As the world marks the International Youth Day today (12 August), the legacy of former Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam, who died last month, is celebrated across India. Kalam had endeared himself to Indian youths not just by his inspirational speeches, books and songs, but also by the way he lived.
The 'People's President' always used to remind one and all, especially the younger generation, of his vision of seeing India as a developed nation by 2020.
"I will keep the lamp of knowledge burning to achieve the vision - Developed India," he said with his characteristic optimism.
The 11th president of India was a passionate teacher, as he himself said many times and used to enjoy enthralling students with his vision and knowledge. No wonder his last engagement was with students of IIM, Shillong on 27 July, when he unfortuanately died of a hear attack.
Kalam had a die-hard belief in the power of the youth and their intellectual prowess to transform society.
"The ignited mind of the youth is the most powerful resource on the earth, above the earth and under the earth. I am convinced that the youth power, if properly directed and controlled, could bring about transformational changes in humanity for its progress, meeting its challenges and bring peace and prosperity."
Many people who met him were left impressed by his humility and simplicity that hid his phenomenal achievements in life that began modestly in remote Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu.
Satkrit Krishna, a fashion designer based out of Chennai, had this to say in his Facebook post when he met Kalam during a plane journey: "I requested to speak to him as soon as i entered the flight and saw him there and he said he will cal me after the flight took off... and after one hour his security officer came to my seat and said 'please come .. sir called you'. My heart beat faster than it ever had...I opened my talk with him saying "sir your my biggest inspiration" he smiled.
What Kalam then said left Krishna impressed him even more. "I said im a fashion designer who dreams of taking kanchipuram to the world....he shook my hands and said 'India needs more youngters like you'....I just FROZE!!! Gosh what a feeling."
Kalam was known for writing songs. Here is the 'Song of Youth' penned by him:
As a young citizen of India, armed with technology, knowledge and love for my nation, I realize, small aim is a crime.
I will work and sweat for a great vision, the vision of transforming India into a developed nation, powered by economic strength with value system
I am one of the citizens of the billion; Only the vision will ignite the billion souls.
It has entered into me ; The ignited soul compared to any resource is the most powerful resource on the earth, above the earth and under the earth.
I will keep the lamp of knowledge burning to achieve the vision - Developed India
If we work and sweat for the great vision with ignited minds, the transformation leading to the birth of vibrant developed India will happen.
I pray the Almighty: "May the divine peace with beauty enter into our people; Happiness and good health blossom in our bodies, minds and souls".
If the 'Missile Man' had lived for 15 more years, he would have been happy to see India transform itself from being a developing country to one that is developed in the true sense.
Kalam also had a ten-point oath for the younger generation:
- I will pursue my education or the work with dedication and I will excel in it.
- From now onwards, I will teach at least 10 persons to read and write those who cannot read and write.
- I will plant at least 10 saplings and shall ensure their growth through constant care.
- I will visit rural and urban areas and permanently wean away at least 5 persons from addiction and gambling.
- I will constantly endeavour to remove the pain of my suffering brethren.
- I will not support any religious, caste or language differentiation.
- I will be honest and endeavour to make a corruption free society.
- I will work for becoming an enlightened citizen and make my family righteous.
- I will always be a friend of the mentally and physically challenged and will work hard to make them feel normal, like the rest of us.
- I will proudly celebrate the success of my country and my people.
International Youth Day
International Youth Day (IYD) is observed to highlight issues surrounding the young people in the world.
The day was chosen by the United Nations General Assembly on 17 December, 1999, on the recommendations made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth.
Every year, UN decides a theme for the IYD. This year's theme is "Youth Civic Engagement."
"International Youth Day is an opportunity to celebrate the creative force and the innovative impetus that young people bring to every society. This year's theme – "Youth Civic Engagement" – emphasizes the role played by the involvement and inclusion of young people in building social cohesion and collective well-being," Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova said in her message.
"We must support their civic engagement at every level, beginning with recognizing that young people form a separate social group with specific characteristics and expectations. Civic engagement is a way to exploit this potential to enrich society, further human rights and enable improved living conditions for all," she added.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon the youth to demand the progress this world need.
"In this landmark year, as leaders prepare to adopt a bold new vision for sustainable development, the engagement of youth is more valuable than ever. At this critical moment in history, I call on young people to demand and foster the dramatic progress so urgently needed in our world"
(Courtesy: Abdul Kalam's official website, UN websites)