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.
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.
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.
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
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.