Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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19-12-2006 : Coimbatore
Emerging Women

I am indeed delighted to be here in Avinashlingam University for Women and interact with the Students and faculty members. My greetings to the members of the Institute Management Committee, principal, faculty members, students and other distinguished guests. I particularly greet the faculty members for empowering women through quality education and thereby raising their capacity to contribute to the society. I am happy to note that over 25,000 students have graduated from this institution during the last five decades and many of them are working as administrators, teachers, doctors, engineers and lawyers in different reputed institutions in India and abroad. I would like to share with you some thoughts on "Emerging Women".


Two Great Mothers

Womanhood is a beautiful creation of God. I am always inspired by two great women. One is my mother and the other mother is mother of music Bharat Ratna M. S. Subbulakshmi. Few minutes I would like to share my thoughts with you about these two great souls.

Embodiment of Love: During the II world war in 1941, it was a difficult time for our family at Rameswaram. I was a ten year old boy then. War had almost reached our doors of Rameswaram i. e. Sri Lanka. Almost everything was a rarity from food articles to anything. Ours was a large joint family. My father and his younger brother's families were all living together. The size of our family was five sons and five daughters and three of whom had families. I used to see in my house anytime three cradles. My grandmother and mother were almost managing this large contingent. The environment in the home alternated by happiness and sadness. I used to get up at four in the morning, take bath and went to my teacher Swamiyar for learning mathematics. He will not accept students if they had not taken bath. He was a unique mathematics teacher and he used to take only five students for free tuition in a year. My mother used to get up before me, and gave bath to me and prepared me to go for the tuition. I use to comeback at 5:30 when my father would be waiting for taking me to the Namaz and Koran Sharif learning in Arabic school. After that I used to go to Rameswaram Road Railway station, three kilometers away to collect newspaper. Madras Dhanushkodi Mail will pass through the station but will not stop, since it was war time. The newspaper bundle will be thrown from the running train to the platform. I used to collect the paper and run around the Rameswaram town and be the first one to distribute the newspapers in the town. My elder cousin brother was the agent who went away to Sri Lanka in search of better livelihood. After distribution, I used to come home at 8 AM. My mother will give me a simple breakfast with a special quota compared to other children because I was studying and working simultaneously. After the school gets over in the evening, again I will go around Rameswaran for collection of dues from customers. I still remember an incident which I would like to share with you. As a young boy I was walking, running and studying all together. One day, when all my brothers and sisters were sitting and eating, my mother went on giving me chapattis (even though we are rice eaters only wheat was rationed). When I finished eating, my elder brother called me privately and scolded "Kalam do you know what was happening? You went on eating Chappati, and mother went on giving you. She has given all her chappatis to you. It is difficult time. Be a responsible son and do not make your mother starve". First time I had a shivering sensation and I could not control myself. I rushed to my mother and hugged her. Even though I was studying in 5th class, I had a special place in my home because I was the last guy in the family. There used to be no electricity. Our house was lit by the kerosene lamp that too between 7 to 9 PM. My mother specially gave me a small kerosene lamp so that I can study up to 11 PM. I still remember my mother in a full moon night which has been portrayed with the title "mother" in my book "Wings of Fire".



"I still remember the day when I was ten,

Sleeping on your lap to the envy of my elder brothers and sisters.

It was full moon night, my world only you knew Mother!, My Mother!

When at midnight, I woke with tears falling on my knee

You knew the pain of your child, My Mother.

Your caring hands, tenderly removing the pain

Your love, your care, your faith gave me strength,

To face the world without fear and with His strength.

We will meet again on the great Judgment Day. My Mother!
This is the story of my mother who lived ninety three years, a woman of love, a woman of kindness and above all a woman of divine nature. My mother performed Namaz five times everyday. During Namaz, my mother always looked angelic. Every time I saw her during Namaz I was inspired and moved.

Radiating Divine Music: Dear friends, I will now talk to you about mother of Carnatic music M. S. Subbulakshmi. First time in the year 1950, I heard her when I was studying in the college at Trichy during Thiagaraja festival at Tiruvaiyar, which is conducted in January every year. I attended this festival with my close friend music lover Santhanam. After Pancharatna Kriti, MS Subbulakshmi sang the famous Thiagaraja keertana "Endaro Mahaanubhavalu andhariggi vandanamulu" This song really entered into me and blossomed happiness in my body and soul. The meaning was so powerful; I was moved and became a lifetime fan of M S. I started liking her statement in the music academy, linking music with Bhakti.

"Bhakti is nothing but the devotion we show to the divinity that resides within us. Once we regard the divinity within us with devotional fervour, we are bound to develop the same affection towards everything outside. The reason is that the same divine truth runs through all things. When the devotee has attained this state, service to the world becomes his creed."

I used to meet her in music concerts. It was a great joy for me when M. S. was honoured with Bharat Ratna in 1998 at Ashoka Hall in Rashtrapati Bhavan. I was sitting by her side. She touched my head and blessed. That was my greatest moment in my life. She gave one statement which I would like to recall "Any raga has the purpose of directing the minds of the listeners towards God and His manifestations" Now, I would like to share with you an experience which I had during my visit to Karnataka.


Righteousness in the Heart

On 21st November 2005, I had visited Adhichunchanagiri Math, attended a function of FUREC (Foundation for Unity of Religions and Enlightened Citizenship) and interacted with over 54,000 students of various schools and colleges of Karnataka. There a 10th class student Ms. M. Bhavani studying in Adichunchanagiri Composite High School, Sharavathy Nagar, Shimoga asked me the following question.

