Wednesday 10 October 2012

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's Speech: A Must Read

I have three visions for India. In 3000 years of our history people from all over the world have come and invaded us, captured our lands, conquered our minds. From Alexander onwards. The Greeks, the Turks, the Moguls, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us, took over what was ours. Yet we have not done this to any other nation. We have not conquered anyone. We have not grabbed their land, their culture, their history and tried to enforce our way of life on them. Why? Because we respect the freedom of others. That is why my first vision is that of FREEDOM. I believe that India got its first vision of this in 1857, when we started the war of independence. It is this freedom that we must protect and nurture and build on. If we are not free, no one will respect us.

My second vision for India is DEVELOPMENT.
For fifty years we have been a developing nation. It is time we see ourselves as a developed nation. We are among top 5 nations of the world in terms of GDP. We have 10 percent growth rate in most areas. Our poverty levels are falling. Our achievements are being globally recognized today. Yet we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a developed nation, self-reliant and self-assured. Isn't this incorrect?

I have a THIRD vision.
India must stand up to the world. Because I believe that unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. Only strength respects strength. We must be strong not only as a military power but also as an economic power. Both must go hand-in-hand. My good fortune was to have worked with three great minds. Dr. Vikram Sarabhai of the Dept. of space, Professor Satish Dhawan, who succeeded him and Dr. Brahm Prakash, father of nuclear material. I was lucky to have worked with all three of them closely and consider this the great opportunity of my life.

I see four milestones in my career: ONE: Twenty years I spent in ISRO. I was given the opportunity to be the project director for India's first satellite launch vehicle, SLV3. The one that launched Rohini. These years played a very important role in my life of Scientist.

TWO: After my ISRO years, I joined DRDO and got a chance to be the part of India's missile program. It was my second bliss when Agni met its mission requirements in 1994.

THREE: The Dept. of Atomic Energy and DRDO had this tremendous partnership in the recent nuclear tests, on May 11 and 13. This was the third bliss. The joy of participating with my team in these nuclear tests and proving to the world that India can make it, that we are no longer a developing nation but one of them. It made me feel very proud as an Indian. The fact that we have now developed for Agni a re-entry structure, for which we have developed this new material. A Very light material called carbon-carbon.

FOUR: One day an orthopedic surgeon from Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences visited my laboratory. He lifted the material and found it so light that he took me to his hospital and showed me his patients. There were these little girls and boys with heavy metallic calipers weighing over three kg. each, dragging their feet around. He said to me: Please remove the pain of my patients. In three weeks, we made these Floor reaction Orthosis 300 gram calipers and took them to the orthopedic centre. The children didn't believe their eyes. From dragging around a three kg. load on their legs, they could now move around! Their parents had tears in their eyes. That was my fourth bliss!

Why is the media here so negative? Why are we in India so embarrassed to recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them. Why? We are the first in milk production. We are number one in Remote sensing satellites. We are the second largest producer of wheat. We are the second largest producer of rice. Look at Dr. Sudarshan, he has transferred the tribal village into a self-sustaining, self-driving unit. There are millions of such achievements but our media is only obsessed in the bad news and failures and disasters.

I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was the day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert land into an orchid and a granary. It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news. In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE? Another question: Why are we, as a nation so obsessed with foreign things? We want foreign TVs, we want foreign shirts. We want foreign technology. Why this obsession with everything imported. Do we not realize that self-respect comes with self-reliance?

I was in Hyderabad giving this lecture, when a 14 year old girl asked me for my autograph. I asked her what her goal in life is: She replied: I want to live in a developed India. For her, you and I will have to build this developed India. You must proclaim. India is not an under-developed nation; it is a highly developed nation.

Allow me to come back with vengeance. Got 10 minutes for your country?

YOU say that our government is inefficient. YOU say that our laws are too old. YOU say that the municipality does not pick up the garbage. YOU say that the phones don't work, the railways are a joke, the airline is the worst in the world, mails never reach their destination. YOU say that our country has been fed to the dogs and is the absolute pits. YOU say, say and say.

What do YOU do about it? Take a person on his way to Singapore. Give him a name - YOURS. Give him a face - YOURS. YOU walk out of the airport and you are at your International best. In Singapore you don't throw cigarette butts on the roads or eat in the stores. YOU are as proud of their Underground Links as they are. You pay $5 (approx. Rs. 60) to drive through Orchard Road (equivalent of Mahim Causeway or Pedder Road) between 5 PM and 8 PM.

