The Nanyang Technological University was fortunate enough to be one of the destinations of HE APJA Kalam's Singapore official visit. Students of the university were given the opportunity to hear the President at a luncheon at the University. Students from all disciplines, both undergraduate and postgraduate registered for this event with much enthusiasm. I myself jumped at the opportunity as it would perhaps be impossible to get this sort of an event going in India. Ironic ya? The school of Biological Sciences had the responsibility of hosting the president. We all showed up the designated time of 11 am.
The famed Indian Standard Time reared its ugly head again and we were made to wait for a another couple of hours before the President actually arrived with his entourage. The small hall with around 150 students stood up and applauded his arrival. After a few cursory welcome messages by the the Dean and Chairman of the University, the little fisherman's son came to the microphone. He spoke about the technological convergence of biological sciences, nanotechnology and information technology. It was part of his bigger vision of how science and education can together uplift the youth of emerging countries and contribute to growth and prosperity. He was aided by a fancy Powerpoint presentation (a tool which he regularly uses for all his speeches, I understand). During his speech he also paid homage to the great Indian scientists like Vikram Sarabhai, Chandrasekhar and JC Bose. He also spoke about his association with a few of them and regaled the audience with some tales from their lives. The teacher in the President got the better of him on most occasions when he started explaining the scientific terms that he used in his speech. He actually described in detail what the Chandrasekhar limit was! He had to check himself on more than a couple of occasions lest he got carried away. His speech ended with how Singapore and India could cooperate on scientific issues for mutual and global benefit. He also mentioned that he was very impressed with the technological focus of the University and spoke about the work that he had seen in the laboratories.
For me, it was a moment of pride. It was a reflection of a changing and fast moving India. How many Presidents in the world can balance science and politics as easily as this man? How many of them have such impressive resumes? That he is from a very humble background is also testament to how India is a land that can truly nurture talent, no matter where its origins lie. We have a lot to do and a long way to go, but it truly was a great occasion to celebrate India. The President then had lunch with the students and obliged photographs and autographs alike. He does have an endearing quality about him. A demeanor of a lovable professor rather than that of a politician. But I guess thats because thats who he is and we are all the better for it. I'd rather have a man like this than a hardened and corrupt politician. He truly commands respect. 'Jai Hind' to that.
PS: The President begins most of his replies with the line. 'see, its like this...'