Poet APJ Abdul Kalam at The Poetry Society

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Former President Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam delivered the Annual Lecture of the Poetry Society – India, New Delhi on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee year of the society on July 8, 2011. The Poetry Society (TPS) was started in 1984 with the aim of collection, interpretation and propagation of poetry primarily in English and Indian vernaculars. TPS has been arranging expert advice on maintaining the standards in composition, publishing, distribution and translation of Indian poetry.

Dr. Kalam appreciated the pioneers of TPS both present and past who have contributed in developing and nurturing the Poetry Society and said that “Great poems sublime our lives”.


Poetry has no boundary. Poems cross the barriers of borders, nations, oceans, continents, and planets. A poet is everywhere in our lives be it war or peace, poverty or prosperity. Poets’ minds connect mighty rivers and scale difficult mountains. They can even bind ailing hearts.

Tamil poet Bharatiyar’s poem composed and sang in 1910 during British India ignited the minds of the people and motivated them to constantly work for the freedom.

It was a poem composed by the venerable Guru Dev Rabindra Nath Tagore that became the rallying point of mobilizing masses against the rule of Britishers. While writing ‘Jana Gana Mana’ Guru Dev visualized the multiple religions, multiple regions, and multiple languages with an array of natural diversities spread across the country.

Shakespeare could enter into the goodness of human hearts with his song of beauty. He could also enter the wicked heart with another song of cruelty. It was poetry that became the medium of Lord Krishna’s message to Arjun to inspire him to go for the right action to realise the purpose of life. Homer and Goethe, the great poets epitomize for centuries great human lives, and depict history through poetry.

The Audience at The Poetry Society Annual Lecture by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

The Audience at The Poetry Society Annual Lecture by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

Remembering one of the Rumi’s poems he recited during his childhood, Dr. Kalam asked the children present on the occasion to follow him while he narrated the English version of the same poem. The poem is as follows:

“I am born with potential,
I am born with goodness and trust,
I am born with ideas and dreams,
I am born with greatness,
I am born with wings,
I am not meant for crawling,
So I don’t, I have wings.
I will learn to use them to fly, fly and fly….
Jalaluddin Rumi
13th Century Persian Sufi Poet

Dr. Kalam said that each of us can make big in life. We need to dream. It is dream that transform into thoughts and thoughts result into action.

Poets sing about the past, compose about the present and create songs of the future vision.

Music is born out of poems,
Poems are born out of thoughts,
Thoughts spring from creative minds.

Some times, I ask myself how would life be without music and songs. When I was a college student in the 1950s, I used to recite the lines from the great “Psalm of Life” written by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow’s on many occasions.

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Similarly Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathiyar in the song “Bharatha Desam” feels the necessity of linking of the rivers like Brahmaputra, to Ganges to Narmada, to Krishna, to Godavari to Cauvery to utilize for national prosperity much ahead of his time.

Talking about the world of science and poetry Dr. Kalam cited Kavingyar Vairamuthu’s poetic definition of nanotechnology:

1. With nano technology, our food habits may drastically change which now gets 50% absorbed by the body and the rest goes as waste. The future food may be in a tablet form which will be directly absorbed by the human system and need for kitchens in hotels may vanish.

2. Farming culture may come to an end.

3. Single vaccine for all diseases may lead to a disease free human society. The need for hospitals may vanish.

4. Conventional buildings using iron, cement and sand may become monuments due to the moderned constructions of houses using nanotechnology.

5. A life time requirement of music may be embedded in the human system between elbow to wrist which will provide the music on demand as per brains instructions.

On a nostalgic note poet Kalam share the story of a hundred year old tree at his 10, Rajaji Marg residence. The tree named Arjuna, is my biodiversity friend. I daily walk about one and half hours, early morning and night in my home. My tree friend, everyday reveals something new whenever I walk. The age of the tree and my parents are almost the same. My father lived 103 years and my mother 90+.

My tall friend Arjuna with its 100s of branches every April to my sadness loses all his leaves and becomes barren. Then to my joy within a month again the tree blossoms with more vigour and fresh green leaves and colorful flowers which make it look even mightier.

On one of Arjuna’s interior branches, I saw a unique sight – thousands and thousands of working honey bees have built a hive of big size. Many parts of Arjuna the tree, have become the habitat for mynas, sparrows, black crows, cuckoos and top most branches occupied by beautiful parrots. Occasionally hornbill visits and then all join together drive away this unique species. Everyday, one scene I observe is, how all birds join together against one enemy that is eagle troop, to protect their young ones.

My tree gives in all seasons beautiful shadows to living beings. Sometimes, I observe a scene at the root and base region of the tree densely full of plants and flower garden. I have seen many times peacocks dancing in number around the tree. Then the peahen select inside the bush around the tree, a place for laying seven to ten eggs and they protect in continuation for 45 days sitting softly over the egg and giving warmth and protection. Then the seven nestlings the baby birds start roaming all around the tree for protecting their mother. This life cycle we see every year.

Citizens of our country can take a great lesson of GIVING and inspired by the “Mission of Giving” by trees. For this, we have to fight against greed of “What can I take?” and replace that greed with the spirit of “What Can I Give”? If we as a society inculcate the spirit of “What Can I Give”, it would enhance our strength, arrest moral degradation and ensure that the society is compassionate, eco-friendly, and be caring towards others. Such an attitude will definitely make every citizen of the nation happier and enable him or her to lead a happy life.

Friends, poetry has a unique power and is a medium through which powerful messages are conveyed in minimum words: sometimes through the music of the words. The famous work of saint poet Thiruvallavur stands testimony to the feature of minimum words wherein the whole code of conduct for the humankind at various situations has been provided by the poet in one thousand three hundred and thirty verses. I have read many Tamil and English poems and poetic epics which are source of great music. I am sure; it will be true for all of us. Let me wish the poetic community great success in their mission of guiding the humanity through beautiful poems which gives the vision to the nation and the world.

May God Bless You.



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