As we celebrate Teachers’ Day tomorrow I would like to share my thoughts on Late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam recollecting the few expereinces that I hold very dear to my heart. I adored this great leader for the love and commitment he had towards students of this generation.
15th November 2008 is a very memorable day in my life. That was the day I visited Rameshwaram, the birth place of Late Dr Abdul Kalam. This great leader had always inspired me through his very simple life. He was truly people’s President.
His commitment to meet with students and inspire them had a deep impact on thousands of students, teachers and others through them. He could intract with the students of all regions, levels, rural, urban and all ages. I had great admiration for him who left his home to Rashtrapathi Bhavan with just one suit case when the Government of India sent officials to bring him to Rahstrapathi with a big Military truck to carry his personal luggage! He stunned them with his very ordinary suit case saying that is all he possessed. His exit from Rashtrapathi Bhavan was also no different to this.
As the Executive Secretary for Mission Education at the Council for World Mission (CWM), incharge of the most popular programme Training in Mission (TIM), I was in Tamil Theological Seminary in Madurai, South India for the Annual evaluation and Commissioning Service along with my very dear colleague Ms Zsusannah Holtsuk. After a hectic week of evaluation with paper presentations, interviews, individual and group evaluations, the Indian co-ordinators Dr Kerstin Neumann and Rev Dr Samuel Soundarapandiyan decided to take us the staff of CWM along with the co-ordinators from South Africa Rev Mathemba Tati and Mr Malusi Makalima for a time of relaxation and an exposure trip along with part of the evaluations to be concluded at a Church on our way to Rameshwaram. Initially, I was not that happy when I heard that we were going to Rameshwaram. One thing that stood out for me was the great and famous hindu Temple there. I did not remember the importance of this place in relation to Kalam.
We started our jounrney early that morning and I joined the group half hearted. We stopped after about an hour for breakfast at a local restaurant. This was a very small place but the pictures on the wall as we entered reminded me once again of the broad mind and hearts of Indians in many places to respect the religious faith and images of their own communities as well as others.
As we stepped out after our breakfast, we saw a pond in front of this restaurant with beautiful Lotuses.
These flowers do mesmerise me. To see them fresh and so beautiful in the morning was a delight. Not just that, this flower always reminds me of a ‘Kural’ one of the 1330 sacred douplets written by Thiruvalluvar.
This is one of the ancient Tamil literature that is dated around 300 BC and some claim it to be even 600 or 800 BC. I would like to give the Kural and its meaning in Kalam’s words as he explained to the group of students above at Rashtrapathy Bhavan when they asked him what his last word was for them and the wider readers:
“They must think in a big way. I remember 2000 years back, there is a famous saying in Thirukural by Saint Poet Thiruvalluvar — Vellathanaya Malar Neetam Mandartham Ullath anayatu Uyarvu. It means that, just like the height of the water in a pond determines the height to which a lily would grow, it is the heights of thoughts that determines the heights to which you could aspire for.So as human beings they should have great thoughts, great aims, and when thoughts become transformed into actions performed with perseverance and devotion, success has to follow.” This is the message that these lotuses convey to me each time I see them or when I encounter problems.
So, pondering over this kural, I was enjoying the trip to Rameshwaram with my freinds and colleagues. We all became very tired due to the scroching Sun when Pandiyan Annan stopped near an Old School and said that it was the School where Kalam studied. I just could not believe that we were outside the School where Kalam had studied. I jumped out of the vehichle to go and just at least stand outside this School Gate. I was so very excited to see the School that had formed this great Scientist as well as a Great Leader of India. I just felt like prostrating and kissing this earth for its glorious contribution. This trip really became more like a pilgrimage for me.
I went into the school with the permission of a teacher there. I looked at the very ordinary School – its old structure, old class rooms and very ordinary people. Once again I remembered that God uses ordinary things and ordinary people for extra-ordinary work. I was amazed to see this school where this great man studied. We were very close to his ancestral home and I was shocked to see the humble dwelling of this great leader and scientist. I know it will be very difficult for us to find people like him today who will be able to soar and reach greatest heights but not give up their values or simple and humble life.
What amazes me is that a Christian School that had teachers and students from other religions and faiths – of course this is not uncommon in India. A muslim student who studied in a Christian School and adored his Science Teacher who was an orthdox Hindu Brahmin! Yes, this is what we need to learn. Kalam could soar high above as his thoughts and actions were without blemish.
I loved that Day which taught me so many things in life. Not very far from his home we saw these huts.
The road to his house was a very narrow path and I was looking for a good broad road but we went through very narrow paths and we were shown his ancestral home – a very modest one. He was neevr ashamed of his childhood or the poverty that he had to got through. He embraced it totally to the end – a very simple life.
Visiting the School he had studied, and seeing the humble dwellings of this great man, the desire to meet him personally one day grew more and more within me. I knew that this dream of mine will never come true as I was not even residing in India anymore and my visits to India although frequent then would never provide me with this opportunity. Yet, I nurtured this dream within me that one day I should see this great man in person.
It was 9th August 2009. It was again Zsusannah and me organising an event along with Rev David Haslam who made it possible for a small group of people representing different Churches in UK to meet with more than half a dozen of Lords at the UK Parliament House. This was the first time I was entering the Parliament House. The security was high and we had to make it to our meeting. We were rushing to get into the room allotted for our meeting to discuss caste issues as Church Dalit Solidarity Group (CDGS) in the House of Lords. As we were all rushing, Rev Dr Andrew Prasad (Moderator of the URC North) and I the only Indians in that groupof about 10-12 recognised a very familar face. It was none other than Dr Abdul Kalam – he was there with a few other Indians waiting to go into another room for another meeting. He looked at us and welcomed us with a very warm heart and a big smile. He shook hands with us and I really felt like falling at his feet for all the values that he upheld in his life. I could not believe that I had met him personally. However, time was tooo short as the Lords with whom we had to meet were already in that room and we were signalled to rush in there. We said a quick hi and bye to this great person Dr Abdul Kalam.
I thank God for the life of this Great person and pray that the teachers around the world will imbibe his values to be committed to the students in inspiring them to have a goal and a vision and achive that by nurturing those thoughts deep within their hearts and pursuing that path with great care.
I thank God for all my teachers at School, Church, Colleges that I have studied and am still studying. As I remember tham, I also remember and pray for all those young and old who have taught me great and small things that have formed me socially, spiritually and personally. Here is my tribute on this special Day to one of the iconic models in my life – the Great late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.
My Tribute to Late DR Abdul Kalam
A great and an affectionate person
Who many a hearts had won
So wonderful, simple and humble
Can’t describe but just mumble
I remember vividly, the day I went
To your School and it was indeed
A moment when my heart sent
Waves of joy, my path to lead
It was my big dream to meet you
Never thought it would come true
Until I met you at House of Lords
And truly I was, lost for words!
How gently, warmly, you received us
With broad smile, shook hands, no fuss
Although we never expected to meet
It was indeed for us a huge TREAT.
You soared high up from the rural
You embraced what we call ‘Plural’
Be it culture, faith or human action
You were surely far from any fiction.
You truly adored your simple School
Your teachers you held so high
You credited your science Teacher
Who taught showing the nature
You considered it as your mission
To interact with all students
You gave them a great vision
Inspired them with prudence
Nothing could ever pin you down
Poverty, trials, failures any
You did go from town to town
Meeting students so many
So, YOU we all wish to remember
Tomorrow, the 5th of September
As we celebrate Teachers’ Day
This tribute to you we do pay
4th September, 2015