Excerpts from the book ‘Ignited Minds‘ Written By A.P.J. Abdul Kalamji

Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn’t have it in the beginning. —Mahatma Gandhi

Why should I meet young students in particular? Seeking the answer I went back to my student days. From the island of Rameswaram, what a great journey it’s been! Looking back it all seems quite incredible. What was it that made it possible? Hard work? Ambition? Many things come to my mind. I feel the most important thing was that I always assessed my worth by the value of my contribution. The fundamental thing is that you must know that you deserve the good things of life, the benefits that God bestows. Unless our students and young believe that they are worthy of being citizens of a developed India, how will they ever be responsible and enlightened citizens?

 

There is nothing mysterious about the abundance in developed nations. The historic fact is that the people of these nations–the G8 as they are called– believed over many generations that they must live a good life in a strong and prosperous nation. The reality became aligned with their aspirations.

 

I do not think that abundance and spirituality are mutually exclusive or that it is wrong to desire material things. For instance, while I personally cherish a life with minimum of possessions, I admire abundance, for it brings along with it security and confidence, and these eventually help preserve our freedom. Nature too does not do anything by half measures, as you will see if you look around you. Go to a garden. In season, there is a profusion of flowers. Or look up. The universe stretches into infinitude, vast beyond belief.

 

All that we see in the world is an embodiment of energy. We are a part of the cosmic energy too, as Sri Aurobindo says. Therefore when we begin to appreciate that spirit and matter are both part of existence, are in harmony with each other, we shall realize that it is wrong to feel that it is somehow shameful or non-spiritual to desire material things.

 

Yet, this is what we are often led to believe. Certainly there is nothing wrong with an attitude of making do with the minimum, in leading a life of asceticism. Mahatma Gandhi led such a life but in his case as in yours it has to be a matter of choice. You follow such a lifestyle because it answers a need that arises from deep within you. However, making a virtue of sacrifice and what is forced upon you–to celebrate suffering–is a different thing altogether. This was the basis of my decision to contact our young. To know their dreams and tell them that it is perfectly all right to dream of a good life, an abundant life, a life full of pleasures and comforts, and work for that golden era. Whatever you do must come from the heart, express your spirit, and thereby you will also spread love and joy around you.

 

My first such meeting took place in a high school in Tripura. It was a gathering of 500 students and teachers. After my talk on the second vision for transforming India into a developed nation, there were a series of questions, two of which I would like to discuss. The first question was: ‘Where do we get a role model from, how do you get a role model?’

 

Whether we are aware of it or not, from childhood onwards, through various phases of life, we adopt role models. I said, ‘When you are growing up, say till the age of fifteen, the best role model I can think of would be your father, your mother and your schoolteacher.’ They, to my mind, are the people who can impart the best guidance during this period. I turned to the teachers and parents present there and told them what a big responsibility they have. I personally believe the full development of a child with a value system can only come from these people. In my own home, when I was growing up, I used to see my father and mother say namaz five times a day, and in spite of their modest financial resources, I found them always giving to the needy around. My teacher, Sivasubramania Iyer, was responsible for persuading my father to send me to school setting aside financial constraints. It is very important for every parent to be willing to make the effort to guide children to be good human beings– enlightened and hard-working. The teacher, the child’s window to learning and knowledge, has to play the role model in generating creativity in the child. This triangle is indeed the real role model I can think of. I would even go to the extent of saying that if parents and teachers show the required dedication to shape the lives of the young, India would get a new life. As it is said: Behind the parents stands the school, and behind the teacher the home. Education and the teacher— student relationship have to be seen not in business terms but with the nation’s growth in mind. A proper education would help nurture a sense of dignity and self-respect among our youth. These are qualities no law can enforce–they have to be nurtured ourselves.

 

The children enjoyed this answer though I don’t know whether the parents and teachers got the message.