Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in PGPX Classroom

Among all the distinguished personalities who have graced our campus, none can compare to a certain global figure who has been a positive influence on millions of young (and not so young) minds around the world – Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

Not many MBA students can claim that they have been taught by the honorable Ex-President of India. The proud students of IIMA have the privilege of doing so when they enroll for a course called Globalising Resurgent India through Innovative Transformation (GRIIT). The course is offered as an elective for both the 1-year and 2-year MBA programs at IIMA and is usually in high-demand. One hopes that the demand is not just for the subsequent bragging rights that go with the package. The star attraction of the course is the set of sessions that are taught by the great man himself, along with another distinguished IIMA professor – Prof. Anil Gupta (http://www.ted.com/speakers/anil_gupta.html), but more importantly, the course offers avenues that students could explore to make a difference to the world around them by studying current policies/ processes/regulations, etc. and providing recommendations that could influence policy, governance and/or institutional changes. To quote one of the course directives, the students are expected to “create disruptive innovative pathways of progress within the country and internationally.”
Another aspect of this course that makes it distinct is that , thanks to the strong networks that Dr. Kalam and Prof. Anil Gupta have developed during their illustrious careers, it is relatively easier for students to gain access to high-ranked officials in the Indian government and other key institutions. These are typically ministers or IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officers who are involved in or are interested in the field/ topic that the students have chosen to work on as part of their projects. The effective utilization of such channels helps students discuss and develop their ideas in consultation with the decision/policy makers/ influencers, significantly increasing the probability of “making a difference.” I hope to do so as well, in my own little way.
Many of us had seen Dr. Kalam a zillion times before, on television and other media channels, but nothing could prepare us for the humility and gentleness that Dr. Kalam brought with him to the IIMA campus on 17th and 18th September, 2010. The class respectfully stood up to greet the 78-year old “People’s president” when he entered our classroom – CR11 to begin the sessions on day-1. Scientist, engineer, visionary, humanitarian – There are several ways one could describe the 11th President of India (2002-2007). But his demeanor and simplicity reminded me of a doting grandfather who loved to talk to youngsters on the importance of high ideals and the need to envision and work toward a better future for the nation. This may sound clichéd, coming from a politician, but the difference is that this rocket scientist truly seemed to believe in what he was advocating, and in his earnest wish to have all Indians, young and old, go the extra mile to make India a developed nation by the year 2020 (http://www.indiavision2020.org/), he often lets his defences down, allowing observers to interpret his sincerity and uncomplicated speech as naivety. One can make one’s own inferences, but I found his simplicity very endearing.
There is goodness as well as greatness in simplicity, not in wealth – Mahatma Gandhi
Well-known for his visionary speeches and the winner of three of India’s highest civilian honours (the Padma Bhushan in 1981; Padma Vibhushan in 1990; and the Bharat Ratna in 1997), Dr. Kalam addressed the PGPX (1-year MBA) and PGP (2-year MBA) students (including several foreign exchange students from France) by delivering a speech on “Three dimensional Action for World Prosperity and Peace”. During the course of his presentation, he talked about the importance of Global Vision, Regional Cooperation and National Missions and how they would aid in our endeavour to make India a developed nation by 2020. Dr. Kalam also explained certain visualizations that could lead to a ‘Global world system for prosperity and peace’. He called this the World Vision 2030.
Prior to Dr. Kalam’s visit, all the GRIIT participants were given three questions to answer.

1. All of you are talented and receiving the best of education and skills. In this context, I want to know your answer to the question – “What I will be remembered for?”

2.Has there been a person or incident in your life which has left an important and lasting message. If possible, please share it. This can be from your family, friends, people who have come across in life, organization or institution of which you were a part of.

3. Do you have one out-of-the-box idea which would transform the nation or address a key concern which is pertinent in the national context?

The responses were consolidated and sent to him for review a few days before his visit. During the next session in the classroom, Dr. Kalam commented on some of the answers and invited the students to discuss certain aspects of their responses in the class. The remaining sessions on Day-1 and Day-2 involved several presentations made by PGPX and PGP students on various projects of social relevance, involving diverse topics like the global drinking water problem, Corruption, Energy-independence, Health-care, library networks, e-governance, etc. During the course of the presentations, Dr. Kalam and Prof. Anil Gupta provided valuable insights, tips and guidelines on the way forward. Many of the presentations elicited impassioned debate and discussion with the audience as well.

Again, all good things had to come to an end…. Our two-day session with Dr. Kalam ended on the evening of 18th September, 2010. This was followed by a session that Dr. Kalam had with the participants of IIMA’s Faculty Development Programme (FDP), which included teachers from all over India and Ethiopia. Even as the session continued, like on Day-1, crowds had gathered outside the classroom – students, faculty-members and IIMA staff, families in tow, waiting to catch a glimpse of the great man and take some photographs with him as he walked toward his motorcade, accompanied by security guards wielding machine-guns. A few got lucky… So did I! 🙂
Navin Rajendran,
PGPX , Class of 2011

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