"Dear Sir, What is the role of students to stop corruption which is deeply rooted in our county just like cancer?"

Agony of the young mind is reflected in this question. For me it was an important question, since it came from a young mind. I was thinking what type of solutions we could give. My thought process was the following:

I said there are one billion people in the country and nearly 200 million homes. In general there are good citizens everywhere. However, if we find that people in few million houses are not transparent and not amenable to the laws of the country, what can we do? These houses apart from parents have one daughter or one son or both. If the parents in these houses are deviating from the transparent path the children can use the tool of love and affection and correct the parents to come back to the right path. I asked all the children assembled in that gathering, in case parents of few children get deviated from transparency, will you children boldly tell your parents, father or mother, you are not doing the right thing, that is what we are taught by you and in the school. Most of the children spontaneously responded, "We will do it". The confidence comes from them that they have love as a tool. Similarly I have also asked the parents in some other meeting, initially there was a silence, later, many of them hesitantly agreed that they would abide by the children's suggestion since it is driven by love. They took an oath from me. The oath was "I will lead an honest life free from all corruption and will set an example for others to adopt a transparent way of life". Finally I told the students that they should start a movement starting from their home. Youth of today have to fight to eradicate corruption by making each home righteous. I am sure every one of you can make the nation great by participating in the movement of the youth.


Emerging women

When I am in the midst of future women professionals and leaders with an urge to participate in the national movement, I am reminded of Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharatiar, who in 1910 composed the poem envisioning women of India:

This beautiful poem brings out the profile of emerging women.

Emerging Women

She walks with raised head,

With her eyes looking straight,

She has her principles,

Unafraid of anybody!

She has a lofty

And knowledge based pride,

Such cultured women,

Don't falter from the chosen path.

She drives ignorance away.

She welcomes the bliss of life.

With learned mind, This is the Dharma Of emerging woman.

The dream of the poet, I am sure, will become a reality of life for the students of Avinashlingam University for Women.


Conclusion: Empowering Women

When the child is empowered by the parents, at various phases of growth, the child transforms into a responsible citizen. When the teacher is empowered with knowledge and experience, good young human beings with value systems take shape. When individual or a team is empowered with technology, transformation to higher potential for achievement is assured. When the leader of any institution empowers his or her people, leaders are born who can change the nation in multiple areas. When the women are empowered, society with stability gets assured. When the political leaders of the nation empower the people through visionary policies, the prosperity of the nation is certain.

While concluding, I would suggest that the students assembled here choose and fix an aim in life. Let that become the mission of your life and you continuously acquire knowledge. Work hard for your goal with patience and perseverance. While you are working for your goal, you are bound to face hurdles and problems. You do not allow problems to become your master. You become master of the situation and defeat the problem. This is the secret of success in all your missions. With these words, I greet all the members of this University in the Golden Jubilee year. My best wishes to all the members of Avinashlingam University for Women success in their mission of empowerment women through value based quality education.

May God bless you.


Questions and Answers

Divya Menon, B.E. Computer Science

1. Your Excellency, we are hoping that the future first woman president is one among us, what advise would Your Excellency like to give?

Fix your aim. Continuously acquire knowledge. Sweat, Sweat and Sweat. When problem arises do not get defeated. Become the master of the problem and succeed. I wish you good luck.

R. Nandhini, B.Com

2. Your Excellency, is the present system of education in India suitable for realizing your Excellency's vision by 2020?

NCERT has prepared the National Curriculum framework under Prof. Yashpal's leadership and modified the CBSE syllabus for promoting creative education at all levels through the application of learning by doing concept. Teachers training programmes based on the new syllabus of CBSE, has been organized across 25 cities using EDUSAT through video-conferencing. In addition, there are number of good models of value-based education taking place in places such as Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Sri Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya in Haridwar, Lattur model in Maharashtra. I am sure all this will enable the youth to get the spirit that "I can do it". If that is achieved we will definitely realize our goal.

R. Anisha, B.Sc. Information Technology

3. Your Excellency, commercialization of Education has affected the weaker sections of the society. How do we solve this problem?

The aim is to enhance the capacity in our education institutions. For example, today there are number of seats going vacant in engineering education. Same thing must happen for medical, management and other professional courses. For the weaker sections of the society banks are proactive in providing in hassle-free loans to meritorious candidates. This multi-pronged approach will definitely lead to provision of quality education to all.

Tintu T. Thomas, B.Sc. Chemistry

4. Your Excellency, which position gave your Excellency more satisfaction-as a teacher/ as a scientist/as the President?

All positions require specific skills, knowledge and experience. Once you are prepared then you can definitely enjoy every work irrespective of the position.

L. Surya, MCA

5. Your Excellency, Lokayuktha was very effective in checking corruption in some of the states like Karnataka. Why can't Lokayuktha be implemented in all the states?

Many of the States are in the process of implementing the appointment of Lokayuktha on the lines of Karnataka.

Karen Joanna, B.Sc. Interior Design

6. Your Excellency, what are the major steps your Excellency would like to highlight to transform our vision into reality?

Major step required for transforming vision into reality is that the 540 million youth should get the "I can do it" spirit. They should realize that there is nothing which is impossible.

B.T. Priyadarshini, III B.Sc. Special Education

B. Bhavadarini, II B.Sc., Food Science and Nutrition

P. Kalaiselvi, III B.Sc., Bio-technology

S. Iyswarya, I B.A. Tamil




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