Here is a thought provoking speech given by our president Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, on the 10th of November 2003. I think it was given at IITB. Here is an excerpt from the speech.
After outlining his visions for the nation and the four greatest milestones of his career, he coutinues his speech thus:

…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 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 are 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.

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…..

“Ask what we can do for India and do what has to be done to make India what America and other Western countries are today.”

Let’s do what India needs from us.

Clearly, It has all to begin with us, the individuals. Ignorance of our social responsibilities and lethargy will take us nowhere.


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (H H) had recently visited Chennai. Having taken The Art of Living classes in school, I decided to attend his classes (three evenings) which were going to be held in the University grounds in spite of End Semester exams.

For a man who could recite parts of the Bhagavad Gita at the age of four, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, was very different from what I had expected. He has the voice of a small child and yet, when one listened to him it was as though it was as if he was speaking to each one of us in particular. Being born in Tamil Nadu and brought up in Karnataka, he was familiar with Tamil. However his Tamil did prove to be quite a cause for smiles. He was in loss for a few words. Also there was this one time when he said “All of you shout like a lion. Ellarum puli (tiger) mathiri kathunga”.

Yet the image of the man with long hair and intermittently muttering “good good” into the mike is what I’ll never forget in my life. Those three days were really nice (apart from the fact that this was the only real life celebrity I had met after coming to Chennai). A few hundred people had come and the sports ground was filled with people for as far as the eye could see in the dark. This is not much, I hear, when compared to the last time he visited Chennai. Last time there had been no entry fee. The whole of Chennai had turned up to see the Guru who had brought along with him five terrorists. I don’t know what happened then, but I hear that they gave up their arms. Hey, this time he had brought along village women. Well, that was to demonstrate, how come village woman don’t grow obese unlike their counterparts in the cities. But let me move on to the more thought provoking things he said.

When the Art of Living volunteers were helping with the relief operations following the Gujarat earthquake, an old lady came up to one of the volunteers and unfolding a notch in her sari, gave him the only money left with her. Ten rupees. The volunteer politely rejected the money saying that he was not there for money, and that serving those in need itself contented him. The lady in turn replied, “The Earth has taken away all I have. Please don’t take away my Dharma as well.”

Tears well in my eyes as I write these lines. He continued:

“There are such people in the country. There always has been. Do any of you know of Lord McCauley’s address to the British parliament? Good. McCauley had visited India during the early 1800s and when he went back to his country he told the parliament that he had toured the entire country and had seen not one beggar. The people are brimming with spiritual energy. He told them that colonising the country would be impossible without breaking her backbone, her spiritual strength…….. Before they came, Chennai had over a 1000 colleges of Medicine. The first thing they did when they came here was to shut down all of them………”

I have at your service the excerpt from his speech which Guruji was referring to:

“I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them to be, a truly dominated nation“.-Lord McCauley in his speech of Feb 2, 1835, British Parliament.

And that is what the British have done. They have stripped us of our pride, our heritage, our ancient education system, and our culture. And we remain today, with our compasses steadily pointing west. In two hundred years, we have forgotten ourselves. Swami Vivekananda alerted us “O ye modern Hindus, de-hypnotize yourselves!”

What remains to be done now, Guruji hinted “India needs a spiritual regeneration. We need to remember our culture ”. Yes, I realise, we need to remember who we are. If the auto driver, who throws cigarette butts out of the window and onto the pavement where people are standing, is spiritually in touch with himself, or at least with the moral values our people adhered to two hundred years ago, would he do it? Would a person knowing the glory of this great nation dare to spit on the road? The knowledge of the life that our forefathers lived alone would make us think twice before urinating on the streets. And this will result in a nation infinitely more stronger and integrated than we already are.

Most text books note that of all the ancient civilizations, India’s culture is one that has not been broken through history. Today, on looking at the ancient way of life that is rarely followed nowadays I realise the blissful ignorance we all have been immersed in.