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A million smiles to give for

Changing the life of others is the only way to alter your own. This New Year, give so that you may get, writes APJ Abdul Kalam.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2006 02:27 IST

As we begin the New Year, we should all work for the nation’s development. This can be possible if everyone understands and learns that happiness comes from giving. It is by giving, and giving in whichever way each one of us can, that all of us can make a positive contribution to the making of a developed India. In this context, I remember incidents from four great lives: Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Nelson Mandela, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata and Saint Sheikh Abdul Qadir.

Gandhiji’s mother gave him beautiful advice when he was young: “Son, in your entire life time if you can save or better someone’s life, your birth as a human being and your life is a success. You have the blessing of the Almighty God.”

The spirit of this advice transformed Gandhiji’s life on June 7, 1893 when he was evicted from a train’s first class compartment at Pietermartizburg station because of the colour of his skin. It was then that he took up the fight against racial oppression, beginning his campaign of non-violence that became a powerful tool for India’s Independence 54 years later.

When I was at Pietermartizburg station in 2004, my thoughts also turned to Dr. Mandela’s struggle against apartheid and Robben Island where he’d been imprisoned for 26 years. Despite his travails there Mandela maintained his indomitable spirit. On becoming the President of South Africa, Mandela gave the people who practiced apartheid, and ill-treated him, all the freedom given in a democracy.

Also in 1893, Swami Vivekananda and Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata met on a ship sailing from Japan to the USA. Jamsetji said he wanted to bring the steel industry to India. Vivekananda suggested Jamshetji shouldn’t just strive to bring technology for steel manufacture, but also its science. Inspired by this idea not only was Tata Steel established at Jamshedpur, but Jamsetji gave one portion of his assets for starting a science institute: the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore. This shows that dream gives vision, vision gives thoughts and thought leads to actions.

This New Year we must also remember the message from the events about one thousand years ago that led to an eight year old becoming a great saint, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Al-Gelani.

Living in Iraq, one day the child Qadir heard a voice telling him that his life had a greater mission. Inspired, he told his mother he wanted to go to Baghdad to pursue knowledge. Permitting him, she stitched 40 gold coins inside his coat’s lining, and said: “Oh, my son! You are going! I have detached myself from you for the sake of Allah…But take one advice from your mother, always feel the truth, speak the truth and propagate the truth even when your life is at stake.”

On his journey, robbers attacked Qadirs’s caravan. He truthfully told them gold coins were sown into his coat. Upon finding them, the astonished leader of the robbers asked what had prompted Qadir to make this confession. Qadir replied, “My mother made me promise to always be truthful even at the cost of my life. Here, it was a matter of only 40 dinars. I promised her and never betrayed her trust, therefore I told you the truth.” The looters were remorseful and from that day decided to start life afresh and the world saw the birth of a great saint.

What message do we get from these four incidents? Gandhi gave Ahimsa Dharma to South Africa to fight apartheid and used the same for attaining India’s freedom; Mandela suffered confinement for years and when the country became free he forgave and gave his tormentors equal rights; Vivekananda inspired J.N. Tata to create an educational institution for research; Sheikh Abdul Qadir followed his mother’s advice to live by truth and grew to become a saintly scholar and reformer.

As the New Year begins, very rarely in nations history has our nation been in a situation as this: an ascending economic trajectory, continuously rising foreign exchange reserves, reduced rate of inflation, global recognition of our technological competence, the energy of 540 million youth, umbilical connectivities of 20 million people of Indian origin the world over and interest shown by many developed countries to invest in our engineers and scientists.

However, there is a need to lift the economic condition and lifestyle of over 220 million people of our billion plus population. For this we have to spread the development process to the rural sector. That is what the PURA (Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas) programme involving four connectivities namely Physical, Electronic and Knowledge, leading to Economic connectivity, envisages. The entire country should have 7000 PURAs encompassing over 600,000 villages. Apart from reinforcing agriculture, PURA will emphasise on enhancing the non-farm revenue for the rural sector based on the region’s core competence. Also, rural economy will be driven by renewable energy. The aim is to make sustainable development using the core competence of the rural sector; its thrust:

l Creation of employment opportunities for all employable people, particularly youth.

l Capacity building in education, value added employable skills and knowledge.

l Provision of quality and timely healthcare, safe drinking water, quality reliable electric power, energy and water efficient pucca houses.

Our technically trained manpower has an important role to play in this. Their mission should be to give, give and give to the country.

Knowledge and love are the only things that get multiplied by sharing. The spirit has to be “Give, Give and go on Giving.” We have to work together to spread the message that each one of us should contribute to the uplift of people and conditions around us. What one can give to make a difference in someone else’s life indeed gives meaning to one’s own life.

(Adapted exclusively for Sunday HT by the President from his speeches in Mysore, New Delhi and Mumbai)