Friday, November 22, 2013

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

In the recent three weeks, I have read two books of Bharat Ratna A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Former President of India, a great son of India.  Both these books are autographical in content and message. The first book is My Journey – Transforming Dreams into Actions. The book contains inspirational stories from the life of the most respected thinker and scientist of India. The book has been dedicated by the author “to the sixteen million youth who I have met and interacted with in the last two decades”. The narration in My Journey is ‘nostalgic, honest and deeply personal’. I would strongly recommend the younger generation to read this book. The second book of President Kalam, gifted to me by my daughter Vaishali (autographed by APJ Abdul Kalam), is Wings of Fire – An Autobiography.  The book has been dedicated by the author “to the memory of my parents”.  Most of the scientific accounts go over my head. But I found that the Wings of Fire is a brilliant account of the success story of the space and missile program of India. Somebody has rightly nicknamed APJ Abdul Kalam as the ‘Missile Man.  It is a thumbnail sketch of President Kalam’s life and a must read.

It has been my good fortune to see President APJ Abdul Kalam in person and briefly interact with him once. In fact, my office was located in the same wing of the South Block when he was the Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defense and I was the Director of Central Asia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs from 1997-2000. I could see this great man many a times either in the lift or crossed our ways in the stairs. I found him an embodiment of simplicity and spirituality.

 President Kalam is a renowned scientist of high standing. India and the erstwhile USSR and now Russia, and countries of Central Asia have had good scientific cooperation particularly on defense related technologies and equipment. A scientific delegation from Kyrgyzstan visited India sometime in 1998-99.  The hosts invited me, as Director of Central Asia at the MEA to a dinner meeting at Oberoi Grand Hotel in old Delhi to meet the Kyrgyz delegation. President Kalam, then Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, also came to meet the delegation. I could see personally the respect and regard the visiting delegation showed to him. Undoubtedly, President Kalam commands great recognition as a scientist of caliber and standing. I have yet another story to tell. When I went to Minsk as Ambassador of India to Belarus, in the process of my First Arrival calls with the Belarusian leadership, I called on the Chairman of the India-Belarus Joint Commission for Military and Technical cooperation, who was also a scientist of standing in the erstwhile USSR and now Belarus. After the meeting, he took me to his personal office and with a sense of great pride showed me his photograph with APJ Abdul Kalam which was kept on the side of his office table. He said that President Kalam was one his best friends and wanted me to convey his regards to him. I felt a sense of elation within me.

President APJ Abdul Kalam is a living legend. I wish him good health in the years to come.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Remembering Indira Gandhi Again

I wrote ‘Remembering Indira Gandhi’ in my blog on October 31, the day of her assassination. I write again today to remember her on her birthday on November 19. Indira Gandhi was a worthy Prime Minister of India and a great leader.

I have had, as written earlier, good fortune to work in the close vicinity of Indira Gandhi in her office in the South Block and sometimes at her residence at 1 Safdarjung Road in a junior capacity attached to the office of Miss Vimla Sindhi, popularly known as ‘Behanji’ who was the Deputy Director (Govt. Hospitality Organisation) under the Protocol Division of the Ministry of External Affairs. Behanji, having worked with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at Teen Murti House since the dawn of Independence was personally known to Indira Gandhi from those days. In fact, the office of Behanji was more of personal nature than official to cater to some of the sundry Protocol and General House-Keeping needs of the PM’s Office and attached Committee, Conference Rooms. The approach to work, with a view to pay special attention to PM Indira Gandhi’s tastes and likings, was also more personal.  In personal and private interaction, Indira Gandhi called Behanji as Vimi and she in turn addressed her as Indu. In this set up, I was also working as one of the personal staff members of the PM’s office.

I first saw Indira Gandhi from a close quarter in her office when the three leaders of the Tri-partite Meeting among India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – Swaran Singh, Aziz Ahmed, Kamal Hossain – called on the Prime Minister in April, 1974. I was fully impressed by her demeanor and poise. In the process of my duties, there were several occasions to see her in office and Committee/Conference Rooms and also in the majestic corridors and stairs of her office. I was under the impression that Indira Gandhi considered me as one of the security personnel who was hanging around her office. But I was pleasantly surprised one day when her Personal Security Officer Pandit Ram Murti came and asked for Behanji as the PM was calling her. Behanji was not present in office and I informed him accordingly. Ram Murti went back and informed the PM. She (PM) asked to call that boy (obviously she did not know my name) who was working with her (Behanji). I went and attended to some small work in her office. I was totally impressed by her sense of awareness about the small things/happenings around her. She was a great human being too.

I recall these some anecdotes as a tribute to Indira Gandhi on her birth anniversary.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jewels of Bootan Mandi

I have been writing about the contemporary dalit heroes and my fellow BootanMandians in my Blog. Today I write about yet another hero and my fellow BootanMandian, Pawan Kumar.

Pawan is a young man who has cleared and qualified the PCS competitive examination of this year with flying colours. While I congratulate him and his family on this great success, I feel proud that I know them well. Pawan’s father Keshwa Nand is my Hum-Umar and school mate. It is all the more satisfying to add that Pawan’s elder brother, Sunil Kumar, is already a PCS officer. I understand that Sunil has been posted as ETO after the requisite training. I am confident that he will prove himself to be a good and competent officer. It was my pleasure to honour him at the Bootan Mandi Budh Vihar last year at a solemn function. Pawan has provided yet another opportunity to do so. The whole community shall be proud of them. Both Sunil and Pawan have proved that hard work and dedication can make one achieve ones goals, in spite of all odds and an ordinary family background. They have become the real icons for the younger generation.

I have had the honour to briefly interact with Pawan and his elder brother Brijesh Kumar early this year when I launched my new venture, Jalandhar School of Careers and Opportunities.  We were engaged in the process of selecting and recruiting the teaching faculty for the School. On advice of my brother in law Prof. Balbir Chander and friend Ram Lal Kainth, I consulted Brijesh and Pawan who are qualified and highly placed teachers by their own right. Both of them were fully supportive and cooperative. In fact, Pawan was so good that when we could not find a suitable teacher of Math in the beginning, he offered unconditional help and took the classes himself for a few days, till we engaged a teacher. I found Pawan and Brijesh humble but upright. 

I once again congratulate them and wish them further success and prosperity in the years to come.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Greetings on Diwali (November 3, 2013), the festival of lights and harmony. Diwali is an undeclared national festival of India and rightly so. Many of us celebrate Diwali from a religious perspective but the society at large celebrates Diwali as a matter of festivity and fun. I belong to the latter chunk of the society. Life is increasingly becoming difficult and tension ridden. We must explore and identify more avenues of joy and happiness. I subscribe to Diwali from this point of view.

Generally, we in the family don’t do many rituals. Nevertheless, we celebrated Diwali by exchanging greetings with my brothers, sisters and some close relations and friends and also with my colleagues at Jalandhar School of Careers & Opportunities. We got together at Silver Residency Apartments, our residential complex, and celebrated Diwali on November 2. It was great fun. We danced with our partners and children. There was a well controlled fire-work followed by a simple but good dinner. I feel that everybody enjoyed in good spirit of oneness and fellowship.

May Diwali bring us peace and harmony and we look for more and more such occasions where we may find more opportunities to create and generate further happiness.