ANDHRA PRADESH

The youth in him pops out!

SRIHARIKOTA Oct. 10. He may be a septuagenarian, but did not appear so. Nor did he conduct himself like one.

The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who visited the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here on Friday for a couple of programmes, was active and agile like a youth. With the youth in him popping out, he was seen pulsating with energy, especially during the interactive session with schoolchildren, where he almost mingled with them. As soon as he entered the Brahmprakash Hall, Dr. Kalam ran to the dais, notwithstanding the protocol and security restrictions, much to the amusement of students, who formed a majority of the audience. The hall thundered with students clapping their hands when he addressed them as "friends.''

Be it querying or replying, it was with much ease that he handled the situation. As soon as he came to the podium, he left the "topic of the day'' to be chosen by the students. The latter started suggesting to their now-favourite icon to talk on a range of topics. "Despite spending millions of rupees on defence, why is that India still could not curb terrorism?'' one wondered.

Another rose to ask whether science and technology had any readymade solution to the perpetual tussle between States for a pie of the country's precious natural resources. Clearing the grey locks that fell on his face too often, Dr. Kalam gave them a keen look at them, acknowledging their concern.

He chanted his favourite "dream'' mantra this time too. The students repeated the words with him, "Dream, dream, dream... Dream transforms into thought, thought results in action.'' He merged into the crowd of students in the fifteen-plus age group, when he sang the "Song of the youth' along with them. "Learning gives creativity, creativity leads to thinking, thinking provides knowledge and knowledge makes one great'', he told the students, not before quizzing them on the real meaning of knowledge. He even graded the students and awarded marks for the best answers. When he asked what they wanted to become, the students revealed their mind as doctor, software engineer, IAS officer, scientist, sportsman and even politician.

Dr. Kalam, with a grim look in his eyes, openly expressed his discontent when none wanted to become an aeronautical engineer. He did not leave it at that, but elaborated on the nature of the job and the challenges in it.

While leaving, he stopped for a while at the portrait of Brahmprakash, his mentor, reminiscing his good old days as an employee at the same centre, where he arrived today as a dignitary.