Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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19-12-2006 : Coimbatore
Giving blossoms into happiness

"Where there is righteousness in the heart,
There is beauty in the character".


I am indeed delighted to participate in the Integrity India Campaign programme organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at Coimbatore. I greet the organizers, industrialists, technocrats, scientists, academicians, students and distinguished guests. I take this opportunity to congratulate the CII for conceiving this Campaign which aims to work with the young people of India for creating a national level mission, debate and dialogue on the issue of transparency accountability and ethical behaviour in all facets of our national endeavour.

I would like to discuss how in spirit of giving happiness blossoms through certain events from various great lives. Now let me recall, the advice of Gandhiji's mother to her son.

"Son, in your entire life time if you can save or better someone's life, your birth as a human being and your life is a success. You have the blessing of the Almighty God".

This advice makes me to remember the movement pioneered by Mahatma Gandhiji against apartheid system followed in South Africa.


Struggle gives strength and dignity

I would like to recall my traveling on 16th September 2004 in a train powered by steam engine in a first class compartment of 1900's vintage organized by Durban state of South Africa. When the train was moving from one station to another, Mahatma Gandhi's struggle against apartheid system in South Africa was going through my mind. The train halted at Pietermartizburg, the station where the monster of apartheid bite Gandhiji on a cold winter night. He was evicted out of a first class compartment because of the colour of his skin. When I alighted at the Pietermartizburg railway station, I saw a plaque in the railway station, which reads like this:

In the Vicinity of this plaque

M.K. GANDHI was evicted

from a first class

compartment on the night of

7 June 1893.

This incident changed

the course of his life.

He took up the fight

against racial oppression.

His active non-violence

started from that date.

This was the rebirth of Ahimsa Dharma after the Kalinga War in 300 B.C. Gandhiji later developed the Ahimsa Dharma and gave India a powerful tool to win independence.


Forgiveness gives greatness

When I was standing at the Pietermartizburg railway station my thoughts were hovering on two scenes which I experienced in South Africa. One scene was, in Robben Island where Dr. Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned for 26 years, in a very small cell, and the other scene was at the house of Dr. Nelson Mandela.

Cape Town is famous for its Table Mountain; it has got three peaks called Table Peak, Devil Peak, and Fake Peak. Between the Peaks it was a beautiful sight throughout the day, sometimes dark clouds and sometimes white clouds embracing the peaks. Table Mountain is very close to the sea coast of the Atlantic Ocean. I flew by helicopter to Robben Island from Cape Town in 10 minutes. When we reached the Island, except sea roaring, the whole island was silent symbolizing the thought: this is the place the freedom of individuals was chained. We were received at the Island by Mr. Ahmed Kathrada, a South African, who was a co-prisoner with Dr. Nelson Mandela. What surprised me was, in a tiny room where sleeping and all human needs have to be fulfilled. It has to be remembered that Dr. Nelson Mandela, who was 6 feet tall was imprisoned in that room for 26 years - fighting against the apartheid. The major part of his life was spent in this silent Island. He used to be taken for quarrying in the nearby mountain for a few hours in bright sun. This is the time his sight got damaged. In spite of his body being tortured he revealed to the world his indomitable spirit. This is the time he evolved a manuscript of freedom in tiny letters every day, when the jail wardens went to sleep. This small tiny lettered manuscript finally became the famous book of Mandela "A long walk to freedom".

It was a great event for me to meet him in his house in Johannesburg. What a moving reception, the man at the age of 86 gave with all smiles. Dear friends, I would like to share with you, when I entered Dr. Nelson Mandela's house, I saw his three dimensional form with cheerfulness: the mighty man who got the freedom for South Africa from the tyranny of apartheid. When I was leaving from his house he came to the portico to give me a send off and while walking he discarded his walking stick and I became his support. While walking I asked him, "Dr. Mandela can you please tell me about the pioneers of anti apartheid movement in South Africa?" He responded spontaneously, "of course one of the great pioneers of South Africa's freedom movement was M.K. Gandhi. India gave us M.K. Gandhi, we gave you back Mahatma Gandhi after two decades. Mahatma Gandhi was an apostle of Non-Violence". That is indeed the tradition of India - to enrich whichever nation we go, our foremost responsibility is to enrich that nation. Enriching the nation is not only in financial terms, but enrich with knowledge, enrich with sweat above all enrich with honour and self dignity. Nelson Mandela when he became the President of South Africa he gave the people who specialized in apartheid and ill-treated and put him in the jail for 26 years, freedom to move, freedom to live in South Africa as equal citizens. Dear friends, a big lesson that we learnt from this personality Dr. Nelson Mandela is beautifully captured in one of the Thirukkurals written 2200 years before by the Poet Saint Thiruvalluvar:

Which means, for those who do ill to you, the best punishment is to return good to them.