YOU comeback to the parking lot to punch your parking ticket if you have over stayed in a restaurant or a shopping mall irrespective of your status identity. In Singapore you don't say anything, DO YOU? YOU wouldn't dare to eat in public during Ramadan, in Dubai. YOU would not dare to go out without your head covered in Jeddah. YOU would not dare to buy an employee of the telephone exchange in London at 10 pounds (Rs. 650) a month to, "see to it that my STD and ISD calls are billed to someone else." YOU would not dare to speed beyond 55 mph (88 kph) in Washington and then tell the traffic cop, "Jaanta hai sala main kaun hoon (Do you know who I am?). I am so and so's son. Take your two bucks and get lost." YOU wouldn't chuck an empty coconut shell anywhere other than the garbage pail on the beaches in Australia and New Zealand. Why don't YOU spit Paan on the streets of Tokyo? Why don't YOU use examination jockeys or buy fake certificates in Boston? We are still talking of the same YOU. YOU who can respect and conform to a foreign system in other countries but cannot in your own. You who will throw papers and cigarettes on the road the moment you touch Indian ground. If you can be an involved and appreciative citizen in an alien country why cannot you be the same here in India.

Once in an interview, the famous Ex-municipal commissioner of Bombay Mr.Tinaikar had a point to make. "Rich people's dogs are walked on the streets to leave their affluent droppings all over the place," he said. "And then the same people turn around to criticize and blame the authorities for inefficiency and dirty pavements. What do they expect the officers to do? Go down with a broom every time their dog feels the pressure in his bowels? In America every dog owner has to clean up after his pet has done the job. Same in Japan. Will the Indian citizen do that here?" He's right. We go to the polls to choose a government and after that forfeit all responsibility. We sit back wanting to be pampered and expect the government to do everything for us whilst our contribution is totally negative. We expect the government to clean up but we are not going to stop chucking garbage all over the place nor are we going to stop to pick a up a stray piece of paper and throw it in the bin. We expect the railways to provide clean bathrooms but we are not going to learn the proper use of bathrooms. We want Indian Airlines and Air India to provide the best of food and toiletries but we are not going to stop pilfering at the least opportunity. This applies even to the staff who is known not to pass on the service to the public. When it comes to burning social issues like those related to women, dowry, girl child and others, we make loud drawing room protestations and continue to do the reverse at home. Our excuse? "It's the whole system which has to change, how will it matter if I alone forego my sons' rights to a dowry." So who's going to change the system? What does a system consist of? Very conveniently for us it consists of our neighbors, other households, other cities, other communities and the government. But definitely not me and YOU. When it comes to us actually making a positive contribution to the system we lock ourselves along with our families into a safe cocoon and look into the distance at countries far away and wait for a Mr. Clean to come along & work miracles for us with a majestic sweep of his hand. Or we leave the country and run away. Like lazy cowards hounded by our fears we run to America to bask in their glory and praise their system. When New York becomes insecure we run to England. When England experiences unemployment, we take the next flight out to the Gulf. When the Gulf is war struck, we demand to be rescued and brought home by the Indian government. Everybody is out to abuse and rape the country. Nobody thinks of feeding the system. Our conscience is mortgaged to money.

Dear Indians, The article is highly thought inductive, calls for a great deal of introspection and pricks one's conscience too....I am echoing J.F. Kennedy's words to his fellow Americans to relate to Indians.....


Lets do what India needs from us.

A Tryst with Destiny: Jawaharlal Nehru


Speech in the Constituent Assembly of India, on the eve of India's Independence: Delivered August 14th, 1947.
Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history, India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and grandeur of her success and failures. Through good and ill fortune alike, she has never lost sight of that quest, forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of misfortunes and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

Freedom and power bring responsibility. The responsibility rests upon this Assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom, we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons us now.

That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means, the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and poverty and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest men of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.

And so we have to labour and to work, and to work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace is said to be indivisible, so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.

To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make an appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill-will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.

The appointed day has come -the day appointed by destiny- and India stands forth again, after long slumber and struggle, awake, vital, free and independent. The past clings on to us still in some measure and we have to do much before we redeem the pledges we have so often taken. Yet the turning-point is past, and history begins anew for us, the history which we shall live and act and others will write about.

