zhongtao, an analyst at the China Logistics Information Centre.
 
Chen, however, played down the decline saying the fundamentals of the Chinese economy remains in good shape as employment is stable and companies are generally positive on business prospects.
 
The analyst added that domestic demand would witness growth for the rest of the year, as a slew of infrastructure projects are slated to be rolled out.

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COMMENTS

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4 months ago

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Black money abroad declaration form can be filed online
The government has notified the form for declaring income and assets abroad as well rules for their calculation under the Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets Bill and these can also be filed online, parliament was told on Friday.
 
"A declaration under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 (the Act) may be made before designated tax authority in Form 6 which may also be filed online," Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.
 
"Where the declaration is found to be in accordance with the provisions of section 71 (d) of the Act, the declarant is required to pay the requisite tax and penalty on the assets eligible for declaration latest by December 31, 2015 and intimate the designated tax authority," he said.
 
"After the intimation of payment by the declarant, the designated tax authority will issue an acknowledgement of the accepted declaration within 15 days of such intimation of payment of tax and penalty by the declarant," he added.
 
As per the Black Money Act, the declaration is not admissible in evidence against the declarant in any penalty or prosecution under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, the minister said.
 
The act providing for heavy penalties for stashing away black money in foreign accounts came into force earlier this month, and rules have been notified for calculating income and assets abroad under it.
 
The value of the overseas assets, including immovable property, jewellery and precious stones, archaeological collections and paintings, shares and securities and shares in unlisted firms abroad will be calculated at the fair market value, said the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT)earlier this month.
 
The value of an overseas bank account will be the sum of all deposits made in the account since its opening, the notification said.
 
The Black Money Act for the first time allows levy of tax in India on assets kept abroad.
 
Unlawful, undisclosed income abroad has been taxed under this law at a rate of 30 percent with an additional 30 percent penalty on it.
 
The law provides a compliance window for declaring and paying penalty. Failure to meet it will attract an additional penalty of 90 percent for a total tax liability of 120 percent on the quantum of black money abroad.
 
The ministry has notified September 30 as the expiry date of the compliance window, while allowing those with undisclosed income and assets abroad time till December 31 to pay the levies.
 
Admitting that there was no official estimation of black money within India or stashed away abroad, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told parliament during the budget session that the government was examining the reports of three institutes on the matter.
 
An unofficial estimate puts the sum somewhere between $466 billion and $1.4 trillion.
 

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