Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam lives on……

It’s been a year since we heard of the shocking news last July. The tragic news of the demise of our revered ex-president, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, was first brought to our notice by posts on a famous social networking site, Facebook. The memories are still rife: “Dr. Abdul Kalam- the people’s president is no more” was the headliner of several posts that evening. Scrolling down the Facebook tab, scores of posts by friends and news agencies proclaiming his death were encountered. In the next few minutes, the flooding of tributes followed. Such was the magnitude of the posts that from top to bottom, condolences, homage, remembrances from all possible avenues scoured our Facebook News Feed pane that night, leaving no room for any other update. It every bit resembled a national grief outpouring, albeit on social media. Why wouldn’t it be?  After all, the nation was mourning the loss of a brilliant academician, a revolutionary scientist and the most beloved president ever!

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, born in the Southern city of Rameswaram hailed from a humble background. From selling newspapers after school to help ends meet, to going on to become the president of India, his illustrious career spanned more than six decades. He first graduated in Physics, but his dreams pushed him towards another subject of his fascination-Aerospace Engineering.  Though he could not fulfill his dream of joining the IAF, he found solace in making helicopters for DRDO. From an application scientist in DRDO, he progressed to ISRO as a rocket engineer. After being inducted in ISRO, he led the project on development of the first indigenous SLVs and propelled himself into the exclusive international Space Club. After spear-heading several important programs in ISRO, he took up the responsibility of developing guided or ballistic missiles for DRDO. His mantra for arming India with its own set of ballistic missiles was ‘Strength respects strength’. In his book Vision 2020, he regarded his work on India’s nuclear weapons program as a way to assert India’s place in the future superpower nations. Because of his strong beliefs in the idea that research in defense sector should give rise to by-products that can be translated for civilian benefit, his multiple collaborations and vision bore fruit in the form of Raju-Kalam coronary stent, light-weight calipers and Kalam-Raju tablet. He went on to become the Chief Scientific Advisor to the PM, and eventually The First Citizen of India in 2002. He was the first vegetarian-bachelor-scientist to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan. As the president of India, he opened the gates of Rashtrapati Bhawan, especially for school-children with whom he would fondly spend hours interacting about India and its future. He would keenly listen to their ideas for a developed India, and constantly urge them to think outside the box and achieve the impossible through sheer grit and determination. Dr. Kalam was highly appreciated and also criticized during the tenure of his presidency, the latter owing to his unclear response to mercy petitions. He was against capital punishment, and therefore sent back more than 50 death petitions to the Government, for reconsideration. Due to political reasons, he could not continue a second term in office. He gracefully retired from the president’s office in 2007, after which he had been serving as visiting professor in various esteemed universities. His inspiring lectures and talks continued to draw huge crowds, mostly the country’s youth, making him more popular than several movie stars. Reports have cited him being nothing short of a ‘rock-star’, thanks to his charming crowd-pulling demeanor. Perhaps for the same reason, youth and children alike idolized this young-at-heart 83 year old man. The social outcry seen upon his death reflects his place in the minds of the new generation of India. And it was every bit deserved. After all, dreaming solely about progress of their nation is not an easy task, and definitely not something many individuals like or dare to dream about. Dr. Kalam spent his entire life chasing his biggest dream- making India a developed nation. He inched closer to his dream every day, by implementing laborious hard-work, igniting future minds with his interactions and writings, and by always, always practicing what he preached. He sacrificed his today so that the children of this country could have a better tomorrow.

He was a unique mixture of brilliance, intelligence, compassion and humility, which he displayed on innumerable occasions. He rejected suggestions for securing perimeter of the DRDO buildings by placing broken glass on walls as it might injure the birds, he acknowledged the efforts of backstage teams that put in the actual efforts before commencement of functions, and he invited his not-so-famous old-time friends as presidential guests; reminding us, that a person’s roots are important, however great a person may become. He is also known to have accompanied his junior colleagues’ children to school exhibitions because the latter would get engrossed in work and lose track of time. One of the most significant of his benevolent acts would be donating all his wealth and assets to PURA- the trust that strives to provide urban amenities to rural population. He never misused his position as the first citizen of our country; he even offered to pay for the food and accommodation of his private guests during his presidential rule. He personified the words simplicity and humility- inspite of his stature, he needed only a few books, carnatic music and his Veena to survive during his last few years!