It is a fateful moment for us in India, for all Asia and for the world. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the East, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materializes. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed!

We rejoice in that freedom, even though clouds surround us, and many of our people are sorrow-stricken and difficult problems encompass us. But freedom brings responsibilities and burdens and we have to face them in the spirit of a free and disciplined people.

On this day our first thoughts go to the architect of this freedom, the Father of our Nation, who, embodying the old spirit of India, held aloft the torch of freedom and lighted up the darkness that surrounded us. We have often been unworthy followers of his and have strayed from his message, but not only we but succeeding generations will remember this message and bear the imprint in their hearts of this great son of India, magnificent in his faith and strength and courage and humility. We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest.

Our next thoughts must be of the unknown volunteers and soldiers of freedom who, without praise or reward, have served India even unto death.

We think also of our brothers and sisters who have been cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers in their good [or] ill fortune alike.

The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.

We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be. We are citizens of a great country on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.

To the nations and peoples of the world we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy.

And to India, our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to her service.






Tuesday 9 October 2012

Jaipur, The Pink City

Jaipur: From the old to the new
Pink City, notice how the buildings are all in pink colour with uniformly written shop names in black

Shimla Under Hail Storm

Well on a beautiful Monday morning when all was calm and serene suddenly around three am the weather decided to play havoc. The winds changed and suddenly the sky turned black with streaks of blue in between and of course the sun shining amidst them. And behold! What do we have? A sudden spurt of hail falling fast and furiously. As if the Gods were angry with someone or with something. And hey Shimla was all white in a matter of minutes with small marbles of hail. 


More than enough for my kid to enjoy it like any other winter snowfall ready to hit outdoors to collect those white marbles. Hard to miss the excitement of your kids and of course you love to join in.

Here are few glimpses of that day. 

Well this also means that this is the beginning of the winters. Those the days are sunny but don't miss the chilly morning and cold evenings. Sweaters are already out and soon jackets too will see the day of light from your packed closets.

So enjoy and all those looking for some snow, well we still have two more months to go but till then have fun!!!

Sunday 15 July 2012

Porters/guides make merry as tourists haggle over room tariff in Shimla

In spite of the fact that every year the number of tourists visiting Shimla and Himachal, is increasing there is no respite from innocent tourists being cheated at every front. From the minute they enter the City, they are suddenly swarmed by porters and guides who carry a number of brochures of various hotels and take them to a choice of their hotel. In return they get a decent amount of money as commission or at times even a day’s full tariff if the booking is for a longer duration of stay. Weekends are worse as 90 to 100 per cent hotels have full occupancy and those a few left, charge more than double or triple amount of approved tariff rates making it a bitter experience for those visiting. Thus, swearing never to come back to Shimla.
SHO, Shimla Shakuntala Sharma was seen patrolling The Mall, talking to tourists while guiding them towards their destinations and nearby markets. She was also seen instructing the pramwala, a constant opposite Tourism Lift, ready to render services to tourists travelling with their tiny tots. “I have warned these pramwala not to harass tourists by hovering around them as it would entail a fine of up to Rs 500,” she stated, while adding that “all efforts were being made to help tourists”. Despite receiving a warning, minutes later these guys were seen rushing towards the entrance of the Lift as they saw tourists approaching the Mall. 
On enquiring about the haggling of room tariffs by the porters and guides, she said, “the members of the hotel associations should talk to the tourism department as well as the Superintendent Police and table their concerns”. It has also been seen that at times this step was encouraged by the hoteliers themselves as they were paying huge amounts of commissions to these porters/guides for room bookings. 

Anil Walia, owner of Hotel Himland West said, “We have never encouraged such practice and being one of the oldest hotels in the city we have never given any commission till date. Rather I have also received complaints from my guests who have confirmed booking of being mislead by these porters by telling them strange stories such as the hotel is haunted, burnt or at one time a guest informed me he was told that a murder had taken place in that hotel”. He further added that few hotels indulge in scrupulous means of getting room bookings as in spite of giving around 10 per cent commission on the room tariff these porters are given additional incentives such as utensil, television or at times mobile phones on getting regular bookings for a given month.  
Ajay Doegar, owner Hotel Doegar, Ridge, did acknowledge to the fact that until two years they were paying Rs 200 as commission to porters for room bookings but since then they have stopped this practice. He stated, “Now we take regular bookings only through travel agents or we have an online booking system under which we get confirmed bookings. This is a huge racket which needs to be controlled as most hotels located near the railway station and bus stand give nearly 20 to 30 per cent commission or at times full days rent”.