Vision gives progress

When I am addressing this gathering, a unique letter comes to my mind. This letter I saw in Jamshedpur at Tata Exhibition written by Jamsetji N Tata on 23rd Nov 1898. I would like all of you to know about this letter which I am going to read. It gives a very important message. I quote:

"Dear Swami Vivekananda ,

I trust, you remember me as a fellow-traveller on your voyage from Japan to Chicago. I very much recall at this moment your views on the growth of the ascetic spirit in India, and the duty, not of destroying, but of diverting it into useful channels.

I recall these ideas in connection with my scheme of Research Institute of Science for India, of which you have doubtless heard or read. It seems to me that no better use can be made of the ascetic spirit than the establishment of monasteries or residential halls for men dominated by this spirit, where they should live with ordinary decency, and devote their lives to the cultivation of sciences - natural and humanistic. I am of opinion that, if such a crusade in favour of an asceticism of this kind were undertaken by a competent leader, it would greatly help asceticism, science, and the good name of our common country; and I know not who would make a more fitting general of such a campaign than Vivekananda. Do you think you would care to apply yourself to the mission of galvanazing into life our traditions in this respect? Perhaps you had better begin with a fiery pamphlet rousing our people in this matter. I should cheerfully defray all the expenses of publication.

23rd November 1898

Jamsetji N Tata

Jamsetji N Tata has written this letter to Swami Vivekananda asking him to take the leadership of a Research Institute for Science in India. Imagine the type of courage and vision a progressive industrialist Jamsetji had to write to a spiritual leader. This strength he derived from one important incident which took place during a voyage from Japan to USA.

At this point let me share the meeting between Swami Vivekananda and Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata during a ship journey. It happened in 1893. A ship was sailing from Japan to USA. There were hundreds of people in that ship including two significant personalities. Swami Vivekananda and Jamsetji Tata were in that ship. Swamiji asked Jamsetji for what mission he was traveling. Jamsetji said that he wanted to bring steel industry to India. Swami Vivekanda blessed him. He suggested steel technology had two components - one is steel science and the other is manufacturing technology. What can you bring to this country in material technology ? you will have to build material science within the country. Jamsetji was thinking and thinking and made a decision. Earlier when Jamsetji went to London he asked for technology transfer for Steel Plant. UK steel manufacturers looked at Jamsetji and said that if Indians make steel, Britishers will eat it. Jamsetji crossed the Atlantic Ocean, talked to Americans and brought manufacturing technology for steel. And the Tata Steel was established in Jamshedpur. He seeded and worked for the steel plant. Jamsetji is not there now, but 7 million tones per annum steel is rolling out. The visionary Jamsetji gave one portion of his asset for starting a science institute today known as Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore. The message I would like to convey to this audience, dream gives vision, vision gives thoughts and thought leads to actions. Jamsetji brought two establishments to this country - first one was steel plant and the other was an educational research institution at the instance and the vision of Swami Vivekananda.

Now you will realize the significance of the letter from Jamsetji to Swami Vivekananda. A visionary like Jamsetji with the blessing of Swamiji paved the way for the establishment of Indian Institute of Science in 1909. The Indian Institute of Science born out of a vision of great minds is the foremost scientific research institution providing post graduate education. This institution as envisaged by Swami Vivekananda dreamt, has one of the best material science labs, providing the best of research results for development and production of material for various R&D labs and industries. Also Indian Institute of Science is a world class institution in various areas for physics, aerospace technology, knowledge products, bio-science and bio-technology. This is the one institution where convergence of technology like bio-technology, information technology and nano-technology is emerging. The results will have tremendous influence in improving solar cell efficiency and healthcare, particularly drug delivery system. This institution also participated in the research and development of space programmes, defence programmes and also many societal missions. You can see how the vision of Swami Vivekananda has been transformed into a great research and teaching institution.


Mother gives principle of truth

Now, I will narrate to you a story surrounding the life of a great saint Sheikh Abdul Qadir Al-Gelani which happened about one thousand years ago. At the age of 8, Abdul Qadir left his native place in Iraq to become a great Darvesh (saint).