His life exemplifies the age-old maxim that hard-work can achieve anything. His life-long desire and childhood dream to fly was finally fulfilled during his tenure as the President. He had narrowly missed getting into IAF when young, but as the supreme commander of the armed forces, he received this wonderful gift of flying the Sukhoi-30 K thanks to the IAF, becoming the oldest Indian to fly the fighter aircraft! The scientific, academic, political and humane contributions Dr. Kalam has made underline the fruitful 83 years of his existence on our planet. India, as a country, is highly proud to have borne such a great citizen. His contribution to the entire scientific community is immense. His constant motivation to think out of the ordinary and work relentlessly in its direction will continue to inspire scientists across the country. He has fuelled imagination of millions of students; his efforts will catapult science in our country to greater heights for years to come. As aspiring life-scientists, I can say with personal confidence, that his philosophy of working for the benefit of the society will encourage us to work for better healthcare and agriculture reforms. His penchant for novelty and hard-work will always motivate us to ask important research questions and push our limits in pursuit of a better tomorrow.

It is common knowledge that the rocket scientist-cum-president-cum-academician wanted to be remembered most importantly as a teacher. And he died doing what he liked best- inspiring young minds. He passed away delivering a lecture on ‘the livable planet Earth’; ironically, he will no longer be able to fight for promoting a sustainable life on Earth for our future generations. Sir, as you smile upon us from the heavens above, we, the younger generations promise to work persistently to realize your Vision of a developed India and a better tomorrow! Through your lessons on science and life, you will continue to live in our hearts forever.

Thank you for everything, Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam!

Aditi Sahu.

Her Grave

There she lies silently, below the canopy of stars..

Her grave at the edge of the woods, on the lakeside.

I remember my parents planted some saplings when they lay her to rest..

If not us, she would always have some comforting greenery beside, they said.

The woods are home to crooks I was forewarned;

The dense foliage offering the necessary shield after their heinous crimes..

There was a mysterious absence of fear in my footsteps,

 I did not cringe even at the sight of deliquents

I cried, and cried and cried and cried my heart out,

The tears ran like a steady waterfall..

I paid my homage to her, and apologized

For the worldly duties, I could not do enough, or even be by her side…

I placed a wreath and her favourite food

And turned to say good bye, but I could not..

So I just stood there for a long, long time

Knowing perfectly well that something within me, had died.

As I stood there gazing at her grave,

I heard footsteps behind me.

Rebuked for endangering my honour and life

I was shunned out the woods by the policeman, disregarding my strife.

I haven’t been to Her Grave after that day,

Left her alone amidst the scoundrels and the rogues..

I can’t help but hope that inside Mother Earth

My baby has found a Heaven that is just hers.

A savior is needed for who can take me there once again,

I can’t restrain the emptiness and hollowness within me,

Everytime I pass the road to the woods and Her Grave,

I wish I could go once again, and tell her how much I love her, with someone who is brave.

Its four years now, but the tears fall down often, and on their own accord,

I anticipate one day soon, a visit to Her hopefully green Grave, I will be able to afford!

Movie review: Airlift

Yes, Bollywood has been (and will be) minting out senseless, melodramatic, over-the-top films which do cross the 100 crore mark with utter ease. There’s no shred of doubt in the efficacy with which Bollywood can ‘remake’ Southern hits. But, in the past few years, a gradual shift in the stories being churned out by this film industry has been observed. Most of these unconventional stories also turn out to be ‘Hit’ films, mind you! Bollywood is slowly learning to deal with and slowly excel in producing challenging stories; a few sensible movies made in the last 10 years exemplifythis fact. ‘Airlift’ was a movie inspired and dedicated to the Operations conducted for the largest civilian evacuation in the history of the world, for Indians stuck in the war-torn Kuwait. Yes, it was a magnanimous effort by the real-life heroes (that are born from unlikely people in exceptional circumstances), and yes, the movie did justice in describing the intricacies of the successful evacuation.

