Friday, October 05, 2007


Former President APJ Abdul Kalam made a visit to my institute as the chief guest presiding over the 11th Foundation Day celebrations. His presence was of course eagerly anticiapted by one and all in the institute and I daresay he attracted more attention than any other guest speaker has for quite some time here. Personally, this is not the first time I am hearing him talk and I did not find the lecture as inspiring or even interesting as the media reports it.

This post is not about my views on APJ and the substance of his lecture but about a conversation which sprouted as a result of this. When I was talking to one of my friends in the evening, I was told that I may generally seem to be "cocky" and egoistic because I do not really appreciate or applaud things that are commonly treasured by people. There is a tendency to downplay the achievements of others saying - "Ya, Big deal. What's so great about that?". Even if I may be exaggerating that observation a bit, I have had similar hints from others earlier as well.

There are two fairly obvious things involved here. Firstly, this observation has mostly come from people who adore/respect someone who I criticize or argue against at that time. While this may seem a touch defensive, the point I am trying to make is that it is mostly when the difference of opinion comes in that I suddenly get to hear this. Secondly, the criticism itself is true to an extent. I do have a habit of rationalizing and perhaps playing down people I am not majorly fond of in the name of being "reasonable".

The conversation made me think about personalities that I am in awe of. Now, "awe" may be too strong a term in my book but I could pretty easily think of a set of people (in no particular order) for whom I can use this term without a second thought:

1. Sir Garfield Sobers - The best cricketer ever. When it comes to cricket, he is GOD! We talk of fearsome batsmen, great bowlers and brilliant fielders and he's someone who was all that rolled in one and much more. :)

2. Bertrand Russell - I have not yet managed to read a lot of his books but whatever little I have read has made me respect him a lot for his thoughts and philosophy which was way ahead of his time.

3. KR Narayanan - A true statesman and a glowing example of how wrong our notions are about people coming from the "discriminated" sections of the society.

4. Kalpana Sharma - Yes, finally a woman on the list. Love reading her articles in The Hindu and now on

5. Monica Seles - I was never an ardent fan of Seles even after her comeback in the tennis circuit. Perhaps I was too young then to appreciate her ability, resilience and determination.

6. P. Sainath - His articles are an eye-opener for anyone who talks about development and equality in our country. One of my favourite journalists.

7. Paolo Maldini - Personal Favourite, an AC Milan superstar and one of the best defenders in the modern era. There isn't much rationale in this paticular choice except that he has been my idol when it comes to football.

8. Medha Patkar - Iron-willed lady. Even though I may not entirely agree with all her views, she is simply amazing for the effort she puts in for any cause that she truly believes in.

9. Amartya Sen - Yes there had to be an academician there after all. This Nobel Laurate's book 'Identity and Violence' has made determined to read the rest of his works as well.

10. Noam Chomsky - Whenever I have read anything about Chomsky or any of his own works, it has always made me aspire to be like him one day. He is after all one of the best thinkers in todays' world.

I could perhaps go on and on but shall limit the list to these ten names for now. If I think of any more, I'll perhaps mention them in a new post. :) And I have purposely left out names like Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa since I am nobody to really comment on such people. Not that the names mentioned above aren't great, but they are definitely discussed lesser in the world. These are indeed people who inspire. They are people who can be cited as examples and role models. And each one of them is great in their own way.

This brings me back to where I started this post from. I do not think I would put in so much effort to listen to Dr. APJ as I would to hear most of the names mentioned in the list above (I'd definitely prefer watching the sporting legends!). So is it simply my ego that refuses to give any importance to the former president's address or is there some sense in what I am writing about! Either way, it doesn't matter because I don't see my views on this topic changing for now.