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Wednesday, 25 January 2012






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Igniting the minds of not only youths but everyone…

The opportunity to listen to one of the region’s – and the world’s best known personalities, Dr. Abdul Kalam, India’s 11th President and its foremost nuclear scientist, was a rare one for most Sri Lankans, including myself. In his usual, simple style with much wisdom in his words delivered in a rustic, down to earth manner, Dr. Kalam demonstrated yet again why he is highly respected not only as a scientist but also a philosopher and a visionary.

Dr. Kalam had a message aimed at primarily the youth but I believe it’s a message we can all benefit from. Don’t think small, he said, for thinking small is a crime. Too many of us don’t dream big enough. Think big, think positive. Dr. Kalam told the audience, a packed one, to look beyond what you see.

New goals

What Dr. Kalam said rings a bell for everyone. How many of us can think outside the box - how many of us can find the fire within to fuel ourselves towards new goals and new objectives in life. Dr. Kalam should know - born into humble surroundings, he rose to the highest ranks as a scientist whose pursuit of greater things yielded outstanding results not only for him but also for his nation.

Known as the Missile Man of India for his work associated with the development of ballistic missiles and space technology in India, Dr. Kalam is even better known for the work he has initiated among India’s young. In his book ‘Ignited Minds’, he dedicates the book to child he says he met in Anand. When asked who the common enemy of everyone is, Snehal Thakkar studying in Grade 12 of Anandalaya High School said their common enemy was poverty. The others agreed with her. Dr. Kalam cites her story and says that poverty is the root cause of all problems and should be the objective of our fight, not our own.

He is right. In Sri Lanka too, poverty remains the greatest enemy for people to over-come. But he also believes in thinking big, to overcome poverty. Too often, people use poverty as some kind of a barrier they are destined not to overcome - this is quite strong in rural areas where opportunities are less and hopelessness abounds. It takes courage, determination and strength to overcome the challenges life faces - for every discouraged soul, there are so many who have overcome circumstances to go on to find success.

Younger generations

Today’s CEOs, managers and executives are not order givers, Dr. Kalam says, they work together with the staff to create and benefit from opportunities. Today’s teachers must be ignited themselves to share a passion, pass it on to younger generations. Roles have changed – today’s children cannot be subdued with mere excuses – they look for answers you cannot give unless you understand their wavelength and are able to comprehend what they comprehend.

There are many parallels between the vision Dr. Kalam has for India and Sri Lanka. In comparison to our giant neighbour, we are a small country that can easily benefit from programmes aimed at empowering and improving the livelihood of rural areas. One of Dr. Kalam’s projects, one close to his heart as he says, is the project PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) which basically as the name implies, focuses on reversing the infamous words - Kolambata kiri apita kekiri (milk for Colombo, cucumber for the village). PURA targets the elimination of what is known as the unfair advantage of the urban areas. It also seeks to empower the urban populace and encourage their participation in national activities. For Sri Lanka, just as India, with the majority of the country still very much based in rural areas, PURA would be an opportunity to acquire knowledge, wealth and empowerment.

Knowledge hub

Dr. Kalam also stressed on the need to let our minds wonder – not be limited by everyday mundane things. He talked about the Indian scientist who was travelling on a plane back home to India and was wondering why the sea and the sky were blue. He went back to research the moment he landed in India and his findings earned him the Nobel Prize.

One of Dr. Kalam’s key areas is promoting India as a knowledge hub - he believes that evolving relevant policy and administrative systems, initiating newer, better regulatory methods, creation of young and dynamic leaders are important for the establishment of a knowledge society.

There are many thoughts Dr. Kalam left behind for us to ponder. And activate in our personal lives. It is never too late to let the fire of imagination and innovation fuel our hearts and minds. It is never too difficult to initiate new things towards changing the very way we think.



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