Honour Kalam, ask more questions

Even as you read this, there are still reams to be written and read about former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Everybody, and anybody, in fact, who had even a tenuous connection to the scientist, even a fleeting memory, seemed to be touched by the personality in some way. If not his simplicity and humility, it is some inspirational words that they still carry in their hearts, fluttering within like the Wings of Fire, ready to lift one from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Running like a common thread through all the accolades and memories is the fact that the 83-year-old was a man for the youth. So many young aspiring scientists talk about the day they saw Kalam for the first time, or the few words he spoke to them. Even in his last address in Shillong, reports state about how excited he was to go to the north-eastern part of the country, and, in particular, to address students.

The best way to honour Dr APJ Abdul Kalam is to develop what one calls a spirit of inquiry. In our educational system, we are taught to accept rather than to question, to learn by rote, rather than to understand. Students, even while learning within the system, must have a hunger to go beyond the textbook and classroom. Research, inquire, question, and do not be afraid to charter unexplored territory rather than stay within the safe confines of conventional learning.

This does not mean that youngsters keep blaming our educational system; that has its limitations. Instead, they need to ask themselves what they are doing to go beyond that; how many hours do they spend in a library; or do they ever make the effort of going beyond the syllabus? In the rat race that is our education system, marks are not the only thing that matter; it is time to look beyond percentages. This applies not just to science students, but to those in every field who must look to Kalam for a 360-degree look at life and learning. That may be one way to honour the Missile Man’s message for young India.

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