I Hereby Swear...
To the staunch Hindu, the 'Holy Island' of Ramesharam at the southeastern tip of India is extremely sacred. A legend from the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana, gives it the prominence. Apparently, Lord Rama sent Hanuman to bring a Lingam for his worship at an auspicious hour. As the designated time approached there was no sign of Hanuman. Not wanting to delay proceedings, Sita made a Lingam out of sand thus ensuring that Lord Rama was able to fulfill his wish. Meanwhile, Hanuman returned with a Lingam and was disappointed to find one already installed. Lord Rama sensed Hanuman's disappointment and to appease him, he ordered that the Lingam brought by Rama be installed nearby and directed that this Lingam be worshiped first, a tradition being followed till today.
Off late however, the temple town of Rameswaram is popular for reasons other than mythology, temples and lingams. It all began somewhere around June when an almost unknown entity's name was proposed as the Presidential candidate. And on July 25th, 2002, when one of it's sons of the soil Dr. Abdul Kalam took the oath as the 11th President of India, the was no stopping temple bells in Rameswaram from gonging away in celebration.
Dr. Abdul Kalam had no prior association whatsoever with the Indian brand of politics. No doubt he was a government servant but that was strictly confined to the various jobs and positions he held starting off from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bangalore as a trainee where he worked on piston and turbine engines. At one point of time he had dreams of joining the Indian Air Force. But that was not to be. It was then that he decided that if he couldn't fly planes he'd at least be involved in developing them. And so, Dr. Kalam progressed in years to become the great scientist and missile technologist that he is and in 1990 Dr. Kalam was awarded the Padma Vibhushan followed by the highest honour, the Bharat Ratna in 1997.
Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was born on October 15, 1931, the youngest of A.P. Ambalam Jenulabudhin-Mohammed and Azija Ammal's seven siblings. His only surviving brother A.P.J. Muthu Meeran Mohammed Labbai Marakkyar admits that Abdul Kalam was the only one from their family to graduate. From Swartz High School in Rameswaram to St. Joseph's College, Trichy, Abdul Kalam earned an aeronautical engineering diploma from MIT, in Madras.
From then on, as they say, the rest is history.
An Enthusiastic President...
There is a rare exuberance in Dr. Kalam. A kind of body language that would suggest he's here to change everything, if not, lots of things. He holds this view that as a nation something is missing. In his book "Ignited Minds" he examines why given all the skills, resources and talent India as a country still isn't there. "There seems to be an attitude problem as if we cannot shake ourselves out of a mindset of limited achievements," he writes. In his most recent work "Visions of India" he talks of the dire need for India to progress and develop so that poverty can be eliminated.
In his first speech soon after he took the oath Dr. Kalam said, "When I travel across our nation, when I hear the sound of waves of the three seas around the shores of my country, when I experience the breeze of wind from the mighty Himalayas, when I see the bio-diversity of North-East and our islands and when I feel the warmth from the western desert, I hear the voice of the youth: "When can I sing the song of India?" What can be the answer? I have so far interacted with over 50,000 school children during the past one year. I would like to share with you my answer to the urge of these children. If youth have to sing the song of India, India should become a developed country, which is free from poverty, illiteracy and unemployment and is buoyant with economic prosperity, national security and internal harmony."
Sound like the sort of speech one has heard so often, but there's just one variation. It's spoken with tremendous conviction. For it comes from one who started life at Ground Zero level. His humble background, the son of a boatman who had to rough it out in his early years just so he could go to school and so on. Hence, this kind of talk isn't bull because one has seen Dr. Kalam's interaction with children much before the idea of nominating as President even came about. He's as genuine as genuine can be.
Strictly speaking, to most Indians it hardly mattered who the President was and what he really did. We know he makes his customary addresses to the nation on Republic Day and Independence Day and on one or two other occasions. We know he plays host to visiting dignitaries, attends a host of ceremonies, jets across the globe and gets honoured with doctorates and such accolades. What for? Only they know best.
Will He, Won't He...
Notwithstanding the controversies that surfaced before the election actually took place, the mood amongst most Indians is rather optimistic. Never before has the election of a President of India has brought a ray of hope, a silver lining especially to the IT industry. Here's what they are saying:
Mr. Ashok Soota, President of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Chairman, MindTree Consulting and who has interacted with him in the past says," I think it's a wonderful thing and I think he's an inspiration to young people all over the country. He's an excellent person and at the last India Economic Summit when I was Vice President of CII he came and talked to us. On that occasion he spoke about a vision for India and it was a very inspiring. I have great respect and admiration for him"
Chandra Kumar, Managing Director and founder of Linc Software voice a similar opinion by saying "India has time and gain proven that Democracy is at its best when it comes to picking the President but unfortunately not when it comes to the parliament. I hope Dr Kalam ignites the souls of the members of the parliament and paves way for it to trickle down quickly to the rest of the billions in India. I feel a human being of his background and selfless energy is bound to make positive changes in our society and I hope, wish and pray that he uses his well-deserved powers to bring in the golden era again into our civilization."
Vijayalakshmi, formerly with Wipro and now with MindTree Consulting is optimistic to the extent of being quite upbeat when she heard the news that Dr. Kalam was elected as President. She's quite impressed with the new Presidents' attitude and the fact that he insisted on inviting school children to the swearing in ceremony. "He will be a great President who is very simple, down to earth, and humble. I am sure he will bring in new ideas (quietly without much ado) and will not be a rubber stamp President."
Ajay Sood, a team leader at Infosys Technologies and currently on project work in the US agrees that, "Constitutionally, a President is a 'Rubber Stamp. So far we have always had presidents with affiliations to one political party or the other. And having an apolitical president does provide a whiff of fresh air." It's a known fact that a President who comes in from within the system has done nothing significant as a politician. His time is spent thinking of ways and means to hold on to his seat of power. And such persons do not bring about a change in attitude just because they are now President.
One tends to agree with Ajay Sood and the others that Dr. Kalam gives hope for the future is that he's made no public display of his political leanings. He talks of his vision for India, that of India achieving prosperity, full-literacy and technology leadership in the world. Adds Ajay Sood, "Probably it sounds strange to the current politicians because they are not used to seeing beyond a month or a year in terms of vision and nothing beyond preserving their seats."
There's generally a good feeling about this whole thing. Dr. Kalam has reflected a flavour that's pretty much contrasting from what we are used to. Those who have seen him on TV would have noticed another peculiarity. When compared to Presidents of the past Dr. Kalam moves at a brisk pace, almost as if he's in a hurry to get somewhere. It would seem so if one goes by what he said the other day, "What you want to do tomorrow do it today, and what you want to do today, do it now."
Rajan Narayan, Director and co-founder of Linc Software has a slightly different opinion. "APJ Abdul Kalam is different and so he will try to be different at office (of the President of India). Later, he will be told to be like other Presidents or else ...
And we Indians will do what we've always been doing. Watch and Wait.