In fond memory of
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
Remembering him in Sikkim
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
While thousands of words and numerous pictures came pouring in as soon as the news of his sudden falling ill followed by the sudden sad demise of Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (15 October 1931 – 27 July 2015) over the news-channels and social networks, it was me remembering his gracious one-day visit to Sikkim on 22-23 October in 2005, when I was serving on deputation as the Principal Secretary in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly. I have many reasons to cherish and remember this tenure of mine – one of the longest in that capacity but more for this reason alone to be associated with this Great Son of India that made the country proud to honour him with three Padma Awards viz., Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Bharat Ratna. The last one was awarded well before his assuming country’s highest office as the 11th President of India to be the First Citizen rising from a middle class family in the remote village Dhanushkoti near Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. Dr. Kalam had deep appreciation for Sikkim which was voiced “in the Fifth Global Travel and Tourism Summit held early this year (6th April 2005) namely that the ‘Experience of Sikkim’ should be replicated in other States in pursuit for commercial utilization of its resources with minimal impact on its environment.”
The purpose of my this homage is to remember Dr. Kalam while in Sikkim visiting the Sikkim Legislative Assembly to address the Special Sitting held on 22nd September 2005. Earlier on the day, Dr. Kalam had Address and Interaction with the students of Tashi Namgyal Senior Secondary School followed by Multimedia Presentation on Natural Wealth and Development of Sikkim in the Samman Bhavan while the evening saw him for the Inauguration of the Paljor Stadium and the Visit to the Enchey Monastery. The President and the dignitaries and the entourage was received at the porch of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly and welcomed by the Speaker, who along with the Chief Minister, Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Principal Secretary to Governor and Principal Secretary Sikkim Legislative Assembly conducted them in a ceremonial procession through the main entrance of the Assembly Hall and led to the dais when the National Anthem was played by the Police Band. Welcome address by the Speaker read (excerpted), “It is indeed a rare and a very proud moment for the people, the Government and the State of Sikkim to welcome on their behalf one of the greatest and the most distinguished sons of India….. Your Excellency’s presence has made this day not only Momentous but Historic; A time to Rejoice and Rededicate ourselves to the service of the fellowmen and our great Motherland through democratic institution and democratic process… that in the ANNALS of the History of Sikkim this is the first time that the highest dignitary of our Country has addressed the Sikkim Legislative Assembly. This is a precious moment: memories of which will be cherished by all Sikkimese from all walks of life for a long time to come.
“… His Excellency Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has come to personally represent to many of His countrymen the best aspects of Indian Life. Born in 1931 in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, His Excellency had an unparalleled career as a distinguished Scientist. He was instrumental in the development of India’s first satellite Launch Vehicle the SLV-3, development and operationalization of Strategic Missiles and for building indigenous capability in Critical Technologies. His Excellency has the unique honour of receiving Honorary Doctorate from 30 Universities and the Country’s three highest Civilian Honours – Padma Bhushan in 1981, Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and Bharat Ratna in 1997…. As Chairman of the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council, His Excellency guided a number of Technology Projects and Missions to take India to the 21st Century…. In most of the literary works in which His Excellency has authored, one gets deep insight into Dr. Kalam’s World – It is one of simplicity and beauty in which nature figures prominently as do human relationship and above all deep Patriotism and deep love for the Country. …Though this is Your Excellency’s first visit to this State nonetheless we proudly recall Your Excellency’s deep appreciation which was voiced by Your Excellency in the Fifth Global Travel and Tourism Summit held early this year namely that the ‘Experience of Sikkim’ should be replicated in other States in pursuit for commercial utilization of its resources with minimal impact on its environment. … I welcome and wish Your Excellency a very pleasant and memorable sojourn in Sikkim. May Your Excellency’s Great Vision, Inspire, Motivate and Guide us in our effort to build strong and prosperous India. May ‘Kanchenjunga’ the Guardian Deity of Sikkim, Bless and Bestow on Your Excellency, the strength, wisdom and the vision to lead this great nation to greater unparalleled heights so that India, our great Motherland will shine brighter than all other stars in the galaxy of other Nation States. JAI HIND.”