One day child Abdul Qadir heard a cow saying that what you are doing here in the grazing fields, it is not for this that you have been created. He promptly ran back to his house feeling utterly terrified and climbed on to the roof of his house. From there he saw a large group of people returning from Arafat Mountain, thousands of miles away from his place in the neighbourhood of Mecca after performing Haj. Bewildered Abdul Qadir went to his mother and asked her permission to make a journey to Baghdad and pursue a career in knowledge. Mother heard the divine call and promptly gave the permission for him to go. But, she gave him 40 gold coins which was his share he inherited from his father. She stitched these 40 gold coins inside the lining of his coat and gave him permission to leave. When she stepped out of the door to bid him a farewell, she said, "Oh, my son! You are going! I have detached myself from you for the sake of Allah knowing that I shall not see your face again until the day of last judgement. But take one advice from mother, "My son, you always feel the truth, speak the truth and propagate the truth even when your life is at stake".

Abdul Qadir travelled with a small caravan heading for Baghdad. During the journey, when the caravan was passing through the tough terrains, a group of robbers on horses suddenly attacked the caravan and started looting. None of them however took the slightest notice of Abdul Qadir, until one of the looters turned to him and said. "You are here poor beggar! Do you have anything with you? Abdul Qadir replied, "I have got 40 Dinars which are stitched by my mother in the lining of my coat underneath my armpit." The looter smiled and thought that Abdul Qadir was just joking. He left him alone and moved elsewhere. Then the second looter came and asked the same thing. Abdul Qadir again repeated his answer. The looter also didn't believe him and left him. When their leader came and they took this boy to their leader and said to him, "This boy looks like a beggar but claims that he is in possession of 40 gold coins. We looted everybody but we have not touched him because we hardly believed that he has got gold coins with him and he is trying to fool ourselves". Then the leader put the same question but Abdul Qadir replied the same. Then the leader ripped through his coat and discovered that he indeed got 40 gold coins inside the lining of his coat.

The astonished leader asked Abdul Qadir, what prompted him to make this confession? Abdul Qadir replied. "My mother made me promise to always be truthful even at the cost of my life". Here, it was a matter of only 40 Dinars. I promised her and never betrayed her trust so I told the truth. The looters started weeping and said, you have adhered to the advice of your great mother but we have been betraying the trust of our parents and the covenant of our Creator for many years. From now onwards, you would become our leader in our repentance and they all decided to give up robbery and from that day they became righteous persons. Here the world saw a birth of a great saint, Shiek Abdul Qadir Al-Gilani out of truth a mother gave to her child.

From these four incidents, what message do we get? Mahatama Gandhiji gave Ahimsa Dharma to South Africa to fight against apartheid and later he used the same tool for attaining freedom to India from British rule; Nelson Mandela suffered solitary confinement for 26 years in a single room for fighting against apartheid and later when the country becomes free he forgives and gives equal rights to his tormentors; Swami Vivekananda inspired J.N. Tata to create an educational institution for research in material technology, which gave birth to the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore; Sheikh Abdul Qadir followed his mothers advice to live by the truth and grew to become a great saintly scholar and reformer.

The spirit of our youth today has to be "Give, Give and go on Giving". I believe we all have to work together to spread a message that each one of us should contribute to the upliftment of people and conditions around us. What I can give, to make a difference in someone else's life, indeed gives meaning to one's own life.


Conclusion: Righteousness and Peace

Now I would like to share with you a beautiful divine hymn about righteousness, which is the foundation for evolution of enlightened citizens.

Where there is righteousness in the heart,

There is beauty in the character.

When there is beauty in the character,

there is harmony in the home.

When there is harmony in the home,

There is order in the nation.

When there is order in the nation,

There is peace in the world.

It is a beautiful connectivity between heart, character, nation and the world. In a society we have to build righteousness among all its constituents. For the society as a whole to be righteous we need creation of righteousness in family, righteousness in education, righteousness in service, righteousness in career, righteousness in business & industry, righteousness in civil administration, righteousness in politics, righteousness in government, righteousness in law and order, righteousness in justice. Let the righteousness engulf you friends and your life will radiate with purity and purpose. My best wishes to all the participants of Integrity India Campaign success in their mission of developing value based leaders for promoting prosperity, happiness and peace among the society.

May God bless you.




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