The movie begins with the eve of the Saddam Hussein’s ordered invasion of Iraq. Within the first few minutes, the protagonist, his family and his principles are bared before the audience to make their own judgements. The business tycoon played by the immensely-talented Akshay Kumar is a business man at heart; he cares mostly about making a huge profit, advocates against friendship mingling with business, hardly interacts with non-influential people around him and owes Kuwait his success and therefore his allegiance. He barely touches his lost Indian roots and scoffs at people who still desire to be connected with their motherland. His mean, calculative nature undergoes a slow transition induced overnight after the Iraqi troops invade Kuwait city on 2 August 1990. In fact, shouting out his Identity (he so often mocked) saves his ass in the first encounter with the Iraqis. Losing his driver to the young, mindless force sent by Saddam, the fear of losing his family to the war, and the trust placed on him by his company employees and their friends, relatives arouse his sense of responsibility. With a few close friends, he works tirelessly to secure the lives of the 1.5 million Indians stranded in the no-man’s land. His efforts, his fights with the Iraqi military, his attempts to seek help from the Indian Government, his successes, his failures are beautifully woven in this story. The story and the pace are highly realistic, so is the plight of the refugees shown in the movie. The movie sags and becomes repetitive in between, but within few scenes it catches up. The supporting characters are ably developed into believable entities that help the protagonist in achieving what he set out to- Ibrahim, George, Joseph, Kurien, Kohli and Nair deserve special mention.

There is no doubt about the ensemble featuring in the movie. Akshay Kumar is at his best; his arrogance and indifference, his sorrow and empathy and his leadership distinctly visible in his fine acting. I cannot think of anyone better suited to play the protagonist in the movie. With well-etched characters, the supporting cast has also done a commendable job in holding the movie together. Purab Kohli as the silent and purposeful Ibrahim comes as a pleasant surprise. The simplicity of Kumud Mishra adds a charm to his character as the Indian bureaucrat who single-handedly manages the evacuation from India. Nimrat Kaur plays the typical Indian house-wife (in Kuwait) of a business tycoon, always cynical of his husband’s brave heroics and constantly nagging him for shirking his duties towards his family in the first-half of the movie. Although realistic, it does tend to get to your nerves, you dread the same lousy skeptical dialogues every time she opens her mouth. Post interval, some sense miraculously enters her and acts with finesse are delivered by one of the most-talented new entrants in B’wood. Barring the interspersed songs (and the uncalled-for Arabic dance) and some few lagging moments, the movie was a real treat for the viewers.

Some claim that the movie did not give its rightful due to people actually involved in the Operation in 1990. The task of several Samaritans was bundled onto the shoulders of a single character, the concerned officials hardly received recognition in the movie and so on. However, as the essence of the Operation was aptly dealt with, with minor changes here and there, the movie definitely deserves to be lauded. Also realistic was the fact that the major officials walked away with the credit after the successful operation rather than the workers at the grass-root level who made it possible. Wholly relatable!!

Almost full marks to the director and the writer for this achievement called Airlift. The movie turned out to be as wonderful and engaging as the trailers promised. It may not be an ‘Argo’, but ‘Airlift’ has surely made Bollywood proud!

A perfect watch for the Republic week celebrations!! Go feel patriotic in a special way!



Aditi’s rating: 4/5 stars

“Cows Have to be Milked”

Pittsburgh (Abolitionist) Vegan

I have come across this argument before, but not in several years. Today, two fellow students reminded me of this common argument: “Cows have to be milked.”

Searching the Internet, I came across conflicting information. Some sources claim that the cows may contract Mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland. I also came across several sources that state cows become agitated when not milked. Others still, claim that the teats will eventually just dry up. I have contacted the Holstein Association for more information. (Holsteins are the dominant breed of dairy cow in the United States.)

[Update 05/23/12] At the time I originally published this article, I did not have a response from the Holstein Association. Now I do:

“Hi Pierce,

While we are not a veterinary organization, which would be the best source, I have lived on a dairy farm my entire life and can hopefully help clarify it…

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Movie review: Katti Batti- An unusual (read ‘tasteless’) love story

It sure is late.. but for any people who want to get a DVD home, this may be useful..

Ok.. so the movie promos and the official trailer promised this one will not belong to the category of stupid romantic comedies that Bollywood so frequently loves to dish out. Therefore, my expectations were high. Plus, the fresh pairing of Imran Khan and Kangana Ranaut looked delicious, so extremely crackling on-screen chemistry was an obvious hope. In an age where not just adults and elders, even young school-going children deal with relationships and breakups every other day, the sensitive topic of Heartbreak could have cut across really important messages to the audience.

But then, the story, content, editing, dialogues and direction ruined them all….

