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

Another girl in all seriousness asked, ‘Every day we read in the newspaper or hear our parents talk about atankvadis (terrorists). Who are they? Do they belong to our country?’ This question really shocked me. I myself was searching for an answer. They are our own people. Sometimes we create them through political and economic isolation. Or they can be fanatics, sometimes sponsored by hostile nations, trying to disrupt normal life through terrorism. I looked at the audience, at the people sitting by my side, at the teachers, and at the sky for an answer.

I said, ‘Children, I am reminded of our epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. In the Ramayana the battle is between the divine hero Rama and demon king Ravana. It is a long-drawn battle that finally Rama wins. In the Mahabharata, there is the battle at Kurukshetra. In this fight between good and evil, Dharma wins again. The battles are many but finally peace triumphs. In our times too we have seen this battle between good and evil–for instance, the Second World War.

It seems to me that both good and evil will survive side by side. The Almighty does help them both to various degrees! How to minimize the evil through our spiritual growth is a question that has persisted throughout human history.’ 

On another occasion, I addressed a very large gathering of students at St Mary’s School, Dindigul in Tamil Nadu on their seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations. Among the large number of children wishing to meet me were two who were in a hurry to get an answer from me. One student asked, ‘I have read your book Agni Siragugal (the Tamil version of Wings of Fire).

You always give a message to dream. Tell me, why dream?’ 

My answer was to ask the gathered children to recite the following: ‘Dream, dream, dream. Dream transforms into thoughts. Thoughts result in actions.’ I told them, ‘Friends, if there are no dreams, there are no revolutionary thoughts; if there are no thoughts, no actions will emanate.

Hence, parents and teachers should allow their children to dream. Success always follows dreams attempted though there may be some setbacks and delays.’ 

Another boy asked, ‘Please tell me, who would be the first scientist in the world?’ It occurred to me–science was born and survives only by questions. The whole foundation of science is questioning. And as parents and teachers well know, children are the source of unending questions.

Hence, ‘Child is the first scientist,’ I replied. There was thunderous applause. The children enjoyed this different way of thinking. Teachers and parents also smiled at the answer. 

During my visit to Assam, I visited Tezpur. I had gone for the convocation ceremony of Tezpur University and also to receive the honorary doctorate conferred on me. After the convocation, I took off to meet schoolchildren. It was a big gathering of young people. The theme of my address was ‘Indomitable Spirit’.

As soon as I finished my talk the youngsters mobbed me for autographs. When I finished giving autographs I faced two interesting questions. One was: ‘Why cannot water from the Brahmaputra, which is in flood much of the time, be diverted to Rajasthan or Tamil Nadu which are starved of water?’ 

Only children will have these innovative ideas. Grown-ups tend to see more impossibilities. It was such a powerful question, I was completely beaten. I was sure even the Prime Minister would not have been able to answer it! How to tell the boy, rivers are a state subject and our states are fighting for the rights to their waters?

That these would bring them prosperity some day but meanwhile they were flowing wastefully into the sea and causing floods every year. How to answer it? 

I said, ‘India Vision 2020 demands from the young that they start a great mission of connecting rivers cutting across the states.’ I personally feel the young have the most powerful minds.

They can overcome the negativity of the bureaucracy and some self- centred policies of the state governments to enrich the people of the country.

They can even improve coordination between the states and the Centre. And they surely will!