While talking to Amandeep Singh, a tourist from Punjab, he said, “en route to entering the city we were waved by a number of people showing us cards/brochures of hotels but we wished to take a chance and walked into various hotels enquiring about vacancy. Luckily we got good rooms at decent prices and were happy with our visit to Shimla”. However, Vicky and friends from Delhi were not that lucky as they reached Shimla around nine o’clock at night and were taken for a ride by the porters. Without disclosing the name of the hotel he said, “This guy took us to this hotel, for which we had a climb a very steep hill and then we had to pay nearly double the amount for overnight stay. Unhappy over the situation we feel that if the porters are minting money at least the hoteliers should show some empathy and work honestly. Obviously with such things happening we will think twice before coming again, or rather ensure booking in advance”.    

The picture portrayed by various hotel owners was quite grim and the fact that tourists are easily taken for a ride. Cumulative efforts need to be made to stop those indulging in such practices so that the visitors feel at home when visiting Shimla and have an enjoyable stay rather than having a sour experience. Surjeet Kumar, Publicity Officer, Tourism & Civil Aviation Department, Shimla said that regular checks are undertaken to avoid such harassment from porters and many have been caught but due to lack of proof we have had to let them go. It is only if the travel agents and hoteliers come forward with such complaints, we can take some action. Otherwise our hands are tide too.   
This one is for all the weekend tourists and those who suddenly overnight decide to take a break from summer heat and head for this famous destination, popularly known as Queen of Hills. The coming months will see Shimla thronged by tourists as its natural beauty, cool breeze and pleasant weather, amazing views of surrounding Dhauladhar Mountains will lure them to this hill station. So in case you are planning a trip to Shimla then ensure that you make reservations in advance or at least reach before nightfall, lest you fall in the porters trap. Hence, “Be Warned and Be Informed”.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

IIAS: Colonial legacy, Shimla’s pride

A historic landmark of Shimla and a legacy left behind by the Britisher’s, but no matter how many times you visit this architectural marvel you would want to go back again and enjoy its serene environment and immaculate ambiance. Rich in history and with is Victorian edifice, Viceregal Lodge, now famously known as the Indian Institute Advanced Studies (IIAS) was completed in 1888 by Henry Irwin its architect. Lord Dufferin, Viceroy of India during that time personally supervised the construction and the furniture was fitted by Maple & Co., London who perfected in Victorian period. It is also noted that the architectural style drew inspiration from English Renaissance and certain elements of Scottish castles can also be seen here.

In the words of Lady Duffering who recounted her stay on July 15, 1988, “The result of the whole was to make me feel that it is a great pity that we shall have so short a time to live in a house surrounded by such magnificent views”.

Set within the large wooded estate of the Observatory Hill, (one of the seven hills Shimla is built on) IIAS became the Rastrapati Niwas after Independence which was then officially handed over to the Institute by President S Radhakrishnan on October 20, 1965. This place also has historical significance as the 1945 Shima Conference was hosted by the 19th Viceroy of India, Viscount Archibald Wavell, which was attended by major political leaders including Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Liaqat Ali Khan, Master Tara Singh and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Khem Raj Verma, Supervisor of the Institute states, “The old fire station was converted into the Fire Station Café with a Souvenir Shop in 2009. Here tourists can take a well rested break after visiting the Institute. A selected collection of books both in Hindi and English, collectibles such as mugs, sweat shirts, caps and greeting cards with the Institutes images, a small café with few tables serving limited snacks as well as a visitors information centre cum ticketing counter have been opened”.

Notable recent changes that have taken place are the Court Gallery which was once a Squash Court and the Pool Theatre which was a Swimming Pool. The Court Gallery consists of rare collection photographs of the Institute dating since 1888, which were procured from the Bowood Estate, Western Part of United Kingdom and the British Library, London in 2010. Verma added, “With help from the Middlesex University, we were able to get these photographs. The swimming pool built in 1888 is now a plush theatre where movies are featured for resident scholars and the Institute’s students. Conferences, meetings and conventions too are held here from time to time. Efforts are being made to open more and more areas for the tourists while at the same time maintaining the sanctity of the place”.