The movie is indeed bearable for the first few minutes. Initially you can actually manage to laugh at the absurdity and brainless jokes cracked in the most unrealistic scenes without an effort, like you do in Rohit Shetty films. But then, those films carry a clear message: Expect only unintelligent, silly things from the film, nothing more or less. Also, the hapless, love-struck Romeo played by Imran Khan sure does manage to garner sympathy in the first few scenes. When one fine day, his highly spirited, almost-bitchy live-in partner Payal, played by Kangana Ranaut, decides to leave him forever,. No calls or messages, thereafter. The smitten hero desperately attempts to come to terms with the sudden break-up, but reminisces from the past convince him that there is something amiss, there is some mistake- that Payal has not left him forever and she will still come back.  The first half of the movie is spent in narrating their love-story and describing the unsuccessful attempts of the protagonist in moving on. And it doesn’t stop just there. The movie, interspersed with the most idiotic and wasteful characters drag the simple story till just minutes before the end, before something like a climax is revealed. However, because of the time, money, energy and resources spent for the most insignificant scenes running for about 2 hours, there is no space to accommodate the eventful climax which includes some of the best moments (~ 15 minutes) in terms of acting in the film of 140 minutes. The climax has no chances of reviving the interest of the viewers, as by then they have already made up their minds against the movie.

The movie does have some countable (genuine) funny moments, too many toilet jokes; ridiculous characters especially the South Indian boss, a very-very loud sister, parents who are considered almost-stupid, a pet-shop owner-cum-lead singer of a band and extremely supportive and brave friends. The movie also brings onscreen the famous concept I first heard in college 10 years ago, FOSLA – frustrated one –sided lovers’ association! Imran tries his best to portray the extremely shoddily caricatured character of Madhav. Kangana’s primary job in the film was to dress up pretty and generate the oomph factor. It is only in the last few scenes that she can actually demonstrate her prowess as a fine actor we have previously seen in movies like Queen. The script really offers so little to the lead actors, I can in no way blame them for the movie’s failure. They did give it a sincere effort, especially visible against the backdrop of a horribly bland storyline. Special mention for the last few scenes, really commendable you guys! All words fail me while describing the screenplay, dialogues, editing and direction, so I better not foray in that direction. All I can is that they could not have been worse.

All in all, the only small message that the movie could convey to me (as against the large one that it could have blared onto people in love) was that heartbreaks are not the end of life. Our separation from a loved one may be temporary, permanent or across the worlds, but our life doesn’t stop there. We have to continue to live, either by finding a new reason or making the first one stronger in our hearts.


Aditi’s rating: 2/5 stars


PhD : The untold and never discussed side effects

An account of what the harrowing experiences during Ph.D. can do to students..such an eye-opener..
A must read.. by Jennifer Walker

piyush kaviraj

A 2015 study at the University of California Berkeley found that 47% of graduate students suffer from depression, following a previous 2005 study that showed 10% had contemplated suicide. A 2003 Australian study found that that the rate of mental illness in academic staff was three to four times higher than in the general population, according to a New Scientist article.

Read this article to get a glimpse of what PhD scholars may go through in the hindsight..by Jennifer Walker (Jennifer Walker is an ex-physicist turned culture and travel writer living in Europe.)

One night during the third year of my PhD program, I sat on my bed with a packet of tranquilizers and a bottle of vodka. I popped a few pills in my mouth and swigged out of the bottle, feeling them burn down my throat. Moments later, I realized I was making a terrible mistake. I…

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Book Review: Crumpled Voices 2: Innocence Lost, Compiled by Pulkit Gupta, Edited by Ila Garg

The review of the social anthology ‘Crumpled Voices-2’ by Ms. Priyanka Batra Harjai.. The reviewer has has critically and painstakingly reviewed each of the contribution. A brilliant summarization of the stories has been offered..
Must read..

Books News India by Priyanka Batra Harjai

Title: Crumpled Voices: Innocence Lostcrumpled

Publisher: Gargi Publishers

Compiled by: Pulkit Gupta; Edited by Ila Garg

ISBN: 9789384382100

‘Crumpled Voices’ – 2 Innocence Lost is the second compilation of stories revolving around child abuse, which is yet another shade of suffering. One more time, Gargi Publishers brings together seventeen authors to raise voice against a heinous crime – Child Abuse.

It is not an unknown shade of suffering but sadly, very few are adequately aware of the mis-happenings. Young minds are so fragile and so timid that many times, the crime goes almost unnoticed only to leave behind the irrevocable scars.

Pulkit Gupta – the compiler; has once again put in an untiring effort to bring out the best from what is available. Leave behind the years of experience either in writing industry or medical industry or any other related realm; he simply fetches the crime quotient in the selected…

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आज जी भर के रोने का मन कर रहा है!