What is important here is to know the vision of Dr. Kalam on Sikkim that “On the request of the Speaker, His Excellency the President of India addressed the Special Sitting of the House with audio-visual presentation on the topic ‘SIKKIM: Mission for prosperity’. The address summarized the following eight important Missions for consideration and implementation for sustained prosperity and empowerment of Sikkim:
“1.100% literacy, skills and Health Care for all through Medical Insurance.
2. Development of Infrastructure – Airport nearby Gangtok and small airports/helipads in western and eastern region.
3. Establishing 12 Hill Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) clusters.
4. Medicinal, floriculture and aromatic plants – Orchid farming for national use and export – million in 5 years.
6. Establishment of 4700 megawatt additional hydel power on mission mode through private sector build operate own scheme within three to five years.
7. Tourism Mission with the target of one million internal tourists and two lakh international tourists within the next three years.
8. Creation of Secure Economic Zone.”
“Delighted to visit Sikkim Legislature Assembly, Gangtok. My greetings to the members. Sikkim has every potential to achieve and reach – Developed State. With best wishes.” – Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
“Let the Legislature translate the vision into action.” - V. Rama Rao
Dr. Kalam presented a set of his books to the Speaker, who also presented him a copy of the book Sikkim : Three Decades towards Democracy by R. S. Shresta, this writer.
A decade down the memory-lane when the Missile Man is no more amidst us today and to find where we ourselves stand, it is interesting to note here the concluding remarks from Dr Kalam’s address that capsulizes his vision, “I have so far, given an outline of eight missions, which can propel Sikkim into an economically developed state and thereby the Nation is enriched.
“Nature has given Sikkim such a beautiful atmosphere, spiritual peace, amity, unity and above all a wonderful and bountiful land. Sikkim is a natural resource rich State. What is needed is innovative policies, creation of confidence, enthusiasm and motivation among people, provide essential infrastructure in the form of connectivities and sustained hard work to achieve the development missions. Two lakh fifty thousand youth of Sikkim are the most powerful resource to transform these missions into reality. They will definitely ensure that Sikkim becomes a developed State by 2015. Sikkim has to have a 10 year mission to transform into a economically developed state with spiritual civilizational heritage.
“My best wishes to all of you for success in these missions.
“May God bless you.”
It was just an hour long programme here that day, this writer had the privilege to be associated with and the rare opportunity to present Dr. Kalam a poem penned by him attached in the book the Speaker gave. Earlier, a copy of this book along with the information sought on the Sikkim Legislative Assembly was sent to the Private Secretary in the Personals of His Excellency the President of India on 13th September – a month before this august visit. I share here the poem I owe you all! I had shown him in Dr. Kalam’s latest The Life Tree - Poems autographed for me:
I owe you all!
I owe the blood to my father
'Cause I have to pass it on the bloodline to the eternity.
I owe to my mother as well for the milk
She has fed me with all through these years.
It's more so for I have two mothers
If realized to care -
The one who gave me birth (Sikkim) and
The other who rears me up till this day (India)!
To repay my society whatever received all these years
I am so in hurry before it is too late and waiting till the end.
God's providence is my inheritance and
His grace is forever
For everything is eternal in the nature
As the majestic and divine Kanchanjungha
Protecting and standing behind
to fear and care.
To the eternity
I owe you all!
R. S. Shresta
September 20, 2005
Dedicated to Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in Sikkim acknowledging his advice.
We remember Dr. Kalam the best as his Life itself has inspired us many and would continue to do so for generations to come and conclude paying Tribute with his oft quoted inspiring words I like most – Dream is not what you see in sleep, is the thing which does not let you sleep.