You've have been a leading scientist, the President of the world's largest democracy and the author of 22 books. How did you find the time to be all of that in one lifetime?
When I was in Schwartz High School, Ramanathapuram, studying in 10th Class, I had a teacher Rev Fr Iyyadurai Solomon. One day, he was explaining to us how Earth orbits around the Sun, which takes 365 days to complete one orbit. He said, after each orbit around the Sun, we complete one year and our age goes up by one year. My teacher continued, Earth rotates on its own axis and it takes 24 hours or 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds to complete one rotation. Friends, seconds fly, minutes fly, hours fly, days fly, weeks fly, months fly, and years fly. We have no control over it. It is possible in human life to navigate the time. “Let not thy winged days, be spent in vain”.
Most of your books, including the recent one, My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions, are memoirs where you use your experiences to inspire your readers, especially the youth. What is the best thing you like about writing autobiographical books? Any inspirations?
I just completed reading a book “Nelson Mandela : Conversations with Myself.” Freedom of the nation without apartheid is an adorable national mission, which Nelson Mandela achieved in his life time. During my state visit to South Africa, my itinerary also included a visit to Robben Island, where Mandela was kept captive for 26 long years. I visited the cell where this tall man was kept in a tiny room. There he started writing his autobiography, which became a classic – “Long Walk to Freedom”. This book is a great inspiration to me.
You've dedicated your book to the 16 million youth you have met and interacted with over a decade. What is the Indian youth's biggest plus-point?
The youth of India have a dream. They want to be unique. They want to participate in the national movement of recovering from problems. One important thing that I have noted is that the youth also want to live in a happy and prosperous nation. That means the youth have an urge realise the mission of a “developed India”.
And the biggest negative point?
Confidence. The confidence that “I can do it” should be built at a very young age. Parents and primary school teachers can play an important role in building this “confidence”. Also, the national leadership should utilise the “I can do it” spirit of the youth. If it is not used at the right time, it will create turbulence in the minds of the youth.
Do you think it may be a better idea to reach out to the youth through a blblog or Facebook? How many of them are reading books...
While the habit of reading is on the decline, usage of Internet is increasing. Many electronic books are available in the Internet. Many young people prefer to surf the Internet for news rather than reading newspapers, magazines and books.
Your book India:2020 offered a vision of how India can emerge as the world's first four economic powers by 2020. It's seven years to 2020, how close do you think India is in achieving this target, considering the current climate of economic gloom?
For the last three years, there has been a down-slide economically and in the thinking of the leadership at all levels. I believe in another seven years, it is possible for India to become an economically-developed nation. Surely, we can aim and work for it vigorously, because we have the capacity in the service sector, agricultural sector and industrial sector. It is essential for Parliament, irrespective of political parties and their doctrine, to work towards developmental politics. We should also take up the following four areas as priority to realise the goal of a developed India:
(1) Pura – Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas. That means, the whole country covering 600,000 villages where 700 million people live, Pura envisages providing physical, electronic and knowledge connectivities leading to economic connectivity. Fortunately, India has certain successful experiences in this area.
(2) Our farmers are producing 250 million tonnes of food grain. It is essential to do value-addition that will have tremendous export potential.
(3) Small-scale industries (SSI) are widespread through the country. What is needed is advanced technological input with good policies. With these, SSI will become a unique contribution to Indian economy. There is a large demand abroad for Indian pharmaceutical products. We should utilise this opportunity and encourage research and development in this area.
(4) The last and very important area is our 6 million youth power, which is the most powerful resource on, above and under the earth. They are bubbling with enthusiasm. Their “I can do it” spirit should transform into “we can do it” leading to “India will do it”.