ANDHRA PRADESH

Witty students charm Kalam

SRIHARIKOTA Oct. 10. The witty queries, smart looks and larger-than-life worries about the country's future by high school students amused none other than the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

"Very good,'' "excellent'' and other forms of adoration were lavishly showered on students during the interaction session he had with them.

In his maiden visit as President to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) here on Friday, Dr. Kalam did not miss his favourite pastime, interaction with students. Most of the participants were from the Space Central School on the SHAR campus, while a few were drawn from eight other schools in Sriharikota and the neighbouring Sullurpet.

The session was lively and exciting, with Dr. Kalam taking pains to explain the importance of a teacher in one's life. He advised students to take their best teacher as a role model, so that they could extract the most from them. "You spend the first 17 years, that is a whopping 25,000 hours, with your teacher and who else can be your role model then?'' he pondered. In this connection, he reminisced his association with his four best teachers, who, he said, inspired him to become what he was now. Siva Subramania Iyer, his school teacher, taught him the basics of "flight'' with a live example of birds on the Rameswaram coastline, that ignited the fire in him to go for a career in aeronautics. When he entered the ISRO as a scientist, it was Vikram Sarabhai, who, by declaring the first space programme for the country as early as in the late Sixties, kindled the temper in him to see India as a developed nation. Then, it was Satish Dhawan who taught him to face tough situations and from his mentor, Brahmprakash, he learnt administrative skills and righteousness.

"Like this, try to take your teacher as a role model and learn from them,'' he concluded. During the interactive session, right from the word `go,' the students dominated the scene by choking the President with queries that clearly belied their age and maturity. The students sought ways from the scientist-turned-President to curb communalism, make the country prosper economically, reach the benefits of space science and nuclear technology to the common man and modify the education pattern to make it relevant to the current day needs. Though the gush of questions left him gasping initially, the President was equally alive and articulate in his reply.

One girl grilled him on what was needed among the three to see a developed India, wealth, wisdom or patriotism. The President, who was flabbergasted initially, recovered soon to say that all the three were equally important. Dr. Kalam, apart from asking the students to dream, dream and dream to achieve big, also did not miss the regular drill of making them repeat with him the "Song of Youth,'' which the children gleefully did. Before leaving, he patiently signed autographs for the students.