शाम को थककर जब लौटी मैं काम से,
पर्स टटोला, ताकि चाबी से दरवाजा खुल सके
अन्ध्कार में डूबे हुए एक सुनसान कमरे से हुई मुलाक़ात..
उस कमरे को क्या परवाह थी, क्या थे मेरे हालात!

याद आये बचपन के वो सुहाने दिन
परिवार और खुशियाँ, अकेलेपन के बिन,
जब खेल-कूद और बदमाशी कर घर में कदम रखते ही
माँ का सुन्दर चेहरा, और हाथ में ठन्डे पानी का गिलास से थकान मिट सी जाती थी!

बत्तियां जलाकर जब इस बड़े आलिशान घर में थकान मिटानी चाही,
सब सुख, सामर्थ्य, ऐश-ओ-आराम आखिर यहाँ था ही..
न जाने क्यूँ इस तन्हाई में आज दिल कुछ घबरा सा रहा है..
अजीब है ये, पर आज जी भर के रोने का मन कर रहा है!

दिल को संभालकर सोचा रसोई में जाकर कुछ ‘ready-to-eat’ बना के खाया जाये
पर इन नकली, दिखावटी पद्धार्थों से मन कुछ ऊब सा गया है
याद आया वो नाटक करना, दोनों टाइम माँ के हाथ का ‘सादा खाना’ जबरदस्ती खाने पर, हाय!
आज उस ‘सादे’ खाने का एक निवाला खाने को दिल तरस गया है!

बिस्तर पे लेटे हुए ये दिल अपने को और रोक न पाया,
तो याद किया बचपन में कैसे पापा चादर उड़ाते, माँ काम होने पर माथा सहलाके सुलाने करती आया
अब तो रात भर परेशानियों से घिरे, जब नींद चाहती ही नहीं आना
किसी को क्या फरक पड़ता, किसी और का क्या है जाना!

रोज़ एक नयी चुनौती से लड़ना, बहादुरी से हर मुश्किल का सामना करना
आजकल ये जो न कर पाए, प्राइवेट कंपनी में निश्चित है उसका मरना
इन कठिनाईयों से लड़ते लड़ते, इनके सामने डटते डटते मन अन्दर से कहीं टूट सा गया है
क्या शायद इस वजह से इस हारे हुए इंसान को जी भर के रोने का मन कर रहा है?

बस कोई सर पर हाथ फेर दे, माथे पे प्यार से एक चुम्मा रख दे
या पापा की तरह पीठ पर थपकी दे दे, कोई तो अपनेपन का एहसास दे
शायद सच मेंहै जीवन की इस दौड़ में हम बिछड़ जाते हैं अपने अपनों से,
दूर हो जाते दुनियादारी से, पास होते हैं बस अपने सपनों के!

इंसान के ‘पैसों का मोह’ मद्दे-नज़र, किस्मत ने फेका हम सब पे ये मायाजाल है,
आँखें मूँद चले हम इनके पीछे, सब छोड़-छाड़ के, ये सच में युग काल है!
भले ही दुनिया भर की समृद्धि आस-पास हो, मन की शान्ति तो हो जाती कहीं गुम है!
आज जब दिल को ये बात बूझी, तब से ही इसका ऐसा हाल है!

इसीलिए शायद, आज इस हारे हुए मन का जी भर के रोने का मन कर रहा है!

© Aditi Sahu.

Life is sad, and I don’t know why!

Life is sad,
And I don’t know why!
The world around is soaked in happiness,
And yet my heart still wants to cry!

Occasions brimming with fun, family, love and laughter
In this merriment, people seem to be on a high
In spite of the luscious spread and drinks,
My soul is parched, it feels dry!

In this world, fights and wars are a routine affair,
Everyday I hear a handful people die,
This still doesn’t look like the reason for this,
I’m afraid I cannot lie.

Are companions in life really so important,
Their presence makes you fly?
When they choose to leave you,
Why do you let out a sigh?

Ok, they are precious; they’re everything you have,
Your comforters, secret-bearers, your happiness.
But why should you wail and be gloomy,
If they didn’t value you, and said goodbye.

If they fail to understand your efforts and purpose,
With you, cannot see eye to eye
Despite awareness, they can push you to gloom,
Why should you sob till morning five?

So what if you lose the most reliable shoulder to cry,
The ears to incessantly talk, the arms to be comforted and lie,
There’s nothing you can do and should do,
If they decided to leave, and not come back even if you die.

Life is said,
And I do know why!
The world around is soaked in happiness,
But something’s amiss, and that’s why my heart wants to cry!