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Interview with APJ Abdul Kalam - The Bombay Times

Pritish Nandy ()
October 13, 1998

Title: Interview with APJ Abdul Kalam
Author: Pritish Nandy
Publication: The Bombay Times
Date: October 13, 1998

I have three visions for India. In 3000 years of our history, people
from all over the world have come and invaded us, captured our lands,
conquered our minds. From Alexander onwards. The Greeks, the Portuguese,
the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us, took
over what was ours. Yet we have not done this to any other nation. We
have not conquered anyone. We have not grabbed there land, their
culture, their history and tried to enforce our way of life on them.
Why? Because we respect the freedom of others. That is why my first
vision is that of FREEDOM. I believe that India got its first vision of
this in 1857, when we started the war of independence. It is this
freedom that we must protect and nurture and built on. If we are not
free, no one will respect us. My second vision for India is DEVELOPMENT.
For fifty years we have been developing nation. It is time we see
ourselves as a developed nation. We are among top 5 nations of the world
in terms of GDP. We have 10 percent growth rate in most areas. Our
poverty levels are falling, our achievements are being globally
recognized today. Yet we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a
developed nation, self reliant and self assured. Isn't this right? I
have third vision. The India must stand up to the world. Because I
believe that unless India stands up to the world, no one Will respect
us. Only strength respects strength. We must be strong not Only as a
military power but also as an economist power. Both must go
hand-in-hand. My good fortune was to have work with three great minds.
Dr. Vikram Sarabhai of the Dept. of space, Professor Satish Dhawan, who
succeeded him, and Dr. Brahm Prakash, father of nuclear material. I was
lucky to have worked with all three of them closely and consider this
the great opportunity of my life. I see four milestones in my career:

ONE: Twenty years I spent in ISRO. I was given the opportunity to be
The project director for India's first satellite launch vehicle, SLV3.
The onethat launched Rohini. These years played a very important role in
my Life of Scientist.

TWO: After my ISRO years, I joined DRDO and got a chance to be the part
of India's guided missile program. It was my second bliss when Agni met
its mission requirements in 1994.

THREE: The Dept. of Atomic Energy and DRDO had this tremendous
Partnership in the recent nuclear tests, on May 11 and 13. This was the
third bliss. The joy of participating with my team in these nuclear
tests and proving to the world that India can make it. That we are no
longer a developing nation but one of them. It made me feel very proud
as an Indian. The fact that we have now developed for Agni a re-entry
structure, for which we have developed this new material. A Very light
material called carbon-carbon. One day an orthopedic surgeon from Nizam
Institute of Medical Sciences visited my laboratory. He lifted the
material and found it so light that he took me to his hospital and
showed me his patients. There were these little girls and boys with
heavy metallic calipers weighing over three Kgs. each, dragging there
feet around. He said to me: Please remove the pain of my patients. In
three weeks, we made these Floor reaction Orthosis 300 gram calipers and
took them to the orthopedic center. The children didn't believe there
eyes From dragging around a three kg. load on their legs, they could now
move around! Their parents had tears in their eyes. That was my forth
bliss! Why is the media here so negative? Why are we in India so
embarrassed to recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are
such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we
refuse to acknowledge them. Why? We are the second largest producer of
wheat in the world. We are the second largest producer in rice. We are
the first in milk production. We are number one in Remote sensing
satellites. Look at Dr. Sudarshan, he has transferred the tribal village
into a self-sustaining, self driving unit. There are millions of such
achievements but our media is only obsessed with the bad news and
failures and disasters. I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the
Israeli newspaper. It was the day after a lot of attacks and
bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the
front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in
five years had transformed his desert land into an orchid and a granary.
It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The glory
details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper,
buried among other news. In India we only read about death, sickness,
terrorism, and crime. Why are we so negative? Another question: Why are
we, as a nation so obsessed with foreign things? we want foreign TVs, we
want foreign shirts. We want foreign technology. Why this obsession with
every imported? Do we not realize that self-respect comes with
self-reliance? I was in Hyderabad giving this lecture, when a 14 year
old girl asked me for my autograph. I asked her what her goal in life
is: She replied: I want to live in a developed India. For her, you and I
will have to built this develop India. You must proclaim.

---------------- APJ Abdul Kalam


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