Guided tours started in 1992, initially there were no charges but after seeing the growing number of tourists nominal charges were taken as part of the maintenance cost. The guide would at lengths explain the history of the Institute and its passing owners. The elaborate wood work, the paneling and pilaster, usages of teak, deodar and walnut woods and impressive carvings are works of marvel. Gitesh Arora and family from New Delhi were ecstatic about their visit and went on and on about the beauty of the building and its architecture. Gitesh said, “The landscaping and the design of the building is very beautiful, but the guided tours are quite dissatisfying. The groups are so large that it is difficult to understand what the guide is saying and the rushed walk around is a little disappointing”. Justifying this Verma added, “Since last year the number of tourist has increased two-fold and weekend rush is huge hence the tour timings are decreased to 25 minutes from a 45 minute tour. This is something which we cannot control as the growing number of tourists needs to be accommodated and this is the only way we can do so. Weekdays are much more relaxed”. Purnima from Mumbai says, “The elements of Victorian architecture are just incredible and a walk around the Institute is equally charming and extravagant. The manicured lawns, the beautiful garden and all around greenery is breathtaking”.

As you walk towards the main entrance, you can see the huge landscaped lawns on to your left and the gravel stone walkway reminds you of the era gone by. Once inside you are greeted with a huge iron-wrought chandelier and immaculate woodwork, a reminder of the elegance, sophistication and grace which the Britisher’s embraced while staying here. Only two rooms are open for the tourists and the insides of the Library can be seen from the huge glass door, the upper floors are off-limits as these are now reserved for the visiting professors and the Director of the Institute. One of these rooms has the round table and chairs that were used during the Simla Conference and another amazing thing about this room is that its roof was built with walnut tree wood which dates almost 125 years now.

 The main attraction of the Institute is its Library which was opened in 1965, with exclusive access to members only. Prem Chand, Librarian, who took reins in February 2009 says, “You will find hardcore books on every subject as there are more than 1,30,000 books, around 6000 journals and private compilations of eminent scholars, which constitutes a unique collection and the finest resources not only in India but all over the world. The library obtained rare Sanskrit, Arabic as well as Persian texts and manuscripts. Despite coming from a different background as my work was more about connectivity of all Indian libraries to make a huge pool of resources as well create a database of e-resources, I am using this experience to create something similar at this Library”. He added, “We have done away with the cards system as each book has now been assigned a bar code as it is very easy to track books now. Usage has become very easy and certain norms for usage of the Library have also been relaxed. Apart from the regular 40 scholars who are internal members, 20 professors who come every month from different parts of India for a month, there are another 80 members from outside the Institute such as government employees, teachers or research students who can have access to these vast resources”. The section on rare books and archives is phenomenal but any documents pertaining to Lord Mountbatten and Mahatma Gandhi were taken by the Britishers when they left. The collection includes books on philosophy, religion, fine arts, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, socio-economic planning and development, social and cultural anthropology, ancient and mediaeval Indian history and culture, modern Indian history, and Third World economics, which are considered as stupendous. The electronic system introduced is gaining popularity and with access to more than 8,000 journals which were purchased from Cambridge, Oxford and other Universities helps students in research as per se the Institute can subscribe to only about 250 journals. 

Dr M Pathak, Associate Professor from the National Defense Academy, Pune, on a one month visit to the Institute says, “I am here under the IUGC programme to present a paper on ‘Transnational Terrorism in Kashmir’, and there are nearly 20 other professors visiting from all over India from different universities. This is a unique Institute with amazing library resources, best hospitality and great people. The collection of rare books is the best I have seen and few particular books written on Kashmir were found here only. Even though this is my second trip, still every time it is quite refreshing and enlightening when I come here”.



Anyone who has seen the Institute’s magnificent aura and charm definitely takes back few good memories. Those visiting can witness the phases of Indian history, coming and going of Viceroys, political documentations and the visiting professors and scholars who will foretell the magnitude of this Institution and what it means to them.
Come with an open mind to fill your senses with fresh impressions of this Institute and the legacy that the British royalty left us with, which has become a statement of pride for us, Shimlaites.



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