What’s your dream for your country and the world?

At the 53rd annual convocation ceremony of the IIT Bombay, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi shared stories of his struggle and victories while urging young graduates to have a bigger goal for their country and the world at large.

Please do take the time to read the transcript of Mr. Satyarthi’s inspiring convocation address at Rediff.com

For those who may not have the time to read the entire convocation address, some excerpts are reproduced below:

You all have big dreams for yourselves.

When I visit universities and colleges, and I ask students where they see themselves five years down the line.

They want to become CEOs of the company or the inventor of a new technology.
When I ask them their dream for India in the next 10 years, they sometimes fail to answer.
They give vague answers and have no concrete thoughts about what they want for India.

When I ask students ‘What dream do you have for the world in next 10 years and what would be your contribution?’, again most of them have failed to answer.

This is a serious question.

Let us start thinking with a different level of self-confidence.

Let us also start dreaming for our country and then for the entire world.
I am here to share some of the principles or practices I have lived on and experimented in my own life.
‘Follow your heart and the mind will follow you’
‘Be the excellent version of you’
‘Obstacles are the best time to explore opportunities’
Leaders are not born, they are inside you. Why are you looking for fake heroes outside when you have a hero inside you?

Each one of you has a hero inside you. Take it out and use it for the betterment of your fraternity, country and the whole world.

When I go to institutes, I tell students, let us receive our degrees with a three-dimensional goal.

First is Dream. Dream big, bigger, biggest.
If you dream for yourself, not for your friends or country, you will never be satisfied in your life.
You can never live in peace, you can never be the happiest person or enjoy that happiness.
Even if you fulfil your dreams, you can’t be happy.
Break that narrow shell and dream for others, dream for the world.
Dream big and dream for a better world.

The second is Discover. Discover the enormous potential of your heart, mind, soul and body.
Discover the opportunities surrounding you. We are not just poor and illiterate.
We belong to a country that has produced big leaders.
India has all the ingredients, it is in our DNA to become and lead the world from a moral field.
We have given Mahatma, Buddha, Mahavir and Guru Nanak Dev to the world.
We are the land of these great people.
We have all the ingredients in our soil, water and our behaviour that we can rule the world.
Wherever you go, remember that you come from a country that has great values.
Learn and see the global opportunities.

The third is Do.
If you keep dreaming and don’t act, it won’t help.
So, dream, discover and do. All of you can discover and do big things and one day, we restore our pride which we have preserved since thousands of years and we can bring enlightenment and prosperity to the whole world.

What’s your dream for your country and the world?

An exemplary leader!

Working 12 to 18 hours a day was not uncommon for scientists at the rocket launching station, Thumba. A group of such scientists was frustrated due to the work pressure and meeting their boss’ demands; however, they were loyal to him.

One day, a scientist gathered enough courage to go up to his boss and say, “Sir, I have promised my children that I will take them to the exhibition this evening. Therefore, I have to leave the office at 5.30 pm. Can I leave early today, Sir?”

His boss replied, “Alright. You may leave early today.”

The scientist was happy for having received the permission and went on to continue his work. He stayed on to work after lunch, and, as always, got so engrossed in his work, that he peered at his watch only when he thought he was done. Unfortunately, it was past 08:15 pm.

With a jolt, he remembered his promise to his children. He looked for his boss who was not in his office. Having told him just that morning, he wrapped up work and hurried home.

As he drove home, he felt very guilty for having let his children down. When he reached, the children were not at home. His wife was busy reading. He felt that initiating any conversation with her would only add fuel to fire, so he stayed quiet.

Looking up at him, his wife asked, “Do you want something hot to drink or have dinner right away?”

The man could only ask, “Where are the children?”

His wife said, “Don’t you know? Your boss came here at 5.15 pm and took the children to the exhibition you had promised to take them to.”

He was surprised, but, it did not take him too long to guess what had happened.

The boss who granted him permission had observed him working very seriously well past 5.00 pm. He must have thought that the scientist would not leave the work half done, but if he has promised his children a visit to the exhibition, then they deserve it. So, he took the lead in taking them to the exhibition himself.

The boss does not have to do it every time. But once it is done, loyalty is established.

