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Powerful were his missiles

More powerful were his words

Most powerful were his thoughts and dreams…. to transform India into a prosperous nation

Avul Pakeer Jainulbadeen Abdul Kalam.

Former President, eminent scientist, researcher, author and humanitarian Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam breathed his last on 27th July’15 bringing an end to a selfless life dedicated to empowering his fellow countrymen especially youth and children.

Dr. Kalam is mainly credited for the vision 2020 roadmap to enable India to be an economic and intellectual superpower and put an end to poverty and illiteracy.  Dr. Kalam has been conferred upon with many awards and honor including Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration along with India’s highest civilian honor Bharata Ratna along with 43 honorary doctorates. He has also received international honors and PhDs from USA, UK, Switzerland, Singapore and Canada. As many as 6 biographies have been written on him while he authored as many as 17 books meshing serious thought ideology with his experiences as a scientist, researcher, teacher and a political leader with a strong undercurrent of humanism and patriotism.


Born into a fisherman’s house in Rameshwaram, Tamilnadu in 1931, He had a strong spiritual and interfaith influence courtesy to his three close friends in his childhood — Ramanadha Sastry, Aravindan and Sivaprakasan. Dr. Kalam’s deep interest in ancient Indian wisdom, heritage and spirituality had its seeds sown in childhood.

After graduating from Madras Institute of Technology, Dr. Kalam joined DRDO as a scientist and designed a small helicopter for Indian Army.  He later moved on to ISRO to give wings to the space aspirations of India. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam spent four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He was intimately involved in India’s civilian space program and military missile development efforts. He thus came to be known as the “Missile Man of India” for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. Nurtured the mentorship of Satish Dhawan, Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Brahm Prakash, Kalam and his team went on to design many satellites and launch vehicles starting with SLV-II (Rohini). He also directed two projects, Project Devil and Project Valiant, which sought to develop ballistic missiles from the technology of the successful SLV programme. Despite the disapproval of the Union Cabinet, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi allotted secret funds for these aerospace projects through her discretionary powers under his directorship. He played an integral role convincing the Union Cabinet to conceal the true nature of these classified aerospace projects. He went on to make many special ballistic missiles for India, which included Prithvi, Agni.  India owes its development as a nuclear nation to his organizational and technical support for Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998.

Every mission of him wasn’t a success. There were poking failures which stuck sore thumb out. Every time he failed, the media and the scientific groups criticized him. But Dr. Kalam came back strongly. During the Agni and Prithvi missile, the projects have been criticised for mismanagement and cost and time overruns, he gave a fitting reply by proving them wrong with successful completions. In 1998, along with cardiologist Soma Raju, Kalam developed a low cost coronary stent, named the “Kalam-Raju Stent”. Dr. Kalam, strongly believed as a scientist and thinker about using science and technology to take inventions to people across the social and economic barriers of people and bring across difference in the lifestyle and perception.

Dr. Kalam set a target of interacting with 100,000 students during the two years after his resignation from the post of scientific adviser in 1999. He mainly identified himself with the youth and the teenagers of the country and strongly believed in the power of knowledge empowerment and intellectual thinking.  He would insist on the power of dreaming and innovation and the ability to bring out the transformation – both in the self and society. His words came in with a remarkable sense of power often sprinkled with witty humor and unmistakable commitment to bring about a transformation and change in the status quo. Post his thumping victory and assuming his office as the 11th President of India, He travelled across the length and breadth of India and interacted with lakhs of students. He would often take ideas and align their thoughts about becoming responsible, innovative, committed to make India a knowledge superpower and a developed nation by 2020. He strongly urged the student fraternity to think, read, question, work towards a new beginning. Probably no youth leader have inspired the youngsters in the country so much as He did at his age.

Dr. Kalam took an active interest in other developments in the field of science and technology, including a research programme for developing bio-implants. He also supported Open Source technology over proprietary solutions, predicting that the use of free software on a large scale would bring the benefits of information technology to more people. He had the knack of making the impossible look possible and he actually made it possible for ordinary people to dream they could be anybody. And he believed in making India an in-house superpower. The designer of state of the art technologies and path breaking innovations never pursued a PHD from the abroad.

Often when we talk about winner not doing different things but doing things differently, Dr. Kalam is a striking example.

Once, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam rejected the suggestion to put broken glass on the wall of a building that needed protection. Dr. Kalam refused broken glass on walls of DRDO in view of bird safety highlighting his deep rooted sensitivity. Be it a young kid from the corner of India or a scientific advisor to the Prime Minister, He listened with precious attention and unmistakable submission and conviction. Always known to have carried minimal security and changing the status quo, Dr. Kalam sessions were filled with dynamism. He is reported to have rushed into the crowd to stop power cuts from disturbing his interactions and refused to have sit on Presidential chairs on his interactions with kids.

