A P J Abdul Kalam’s Only Regret

In 2014, we visited Mumbai to attend the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of a local college. It was a modest celebration, and A P J Abdul Kalam was happy to see that the college was catering to students from low-income families, giving them quality education at affordable fees.


Kalam was greeted with a lot of cheering when he entered the hall. Through his speech he addressed the concerns of the youth who had come from challenging economic conditions. He spoke about his own life, his failures and his successes. He spoke of the great Nobel Laureate Mario Capecchi, a victim of the Second World War, who had lost most of his family in the war.  He had to spend his childhood in an orphanage.  But despite his difficulties, he persevered and went on to … become a renowned scientist.
At the end of his speech, Kalam was given a standing ovation.  This was followed by a question-and-answer session.  He answered each question with his usual wit and grace.
Suddenly, a young student of about twenty stood up to ask a question: “Sir, you have had so many successes.  I am sure you had some failures too.  You always say that you have built your successes over the lessons learnt from failures.  I want to know something.  Is there something that you could not do, and still regret not doing it?”
A P J Abdul Kalam took his time to think through the answer and finally replied, “You know, back home, I have an elder brother who is ninety-eight years old now.  He can walk slowly, but steadily, and completely on his own.  He has a little problem with his vision and hence there is always a need to keep the house well lit, especially in the night.
“Now you see, in Rameswaram, there are power cuts sometimes.  Thus it becomes difficult for him to move about freely.  So, last year I got a rooftop solar panel installed at home, with a good battery.  When the sun shines, the panel gives power, and in the night the battery takes over the power supply.  Now there is plenty of power all the time.  My brother is happy.


‘When I see him happy, I also feel happy.  But I am also reminded of my own parents.  Both of them lived for almost a hundred years and towards their later years they had difficulty seeing things well.  Three decades ago, the power cuts were more frequent.  Back then I could do nothing for them.  There was no solar power.  The fact that I could not do anything to remove their pain is my greatest regret, something which will remain with me forever.’

The answer touched a chord in the hearts of everyone in the audience.  Here was a person, more than eighty years old, who had achieved so much in life, but still had the compassion and the humility to speak publicly about his greatest failure.  He was still bothered about failing his parents.  How many of us think of such things?
I couldn’t help but wonder when I had last stopped to consider my parents’ situation, when I had tried to do anything to ease their burden. Courtesy: Penguin Books, ‘What Can I Give?’ -- Life Lessons from My Teacher, A P J Abdul Kalam.



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Thought of the day

एक दीप तुम प्यार का, रखना दिल के द्वार, यही दीप का अर्थ है, यही पर्व का सार. दीप हृदय में कर गये, खुशियों का बौछार, आज प्रेम से हम करें, दीपों का सत्कार. केसर, चन्दन घर लगे, रोली अक्षत द्वार, सजी दीप की अल्पना, किरणें वन्दनवार. फूल -पंखुड़ी तन हुआ, हृदय हुआ अब दूब, दीप -पर्व के ताल में, हम सब जायें ड़ूब. दीप -पर्व सी ज़िन्दगी, दीप तुम्हारा प्यार, तुम रंगोली अल्पना, तुम ही वन्दनवार. दिया एक विश्वास का, जले हृदय में आज, सद्भाव को नोच रहे, आजा घृणा के बाज़. उड़ी गगन में प्रेम की, किरणें पंख पसार, हुआ पराजित दीप से, फिर तिमिर एक बार.