No wonder, all scientists at Thumba continued to work under this boss in spite of the great pressure.

This boss was none other than Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007.

(Source: http://cbse.gov.in/publications/comm_eng_ix/UNIT-1.PDF)

(This post was originally published on Mar 26, 2014.)

A private citizen changed a banking law in 90 days!

Early this year, when 69-year-old Mr. J. P. Vaghani, a Mumbai businessman, wanted to file a cheque bouncing case, he learnt that, according to a new rule (as per a Supreme Court order in 2014), a case under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act must be initiated at the place where the branch of the bank on which the cheque was drawn is located. This meant that Mr. Vaghani could not file the case at Borivali, where he had deposited the cheque. He would have to file a case in Kurla, the location of the bank from where the cheque was dishonoured. This meant he would have to travel from Borivali to Kurla and back, totally over 50 kilometers, for every hearing!

Mr. Vaghani decided to do something about this and, if possible, get the Supreme Court verdict reversed.

On March 15, 2015, he wrote to the Law Minister of India, referring to last year’s judgement, which was “tantamount to harassment of the complainants and benefited the accused who issued the dishonoured cheques.”

“In such circumstances, if business takes place between Mumbai and Delhi and a Mumbai trader delivers material at Delhi and receives a cheque in Delhi which gets dishonoured, then as per recent judgment, the Mumbai trader has to run to Delhi to file a case at the drawee bank’s jurisdiction for recovery and again as per the court, dates arise at his own cost leaving all his business at Mumbai,” Mr. Vaghani’s letter stated.

On April 22, the Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the amendment to the Act clarifying the jurisdictional issues for trying dud cheque cases.

On June 10, the Union Cabinet decided to promulgate an Ordinance to the effect that “the offence of rejection/return of cheque under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act will be enquired into and tried only by a Court within whose local jurisdiction the bank branch of the payee, where the payee presents the cheque for payment, is situated.”

The Ordinance was signed and promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee on June 15 – proving a huge victory for Mr. Vaghani’s efforts.

Of course, the ordinance would have to be approved by both houses of parliament within six months of being promulgated.

A banking law was amended in 90 days just because a private citizen “decided to do something about this”!!

For complete details, please read this Economic Times report.

Pots and kettles

A customer and I had just completed a long discussion in his factory. Since it was our first meeting, he insisted that he would treat me to lunch. As we were walking towards his car, the talk turned to the building collapse in Thane in which over 70 persons died, and the reports of a nexus between builders, officials, police and politicians.

Very passionately, my customer said, “These scoundrels should be hanged! They know these buildings will collapse and kill the occupants, but all they are interested in is making money! If a person can be hanged for killing one victim, why shouldn’t these guys be hanged for killing dozens of people?”

“Who, in your opinion, is most guilty?” I asked.

Without any hesitation, my customer replied, “The builders, of course! They increase their profits by making concrete with more sand and less cement. They know it’s dangerous, but why will they bother? Their lives are not at stake. Only the people who buy their flats risk their lives. These builders are mass-murderers!”

To change the subject, I said, “Let’s not talk about them. Tell me, what kind of food are you treating me to today?”

He laughed and replied, “Sir, I am not a sophisticated person like you. I am a pure vegetarian, teetotaller and non-smoker. So, please forgive this simpleton for making you suffer an ordinary vegetarian meal without any drinks or hookah. Is a Rajasthani Thali OK for you? Or would you prefer something else?”

“Rajasthani Thali would be great! Have you never tried non-vegetarian food, alcohol or tobacco, even when you were young?” I asked.

Clearly enjoying the attention, he replied, “Never! Sir, these are our family values. We are very principled people. Apart from our simple lifestyle, we have a tradition of contributing at least 10% of our profits to charity. We are very grateful to God for his kindness, and we try to do something for society. We are not like these useless builders who only want to make money, even if it means their sub-standard construction leads to so many deaths!”

Again wanting to change the subject, I asked, “I remember you told me that you were the first person in your family to venture into the engineering industry. So, what business has your family been in before that?”

“We are in the chewing tobacco industry,” he declared, and proudly told me the name of the brand owned by his family.

