Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The story ends, not the inspiration…

Never did I anticipate that the sad news I heard yesterday would carry a magnitude of this extent that’ll make my mind dwell on the thoughts of this great person even today during the coffee break at office. I didn’t know that the thought would be this powerful to make me sit down and type this out during the relatively small interstice being grabbed. And neither did I even believe that I could gather the energy to override my fears to start writing this when smarter minds around me are working tirelessly on deadlines.
I do not know to consolidate or compile the technical or historical details related to this person.
And I do not now wish to list down his accolades and achievements or pen down with pin point precision, the scientific details of his accomplishments.
As an ordinary, simple person, I just look back to what he and his ideas meant for me.
The earliest memory I have, of Mr.Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam (I was asked to memorise his whole name for the GK competitions) was the free-wheeling discussion we had during our English period when I was studying in the VII std. That was the time he was the Indian President. And I remember how we were pointing how different he was from others. And I could recall myself saying to Vishwanathan Sir,
 “Sir…Did you notice that Kalam sir doesn’t even wait for the security guard to open the car door for him? He opens it himself…Such a humble person”…
Yes. Such was the simplicity associated with this great and inspiring personality.
That was also the time when we were hearing ideas of “dreaming small” being a sin; Vision 2020, about dreams not being the things that you see in sleep but those that don’t let you sleep, and many more inspiring ideas…We were using those thoughts more and more as the “thought for the day” during daily assembly programmes (in place of old proverbs) and writing it on notice boards. We were presenting vignettes of his life for speech competitions as well. I also remember one of my classmates sketching out the phrase “If you can dream it; You can do it!” in thick bold letters on a chart paper and pasting it on top of the black board. Our sir pointed to it and asked, “Do you know who said this?” and we screamed in unison “Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam”…
When I was in Xth std, I came across an interview with Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam published in “The Hindu”. One of his responses moved me a lot and I wrote a response letter to it which later got published in ‘Young World’ in December, 2006 (though the editors had removed this first paragraph for some reason I couldn’t find out till today. I had to search through my archive to locate this unedited version!). These were the first lines of that article:

I came across the excerpts of President’s Interview published in The Hindu dated, 25 September,2006.When he was asked the most memorable moment in his journey from Rameswaram to Rashtrapathi Bhavan, he said, “I worked with my team for 10 days to make a caliper that weighed just 300gms.We fitted it to many children who started running.I happened to see a mother in tears. Her son,whom she was carrying to school,was running without any aid.Those tears made me feel what is “anand”,which is the highest degree of happiness”.

His words portrayed the happiness, the true happiness of the highest degree- “Anand”-which can only be experienced when we know that we are the real reason for the tears of happiness in another person’s eyes…
When I passed XIth standard with a relatively higher score, my aunt gifted me “Wings of Fire”, by Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam. I told her “I have already read this.”
She told me, “Read it again. Each time you read, you will be left with new insights.”
And believe me, each time I have felt down, I have gone back to that book. Innumerable times. And it has given me the strength that no other self –help or motivational book has given me.
Of those moments, the one I could relate as the closest to my heart-which I could even say was one of the core reasons why I gained the strength to fight back each time I lost;  was when I read this incident of his life. (Excuse me if I don’t reproduce those lines, verbatim. I recollect them from my memory of that page on the right side with a paragraph in the middle underlined using blue ball point pen and a pencil, many times.)
He was deeply disappointed when he was not selected in the Air Force, where the focus was more on "personality" than intelligence. He felt hopeless at this failure. He went on trekking to Rishikesh to come out of the despair. He goes on to write about how he met Swami Sivananda in Ashram and explained the cause for his sorrow. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And the words that Swami Sivananda told, I believe, marked the turning point for a varied series of remarkable events in his life. And I have gone back to these words again and again; especially when I was left in life with the question “Why is this happening to me?”…And each time I have read it, I have lifted my head from the book with immense confidence, strength and peace of mind.
These were the words:
“Accept your destiny and go ahead with your life. You are not destined to become an Air Force Pilot. What you are destined to become, is not revealed as of now, but is predetermined. Forget this failure; as it was essential to lead you to your destined path. Search, instead, for the true purpose of your existence. Become one with yourself; my Son! Surrender yourself to the wish of God.”
What happened after that, is history. History, that is etched in bold golden letters…
I couldn’t help myself from putting down these thoughts today, even if I squeeze my time to do this. It would have been a gross injustice if I didn’t pen this down today; for I humbly and fully agree and owe most of my remarkable epiphanic moments to this great personality and his words. And the strange, incredible coincidence, is this and I swear, this is true…
As I write the last words of this write-up; the bell rings in this international organization to observe two minutes of silence for the departed great soul to rest in peace. And when I stood up and closed my eyes…I chose to believe for myself…That at least one-millionth of that inspiring soul vouches for my words from heaven…
I close with your lines, sir…
My story-the story of the son of Jainulabdeen, who lived for over a hundred years on Mosque Street in Rameshwaram island and died there; the story of a lad who sold newspapers to help his brother; the story of a pupil reared by Sivasubramania Iyer and Iyadurai Solomon; the story of a student taught by teachers like Pandalai; the story of an engineer spotted by MGK Menon and groomed by legendary Prof.Sarabhai; the story of a scientist tested by failures and setbacks; the story of a leader supported by a large team of brilliant and dedicated professionals. This story will end with me, for I have no belongings in the worldly sense. I have acquired nothing; built nothing; possess nothing- no family, sons, daughters.”

