The essay ‘Give us a Role Model’ is taken from the book “Ignited Minds” written by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. The essay begins with a quote given by Mahatma Gandhi, insisting on having faith in oneself. Abdul Kalam says that if we have this faith, we will be able to do even things new to us, with competency.
Kalam begins the essay with a question. He asks why he goes and meets young students? He answers the question by travelling back to his own student days. He recalls his journey from the island of Rameshwaram to the President’s Office. He believes that he got all these good things because he believed in the value of his contribution. Kalam says that students must believe that they are worthy of being citizens of a developed India.
Kalam than talks of the theory proposed by Sri Aurobindo, that the entire world is an embodiment of energy. According to Sri Aurobindo, we too are part of that cosmic energy. So, when we are in harmony with each other, we will not take part in shameful or non-spiritual things. Kalam does not force us to lead a life of asceticism. He says that it is a choice of the individuals. According to him, whatever we do must come from the heart and be an expression of our spirit.
Abdul Kalam then talks about role models. According to him, people have different role models as they cross different phases of their lives. Till the age of fifteen, the best role models that people usually have are their parents or teachers. It is so because they are the ones who impart the best education possible, during those times. Kalam talks about his parents who used to say namaz five times a day and then give to the needy though they had very little to spare. Kalam’s father decided to take Kalam out of school since there was not enough money at home for his fee. Kalam’s teacher, Mr. Sivasubramania Iyer took great pains to explain the importance of education to Kalam’s father and make him admit Kalam in school again. Kalam quotes this incident and says that if teachers and parents unite with dedication to mould the lives of youngsters, India would get a new life. The growth of the nation must be seen as the result of education and student-teacher relationship.
Abdul Kalam then writes of the questions posed by youngsters when he visited Cuttack. The first question was to know what the favourite books of Abdul Kalam were. Kalam says that there are four books close to his heart. They are “Man the Unknown” by Dr. Alexis Carrel. This books talks about treating both the mind and the body even if one is ailing, because both are integrated. The second book is Thiruvalluvar’s “Thirukkural.” This book provides an excellent code of life. The third book is “Light from Many Lamps” by Lillian Eichler Watson. Kalam says that this book has guided him for fifty years. The fourth book that he mentions is the Quran, which he says is a constant companion.
While at another school in Anand, Gujarat, a student asked Kalam who our enemy was. Kalam deflected the question to the audience. The answer came from a boy who said that it was poverty. Another child asked the question if the weapons made by Pakistan were more powerful than the ones made by India. Kalam asked him how he came up with such a question to which the student replied that he read in the media. Kalam then tells that our country belittles the abilities we have. And he says that this happens only in India. He affirms that India can design, develop and produce any type of missile and any type of nuclear weapon.
Abdul Kalam then talks about the vision of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai succeeding for over three decades. The others took up the vision of Dr. Vikram and completed it. That was the power he wielded. Kalam says that role models can help us to focus on what is correct for us as individuals, as groups and as a nation. He reminds us that it is not only in the field of information technology that we can achieve, but also in other fields. He talks of the ancient times when India was a pioneer and leader in the fields of mathematics, medicine and astronomy. According to Kalam, a renaissance is needed for us once again to make India a superpower of knowledge.