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7/30/2015 AnimpactthatwillendureOPINIONTheHindu

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Published:July30,201500:00IST|Updated:July30,201506:08IST
July30,2015

Animpactthatwillendure
JayaprakashNarayan

Withhischildlikecuriosity,simplicityandoptimism,nootherpublicfigureendearedhimselftoallsectionsofIndiaquitelikeAbdulKalam
did

VisionforIndiaKalamsmostimportantlegacywillbethefosteringofasenseofnewnationalismandrobustoptimisminIndia.Filephoto
offormerpresidentAbdulKalaminDarbhanga,Bihar.Photo:PTI

AbdulKalamspassinghasseenanationaloutpourofgrief.ThisemotionalunityinadiverseIndiaisrareinpeacetime.Nootherpublicfigure
endearedhimselftoallsectionsofsocietyandinfluencedthemindsofmillionsasKalamdidinthepastthreedecades.Thesenseofloss
IndiansfeelatKalamsdeathispalpableandtranscendsthetraditionaldivisionsofcaste,region,religion,languageorpoliticalaffiliation.

Kalamachievedoutstandingsuccessfromhumblebeginnings.ThestoryofhisremarkablelifeisknowntoeveryIndianschoolchild.Given
oursocietalattitudesandlackofaccesstoqualityeducation,itisextremelydifficultforIndianchildrennotborntoprivilegetofulfiltheir
http://www.thehindu.com/todayspaper/tpopinion/animpactthatwillendure/article7478858.ece?css=print 1/5
7/30/2015 AnimpactthatwillendureOPINIONTheHindu

potentialandmakeamarkinlife.MillionsinIndiasawinKalamthehopeoffulfillingaspirationsandachievingeminenceintheirchosen
field.HekepturgingyoungIndianstobreakoutoftheshacklesofpovertyandtradition,todreambig,andtoworkhardtofulfiltheir
aspirations.Andhealwayslinkedindividualaspirationswithnationalgreatness.Itisthisconsistentarticulationofindividualgrowthwith
publicgoodthathasleftanenduringimpactonmostIndians,particularlystudentsandyouth.

Kalamhadmanyendearingqualities.Hisuttersimplicityandshunningofpompandprivilegetouchedtheheartsofmillionsinasocietyused
toarroganceofpower.ItiscustomaryinIndiaforthoseinofficetodisplaytheirtrappingsofpower,distancethemselvesfromthepeople,
abusepublicofficeforprivategain,liveostentatiously,haveairsofsuperiorityandfosteraVIPculture.Kalamwasrefreshinglydifferent,and
inrecentdecadeswasexceptionalinhishumility,simplelife,commontouchandspeakingstraightfromtheheart.

Indianshavedevelopedagreatdistastefortraditionalpoliticsandpartisanbickering.Kalamwasasymbolofnonpartisanship.Hewas
remarkablydevoidofmaliceandpettiness.Thosewhoknewhimwellwon'tbeabletorecallasinglecommentofbitternessorprejudiceinhis
privateorpublicutterances.Hetranscendedcaste,religion,regionandlanguage,andrepresentedthebestinoursociety.

Tirelessenergy

Throughouthislonganddistinguishedlife,Kalamretainedachildlikecuriosityandenthusiasm.Hisinfinitecapacitytoabsorbnewideas
andlearn,andreadinesstospreadsensibleideasandsuccessfulmodelsmadehimagreatcommunicatorandteacher.Youngorold,menor
women,allaudiencescouldeasilyrelatetohissimple,straightmessage.Byhisownestimate,hedirectlyinteractedwithover20million
people,mostlystudentsandyouth,overthepasttwodecades.Thefactthathecollapsedanddiedashewasinteractingwithstudentsin
Shillongattheageof83demonstrateshistirelessenergyandhisidentificationwithalllanguagesandregionsofIndia.ThispoorMuslimboy
fromcoastalTamilNadubecameatruesymbolofthediverse,multilingual,multireligiousIndiaofmanylayersandmanydiversestrands.

PerhapsKalamsmostimpressivequalitywashisrobust,undyingoptimism.Hehadgreatfaithinthepoweroftechnology,andpassionately
believedIndiacouldachievegreatnessifweharnessedouropportunitiesandpursuedapathofcommonsense.Hisbroaderprioritiesand
prescriptionsforeconomicgrowthandnationalgreatnessarepracticalandattainable.Herelentlesslyfocusedonagriculture,foodprocessing
andurbanamenitiesinruralareasinfrastructure,inparticular,reliableandqualityelectricityaccessibletoallqualityeducationand
healthcareforalltogiverealopportunitytoeveryfamilyinformationandcommunicationtechnologiesandcriticaltechnologiesand
strategicindustriesrelatedtodefence,spaceandnuclearsectors.

