People's President and India's inspiration machine turned 83 on Wednesday, Oct 15. In his own words: "I will be entering into 84th orbit around the Sun."
Nothing has changed in the life of former President of India, who still stays awake till 1 am reading and replying to his fan mails. Amidst visitors, calling him on at his No 10 residence on Delhi's famous Rajaji Marg with birthday wishes, Dr Kalam granted an exclusive interview to Oneindia.
"Every day matters and every moment matters to me. Every 1st of January, I design what should be my mission for that year and start working towards it. Based on my experience, I achieve almost 60-70 per cent of what I have planned. You see, my mission never stops," he said.
Regrets in life
When asked about his regrets apart from missing a chance to join the Indian Air Force (which he has mentioned in his book My Journey: Transforming Dreams in Actions), India's Missile Man said that he could not complete the mission of establishing a solar power plant at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
"Towards the end of my tenure as the President, we evolved a plan for establishing 5000-MW solar power plant at Rashtrapati Bhavan. I received all the approvals including financial concurrences. But, when the proposal went to the environment authorities, they raised the issue of the historical Mughal Gardens."
"The authorities feared that the grandeur of the Mughal Gardens might get affected to some extent. While I was preparing a convincing reply to the authorities, my tenure got over at Rashtrapati Bhavan. I could not complete the mission, which I still regret," Dr Kalam added.
Being a bachelor
To a direct query on reasons behind him not getting married, a question first openly asked to him by a student during his presidential visit to Singapore in 2006, and posed by many over the years, the missile scientist said that he never felt the need to have his better half.
"(Laughs) This question is more than 50 years old! I have faced this question from many in India and abroad. I have convincingly replied them that I belong to a joint family and my brother has great-great grand-daughter. In such a great family, one fellow not getting married is not a big issue at all.
He said in the last two decades, he met over 16 million Indian youth, who are poised to propel India's future. "Indian youth is energetic and less biased and above all, they have the urge to live in a prosperous, safe and peaceful developed India. Now, Indian youth are asking, "What can I do to transform India into a developed nation." This is a great sign for me," the former missile scientist said.
On his dream vision to turn India into a developed nation by 2020, Dr Kalam said that a collective will can make this happen. "We proposed in the Parliament and Cabinet that we need India Vision 2020. To make India an economically- developed nation by 2020, the Parliament should debate and see how we activate the vision for the nation and reach our goal by 2020."
"The first priority should be PURA - Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas. Second, our farmers are producing 250 million tons of food, but we don't do value addition. Value addition brings a lot of economy and export potential," the former President added.
He also said, "We are leading producers of fruits and vegetable but we do not process that as juice or processed food. Third, the small scale industries (SSIs) contribute almost 40% of the gross industrial value added in the Indian economy."
"SSIs and SMEs are spread in millions in urban and rural areas of the nation. There should be a Parliamentary vision to give the SSIs required technology, required credit with less interest and relaxation in NPA norms. We should provide them a growth-oriented investment eco-system, so that the productivity increases and thereby export potential," Dr Kalam added.
A poem for the youth
As the interview entered the last lap, Dr Kalam shared one of his favourite poems to mark his 83rd birthday. "Each day is an action oriented day. And I have a poem for you today, titled Indomitable Spirit. I composed this one during a flight from New Delhi to Bangalore on August 28, 2010. It is an answer to a number of questions posed to me from the youth on various issues."
"It is my answer to problems like poverty, disorder in the family, invasion on Indian culture, mistrust, corruption, violence, terrorism, distrust, non-confidence and fear that are prevailing among the youth. I hope this poem will erase the fear among the youth and gift them confidence," Dr Kalam said while speaking about his poem dedicated to youth.
"I was swimming in the sea,
Waves came one after the other
I was swimming and swimming to reach my destination.
But one wave, a powerful wave, overpowered me;
It took me along in its own direction,
I was pulled long and along.
When I was about to lose amidst the sea wave power,
One thought flashed to me, yes, that is courage
Courage to reach my goal, courage to defeat the powerful force and succeed;
With courage in my mind, indomitable spirit engulfed me,
With indomitable spirit in mind and action,
I regained lost confidence
I can win, win and win
Strength came back to me, overpowered the sea wave
I reached the destination, my mission. "