E-Pao! EI - A tete-a-tete with Dr Kalam

A tete-a-tete with Dr Kalam

By: Gin Gangte *

'God is good. Always and ever'.

This was my feeling deep down in my heart as I strolled through the corridors of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet His Excellency Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, President of India. It was a great joy and a rare honour for me to have a one-to-one encounter with the first citizen of the land.

Well, I must admit that one of my childhood dreams has come true in letter and spirit in meeting the President of India at his official chamber in New Delhi.

For the last sixty days, I was in the Capital city to attend a national seminar-cum-presentation of 'Jewel of India' award which was held at the heart of Delhi's Connaught Hotel on the 13th March, 2006 with Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal, MoS (Finance) Govt of India as the Chief Guest.

Needless to say, I have never thought of meeting the President when I started out my 'Delhi Mission' recently as I was imbued with the feeling that it was quite un-reachable feat for a poor school teacher like me to meet the first citizen of our country. But strange things does happen under the sun, alteast occasionally, if not always.

My encounter with the President of India was also strange and hard to believe, yet difficult to refute. Many questions have haunted my innocent mind. Of them, the big question was 'Why did the President granted me appointment to meet him personally inspite of his hectic schedule? I try searching the answer for days but still in vain.

May be, I was reaping the kind heartedness and generosity of our soft-spoken President Dr Kalam. Or was it the 'Golden Rule' of Rashtrapati Bhavan to maintain the cordial relation with the citizens?

The sun descended from the Raisina hills and showed its brightness on the great D-day. As usual, the mercury of Delhi's summer was not to be appreciated at all. However, the scorching heat didn't deter my enthusiasm and I remained elated throughout.

Yes, it was the 12th day of April in the year of the Lord 2000+6 that will always be etched in the core of my heart. My appointment with the first citizen was fixed at 11.50 am, therefore reported at the Rashtrapati Bhavan at 11.40 am. I was finally called inside to be with the President at about 12.20 pm.

The chamber where the President was seated was calm and the atmosphere was peaceful and serene. Armed with a three-page representation, I greeted the President with a 'handshake' and a warm 'good afternoon' wishes. The first citizen then told me to take a seat which was right in front of him.

You know, I was feeling a bit shy initially which I overcame within a moment of time! As I started around, I sighted my previous representation that was lying on his 'Presidential' table in which I have detailed my willingness to meet him, if given the opportunity for the same.

Without losing time, the one-to-one interaction that lasted for about 20 minutes was set into motion. With a deep sense of respect, I told the President about the educational scenario of the State. Nothing politicking, I focused particularly on tribal education making it clear the need for computer education in the hills of Manipur.

As the discussion moved on, I tried my best to put up a strong argument before the President saying, 'Krishnamur-thy may be more popular than Christopher in Silicon valley today, but we should not forget that there are manifold tribal students who haven't had a chance to see computer with their own eyes'.

I cited the case of Bunglon High School where I am teaching for the last two years. I went on to add that 'the future of India is in the classrooms', and as such there is a dire need for adequate infrastructure for ushering a sound and quality education to the student community.

I particularly mentioned that, 'even as India had registered its name amongst the few 'nuclear club' as was evident from 'Manmohan-Bush' deal recently in New Delhi, but one can't ignore the fact that there are hundreds of tribal students who haven't had a chance to spot a computer set with their own eyes, leave alone computer education'.

I also explained about the pitiable condition of roads and the hopelessness of Govt schools of Manipur. Another glaring point worth mentioning here is my proposal for launching pre-matric scholarship in tune with Article 21A of the Indian Constitution.

The representation submitted to the President states: 'While one appreciate the Govt of India for launching post-matric scholarship for SCs/STs etc, it is desirable to widen the scheme to cover school-level students from Nursery onwards. This noble step would be a great leap forward in education in our country as is evident from the 'Free Tuition Fee Scheme' introduced by the Govt of Delhi w.e.f. the session 2003-2004.

The discussion was lively which was punctuated by various inputs and comments. The President sought information regarding the location of my school/village to which I said that it is nearby the historic Moirang town about 45 kms from the State capital Imphal.

I requested him for a maiden visit to BHS, Bunglon to which the President was open to the idea maintaining he would do so whenever he makes a trip to Manipur. On livelihood issue, I fervently urged him for setting up of fruit processing centre as I have explained to him that Bunglon is the capital producer of pineapple in Manipur.

Towards the end or discussion, I beseeched the President to accept a small present - Gangte Puondum (traditional shawl) which I brought it all the way from Manipur. 'The President does not receive any gifts' was what I heard umpteen times from the President's aide before.

After much persuasion, the President finally agreed to my request and I wrapped the puondum on his body, followed by a picture-perfect session. The President in a lighter vein commented: 'You are too persuasive'. At the end of our 20 minute long interaction, I asked him whether I could meet him again or not.

The hon'ble President was agreeable to my proposition.

Yeah, I am eagerly looking forward to my second meeting with his Excellency Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, President of India.

Gin Gangte, a recipient of 'Jewel of India' award, wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 11th, 2006

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