Hewasnotaprophetofdoom.Hewasaneternaloptimistandproblemsolver,whoalwayssawpossibilitiesandopportunitiesforthenation.
HisvisionofIndiaemergingasadevelopedeconomywithinagenerationandoccupyingherrightfulplaceamongglobalgiantscaptivatedthe
nationandelectrifiedtheimaginationofyouth.HisvisionofnationalgreatnesswasrootedinimprovingthelivingconditionsofallIndians.
Again,healwayssoughttoestablishthelinkbetweenprosperityandabetterlifeforallIndiansandnationalgreatness.Itisthesepersonal
qualitiesandhissimple,directmessagerelevanttoouragethatmadehimtheiconoftheyoungergenerationandthemuchbelovedelder
statesmanthathewas.Thatiswhyhebecametheauthenticsymbolofaresurgent,aspirationalIndia.Andthatiswhyhewieldedinfluence
waybeyondtheofficesheheld.Inrecentdecades,hestandstallestintermsoftherealinfluenceandimpacthehadonthemindsoftensof
http://www.thehindu.com/todayspaper/tpopinion/animpactthatwillendure/article7478858.ece?css=print 2/5
7/30/2015 AnimpactthatwillendureOPINIONTheHindu

millionsofpeople.

Itwouldbenoexaggerationtosaythatinhisownquiet,simpleway,Kalaminrecentdecadesemergedasagreatnationbuilder.Hedefined
newnationalismforanemergingIndia.OursenseofnationhoodwasfashionedbyMahatmaGandhiandourfreedomfightersduringthe
nationalmovement.Itwaslargelybasedonoppositiontocolonialexploitation,therejectionofracialprejudiceofanalienruler,rediscovery
ofourpastgloriesandcivilisationalstrengthstoshoreupourselfesteem,andthedeificationofMotherIndiatobuildunityandpatriotic
fervour.

Gandhiji,morethananyotherIndian,builtanationoutofdisparate,diversegroups,castes,religions,languagesandregions.Hisfeatwas
uniqueandunrivalledintheannalsofworldhistorybecausetherehasneverbeenanationascomplexanddiverse,andlivinginasmany
differentlayersspanningfromthe17thcenturytothe21stcenturyasIndia.Inthepastthreedecades,Kalamhelpedredefinethissense
ofnationalismtosuitcurrentneeds.Inthisdayandage,nationalismhastobebasedonunitytranscendingdiversity,thefulfilmentof
aspirations,givingopportunitiesforgrowthandprosperitytoeverychildirrespectiveofbirth,thelibertyofallcitizensirrespectiveofcaste,
genderorreligion,andrespectforuniversalhumanvaluesandrights.

Lastinglegacy

KalamsmostenduringandimportantlegacywillbethefosteringofthissenseofnewnationalismandtherobustoptimisminIndiasquestto
fulfilsuchavision.UndoubtedlythereisavastgulfbetweenKalamsandIndiascollectivevisionanddreams,andtherickety,quarrelsome,
inefficient,oftencorruptpoliticalcultureandgovernanceinstitutions.Weneedtodoalot,andquickly,tobridgethischasmandmakethis
dreamofnationalgreatnessandopportunitiesforallarealitywithintwodecades.Ourmoribund,partisan,corruptpoliticalprocessdrivenby
mindlesslustforpowerwithoutpurposeneedstobetransformed.Politicsmustonceagainbecomeanobleendeavourwithapurpose,as
MahatmaGandhienvisaged.

Ourbureaucracymustbeimbuedwithasenseofpurpose,andmustbecomeaninstrumentfordeliveringservicesandachievinggoalsforthe
publicgood.Weneedtogivebackpowerwithaccountabilitytocommunities,organisationsandinstitutionsateverylevelsothatthebest
impulsesprevail,talentsareharnessed,andleadershipineverysphereisnurtured.Asapeople,wemustrediscoverthecapacitytopaya
shorttermpricetopromotetheprosperityofthenextgenerationandenhancelongtermpublicgood.Andweneedtoremindourselvesthat
thenationisaboveself,andaboveaccidentsofthewombandthemanysectariandivisionsthatcontinuetoplagueus.

Gandhijigaveusasenseofnationhood.Kalamendeavouredtoinjectoptimismandshowusapracticalroadmap.Wecan,andwill,fulfilour
nationaldestinyandgiveopportunitytoeverychildandwipeeverytearfromeveryeye,asMahatmaGandhihadhopedandKalamdreamt.

(JayaprakashNarayanisthefounderoftheLokSattamovementandLokSattaParty.)

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