President Kalam has given up all his life savings and salaries to a trust he founded named PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas) walking the talk of keeping rural development close to his heart. And when he led, he led by example. He was patient for his autographs and clicking pictures. He was known to have written Thank You cards by himself and also dialed and congratulated people himself reflecting his humility and his simple nature. A famous story on the internet reports that –“ When a subordinate of President Kalam at DRDO couldn’t take his children to an exhibition due to work pressure, He surprised his subordinate and took the children instead” reflecting his care and concern for his subordinates and people.  He never preached belongingness, sensitivity and innocence but lived it in every moment of life.

Dr. Kalam was deeply spiritual. He took interest in Tamil poetry and played the veena. Kamal endorsed Carnatic devotional music and a strong advocator of ancient Hindu culture. He used to read Bhagavad Gita and was a strict vegetarian. Many of his speeches quoted remarkable quotes from the Gita, Vedas, Upanishads and other Indian texts.  A strong advocate of Indian soul with a global outlook, Kalam represented a true Indian at his heart.




Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has lauded Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam as a man of humor and his deep care for society.

“He led a remarkable life: a scientist, artist and philosopher. Holding the highest office, he was still approachable by one and all” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar added.  On hearing that  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was traveling to Sri Lanka to meet Prabhakaran, President Kalam offered to join him in resolving the conflict, going beyond protocol. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also recollects that he was an avid lover and proponent of Indian classical music.

He said that Dr. Kalam once suggested that he and Sri Sri play the Veena together and his favorite song was “Endaro Mahanubhavulu” which means “there are many great souls and I adore them all”.

Dr. Kalam was present on the prestigious occasion of the Silver Jubilee where he addressed the gathering. Here’s his speech from the occasion of Silver Jubilee Celebrations in 2006 



-Surya Tej Borra

Surya Tej Borra is a volunteer with the Art of Living Foundation. A graduate from the prestigious BITS Pilani, he works with Google. His interests include Cinema, writing, travelling, cooking & music.

Yoga and Meditation.

Human race, knowingly or unknowingly, is practicing ‘Yoga’ since time immemorial. The primitive man while hunting for his pray with his bow outstretched, arrow pointed at the heart of the pray, body and breath still and mind totally focused was ‘Yogasth’ (centred in Yoga). The ‘eureka’ moment of the great scientist Archimedes was a ‘Yoga’ moment. The ‘wow!’ moment we experience when we see an extraordinarily beautiful sunrise at a hill station is a ‘Yoga’ moment. A five year old, when he eats his favourite ice-cream, forgetting the whole world outside is experiencing ‘Yoga’ moment.

With time, the original meaning of the term ‘Yoga’ got distorted. The techniques practised to achieve the state of ‘Yoga’ itself came to be recognized as ‘Yoga’.

The word ‘Yoga’ has been derived from Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means “to join”, “to integrate” or “to unite”.

In simple terms ‘Yoga’ is the state of harmony or union of body, mind and the spirit.

On an individual level our existence has two distinct aspects. First is the gross aspect (visible) i.e. our physical body. The other is the subtle aspect (invisible) which includes our breath, thoughts (mind), intelligence, memories, ego and the Self. Most of the times there is no harmony between these different layers of our existence due to reasons like health conditions, surroundings, past memories, expectations, ego, emotions etc. Only when all the layers of our existence are in harmony, we can give our 100% in whatever we are doing, we can work to our fullest potential, we can enjoy our life to the fullest, and this is the purpose of ‘Yoga’.

Thousands of years ago in ancient India the enlightened Masters realized that ‘Yoga’ is the way to remove misery from human life and it is also path to realize the full potential of human life. They realized that by practising certain techniques and ways any ordinary person can achieve perfection in ‘Yoga’.

Maharshi Patanjali perfected the art and science of ‘Yoga’ as a discipline. Maharshi Patanjali knew that irrespective of race, religion and culture the human mind works on the same principles. He knew all the tendencies of human mind and knew the ways to overcome these tendencies.  He compiled the essence of his teachings in a systematic way in “Patanjali Yoga Sutras”.

With practice of ‘Yoga techniques’ the vacillations of mind in past and future reduce. Mind stays more in present moment. The tendency of mind to hold-on to negativity reduces. Misery reduces and joy increases in life. Our skills of perception, observation as well as expression increase. ‘Yoga’ gives us more clarity in thinking and better communication skills. Slowly the mind gets trained to remain centred even in adverse conditions.

During day-to-day activities we are partially aware of our physical body and usually not at all aware of the subtle layers of our existence. At a physical level we are doing something and at the same time we are doing different things at thought, intellect, memory and ego levels. Our total energy is dissipated in different directions without our awareness. With regular practice of ‘Yoga techniques’, our fragmented existence gets integrated, different layers of our existence come in harmony with each other and we can achieve single pointed focus of our energy in any activity we undertake. With the help of ‘Yoga’ we can achieve excellence in any activity.


The verse “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam” means “Yoga is skill in action”. Practice of ‘Yoga’ bestows us with skill in action and conversely when we are doing any action with total perfection at that time we are centred in Yoga.