This guy had been ranting about “useless builders who only want to make money”, and had labelled them as “mass-murderers”! But he had no qualms about enjoying the profits made by his family by selling carcinogenic chewing tobacco, which also leads to a large number of deaths. On the contrary, he was claiming to be virtuous on account of contributing 10% of these profits to charity!

A classic case of the pot calling the kettle black!

I wanted to ask him many questions, but I thought it would be an exercise in futility. Hence, I did not react.

Later, I wondered: Did I do the right thing by keeping quiet? Would it really have been an exercise in futility? Or did I keep quiet only to avoid antagonising my customer?

Whatever the real reason for my keeping quiet that day, I think I should have spoken up. If not anything, I would have poked his self-righteousness!

I am reminded of these words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

(This post was originally published on Dec 17, 2013.)

Do we encourage corruption and crime?

A boy, looking around 15 years old and dressed in baggy Bermuda shorts and a T shirt was about to leave the supermarket after having purchased a kilogram of rice when the billing clerk called out to him and asked him what he had in his pockets. When the boy answered, “Nothing,” the billing clerk walked up to the boy and demanded that he empty his pockets. The boy refused to do so, whereupon the billing clerk stated that he would call the police. Hearing this, the boy took out a chocolate bar from one of the pockets of his baggy Bermuda shorts and gave it to the billing clerk, who immediately put his hand into the boy’s pockets and brought out some more chocolate bars and a few small packets of almonds and cashewnuts! By this time, the Manager, a middle-aged man, had reached the spot. The billing clerk reported to him that the boy, who had purchased a kilogram of rice worth Rs. 60, had shoplifted items worth around Rs. 400!

The boy immediately protested that he was being wrongly accused by the billing clerk, saying he had bought these items at another shop. The billing clerk angrily landed a tight slap on the boy’s cheek and was about to do more, but the Manager firmly restrained him and ordered him to go back to the billing counter.

The Manager showed the boy the supermarket’s price labels on the shoplifted items, and gently told him that there was no doubt that these items had been shoplifted. The boy, who was weeping and trembling, kept saying, “I’m sorry.” The Manager put his arm around the boy’s shoulder and said, “Your parents are our regular customers. They are very nice people. Do you think they would be happy that you’ve done something like this? Normally, we take very strict action against shoplifters. Bu, since you are a young boy, and because we think this is the first time, we will not take any action against you this time. I hope you realise that you’ve done something wrong. Please don’t do this again. Go home now.” The boy thanked him repeatedly and left.

I witnessed this entire incident two days back. My immediate reaction was to appreciate the manner in which the Manager handled the situation, though I could not help wondering whether he would have handled the situation in the same way if the boy had belonged to a poor family. Would he would have encouraged, perhaps instructed his staff to beat up the boy?

Later, I wondered: what is likely to happen now?

a. The boy’s parents are likely to be ignorant about the incident. In this case,
i. The boy may be tempted to try shoplifting at other supermarkets, taking care to ensure he doesn’t lift too much each time since he would have ‘learnt the lesson’ that it was his bulging pockets that gave him away this time.
ii. The boy may not attempt shoplifting or any other dishonest acts ever again.

b. If the boy’s parents learn about the incident from the boy, it is most likely that the boy will claim that he was wrongly accused, that it was all a misunderstanding, etc.. Most probably, his parents will believe him, tell him to be careful of ‘bad people’ in future and decide that they all should not patronise the particular supermarket.

In both cases, it’s difficult to say whether the boy has learnt that honesty is the best policy, or whether he has learnt that getting caught was his mistake. He may have learnt one wrong lesson: if he’s caught and he’s guilty, he can get away by issuing a ‘sincere apology’! Perhaps, if it’s a serious crime, he could get away by ‘offering to recuse himself for 6 months’ as an act of atonement!!

I think the Manager could have handled the situation in a much better manner, particularly since he knows the boy’s parents. He should have asked the boy’s parents to come to the supermarket, given them proof that their son had shoplifted, and requested them to take corrective action to prevent recurrence of this incident, in his supermarket or in any other shop.

What do you think? Shouldn’t we take steps to prevent corruption and crime? Does our attitude of ‘forgive and forget’ allow people to get away too easily? Are we actually encouraging corruption and crime by this excessively soft approach?

(This post was originally published on Nov 30, 2013.)