The story ends, not the inspiration…


Friday, 3 July 2015

Alappuzha Express!!!

Sometimes, we understand the value of things only when we are on the verge of losing them...

That's why, even though my senior readily allowed me to leave office early, and I reached back much earlier than usual, I just didn't bother to leave for the railway station well before time, simply because I knew I would catch the train anyhow...

So here I was, chattering and lecturing all along about the whole day to my grandma who is always all ears for anything I blabber about...She listens with great attention to my briefing of the day, which predominantly is filled with complaints, and comes up  with a crisp and unbiased analysis...And, while relishing my dinner, I explain to her my expectations for the coming days, based on the probable actions of the characters of this day... And she clearly points out where I'm wrong and asks me to stop imagining too much of things that are never actually going to happen...

So, when such an interesting session was going on between us, her eyes suddenly fell upon the clock...

"Go...Get ready...It's 7.45..."

I said I have time...And my mind automatically re-calculated the time to 7.30. Obvious...The clocks at our homes are by default kept 15 minutes fast, with the pseudo hope of helping us achieve "punctuality" at workplace.

I thought I'll leave after 8...After all, the train is at 8.45...

And here starts how my weekend got a nail-biting kick off..............

7.50 pm ( I suddenly realised that the clock's battery was replaced yesterday as it had stopped working and uncle had forgotten to keep it 15 minutes faster)

I check Ola App...My net gets slow..
The App seems to take an eternity to open...Finally it does open...

Auto is available in 3 minutes...I book the ride and I call the driver...
" Madam...I'm near Triplicane...I'm stuck in traffic. It will take atleast 20 minutes to reach Mylapore...Please cancel the ride and book another one.."

8.00 pm...

I didn't lose hope...I went to the nearby auto stand...
"Central ponam..."

"Central aa??Athellaam mudiyaathu ma"

"150 kodukkaren nga..."
"Traffic ma...athellaam mudiyaathu..."

The same sort of dialogue happened with 2-3 more auto-walas...I appreciated their unity in decision-making...

I ran back home...

8.15 pm...

I took my bag and started walking fast with all the might I can...Even on the way, no auto was ready to come...

Finally I saw an auto in front of the Ganapathy temple...With all my positivity, and without asking anything, I got into it and said, no...ordered...

"Central ponam...Seekram...Train poyudum"...

And that guy listened. As the auto stood at the first signal, my watch showed 8.20 pm..

That moment, I knew what tension meant...

It meant losing the much anticipated journey home...
It meant spending a weekend alone...
It meant taking back with me what I had brought with much affection for my mother...
It meant cancelling Monday's leave...
In short, it meant missing Alleppey Express...

I visualised my face if I saw the train leaving to Palakkad without me...I just couldn't take it...I want to be home!!!

I prayed with all my heart...I promised to be a good girl and cursed myself for being like this...Please let me go home...

Beach Road looked so long...All India Radio and Madras University buildings looked so unusually huge and lengthy...I lost all hopes and closed my eyes, while I literally crushed the iron bars of the auto (in fact...my hand is what got crushed...)

Suddenly, we took a right turn...

The red, old grand building with its white tall pillars showed in front of me...I didn't wait for the change, as I handed over those crushed rupee notes to the driver and ran to Platform No.6...The faded blue letters on that old white nameboard of the train that read "Alappuzha Express" greeted me with a winsome smile...I ran with all my might and energy till I reached S7...
I rubbed my hands wet with sweat over the chart to search my name...Seat No.24...

And as I put my bag down to the seat, drenching with sweat and gasping for breath, I looked around to see many more people like me...Fully exhausted...

"Ting...Ting...Ting...Passengers kind attention please...Train No.22639 from Chennai to Alleppey via Erode will leave shortly from Platform No.6..."

That moment, I knew what happiness is...It is this...It is what I right now feel as I write this...

It is closing my eyes to sleep on the upper berth of the train with the unbeatable and most beautiful feeling of anticipation...Of seeing my mother waiting for me at the railway station as I open my eyes tomorrow...

A Simple Message...

A Simple Message...