Modern man has to face so many challenges in his day-to-day life. He/she has to play many different and contradictory roles throughout the day. In office he/ she has to be a boss for subordinates, a good friend for colleagues; at home a loving husband/wife/son/daughter; in kitchen a good cook; for children a good father/mother/teacher and so on. All these roles and expectations create lot of stress and tensions in life. With a regular practice of ‘Yoga’ techniques one can skilfully play all these roles perfectly without getting stressed.

On physical level ‘Yoga’ bestows us with many benefits like increase in energy level and stamina, improved body posture and flexibility, increase in immunity level and hormonal balance, improved digestion and elimination etc.

With increased awareness through practice of ‘Yoga,’ one slowly realizes that at some level the whole universe is inter-dependent and inter-connected. It is the same energy or consciousness which manifests in millions of forms. With this realization, belongingness and love increases, hatred and violence reduces, the whole world becomes a better place to live.

Life starts flowing in a direction to ‘unite’ with its very Source!

Jai Gurudev !

Sanjay Sabnis

Movies to Watch.

If you’re looking for a slick Hollywood pot boiler, then skip this one. This is a film without a taut story. So, if you want a good story, you’re hunting in the wrong place. The Tree of Life. Does the plot move around a magical tree that materializes over night on the front lawn? Nope!

Even the word ‘movie’ is deceptive here. Yes, there are moving images, but more like a montage or a series of montages tracked onto some stunning music with occasional whispered monologues. It is these precious strands of thought, whispered to the great consciousness, that bring cohesion to the images. And the audience listening to those familiar silent prayers become that Universal Consciousness: listening, witnessing as Life unfolds its dramas.

Life. The very word implies death. Life carries with it the shadow of death. Each character must deal with the reality of death: the death of one’s friends, family members, one’s own death, the death of childhood; each phase of life implies death on some level for the new to flourish…the endless cycle of birth and death, the wrath of Nature and the unexpected renewal and blossoming of life.

The film begins with death…and of living in the shadow and memory of one who has died. “Where were you, to let a boy die? Let anything happen?” is the mother’s anguished cry to God. “Will you die too?” asks the distraught son of his mother. Life rolls on two wheels, made clear as the film opens, “the Way of Grace and the Way of Nature”. The mother, played by Jessica Chastain, ever kind, loving and forgiving, symbolises the Way of Grace. She holds the family together. She is perfectly cast – a delicate beauty much like a wisp of passing life.

Tree of Life Poster 2

The camera closes up on Brad Pitt, the father, as the mother’s voice over reveals, “Nature only wants to please itself, get others to please it too…likes to Lord it over them.” A good introduction to what is to follow…the typical, earning male stereotype, Lord of the Manor, who takes it upon himself to tirelessly ‘educate’ his young sons. Of course he is well meaning, but it comes at a painful price (for his family!).

Are you patient? Has life delivered its lessons of Patience to you? Can you make sense of your life? Have you even tried? Perhaps this is what director Terrence Malick is asking us, the audience. He has done his best to capture the incomprehensible unfolding of life with individual beliefs, confusions, doubts and questions posed by the actors given roles to play in this grand scheme called ‘Life’. Are we not actors struggling to make sense of our lives and although we are so minuscule compared to the vastness of the Universe are not our concerns real and felt and lived?

If these are your concerns: Who am I? Where am I going? What am I doing here? What is all this about? Then this is the movie for you! It unfolds slowly, like huge waves forming and dissolving in slow motion, the movements of Nature merging with the movements of Man.

There are many pauses, slow dissolves, the screen goes black momentarily, reminders of life and death, of the mind going blank, stories beginning, ending and merging one into the other. An effortless meeting of generations living and gone on the sands of Time. The film captures dramatically the meeting of the river with the ocean, and the meeting of the child with the grown up self, the grown up with its childhood parent, as past, present and future freely mingle as one. The movie ends with a grand embracing of the self, forgiveness, love and joy, a quiet celebration on the shores of a grand ocean of life.

It did strike me that had the family learned the Sudarshan Kriya and practised it along with meditation on a daily basis, there would not be an eternal lifetime of mourning. There would be no space or reason to remain unhappy “when all the world is shining around and love is smiling through all things.” Gurudev (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) would certainly have ensured they imbibe the wisdom that “Life goes on, people pass along. Nothing remains the same.” That is the path of viveka, of discrimination we all live by at The Art of Living.

Given the spectacular and recurring images of water in its varied forms (whether in the form of a gardener’s hose enticingly spraying water on the mother’s feet, an inviting swimming pool, a river flowing wide, the lashing waves of an ocean) I wonder whether Ocean of Life would have been a more apt title. This is definitely a must see film for those of you who enjoy experimental movies, classical music, nature that takes away your breath…and mostly for those of you who, long after the show’s over, like to ponder over that mystery we call life, your life!

Jai Gurudev !!

Radhika De