Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Kalam Effect: My Years with the President

Author:        P.M. Nair
Published:    2008
Publisher:    HarperCollins Publishers India
Hardcover:  180 pages
Readers in India

Dr. A.P.J. Kalam,  is one living personality whom I admire the most and would like to  meet personally (though I have been lucky enough to hear him speak a couple of times in large gatherings). He was probably  the best president  India had ever had. 
The author P.M. Nair narrates his experience as a Secretary to Dr. Kalam during his presidential years. It is a reverential yet  frank and objective account written without being overawed by the personality of Dr.Kalam. As a result the picture that emerges of Dr Kalam as a President is that of a  good human being -  with many positives, but with a few weaknesses as well - rather than that of a demi-god. 
The book has 34 short chapters, each bringing out a facet of Dr.Kalam's personality and his way of working.
A couple of  Dr. Kalam's admirable traits described in this book :
1. Not Misusing his  Position and Status Dr Kalam paid Rs.3.5 lacs out of his pocket for all the expenses (even for a cup of tea) incurred on the stay of his relatives at Rashtrapathi Bhavan. He did not use the official car for their sightseeing trips. (Politicians, Please Note and Emulate!)
2. Treating everyone with considerationHe personally received the author's mother when she visited him and gifted her a shawl. He took lot of care to ensure that every visitor to the Rashtrapathi Bhavan was treated well. He never disturbed his staff during holidays barring unavoidable circumstances.
However we also come to know about Dr. Kalam's lack of punctuality and his not adhering to schedules (morning meeting with his staff at 3 P.M. !) and his insistence of reading and answering every mail/communication (even those of little consequence!). Time management was clearly not his strength.
One amusing incident described in this book is about how Dr. Kalam diplomatically and effectively  prevented Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf from raising the Kashmir issue, by giving him a presentation on PURA (Providing Urban Facilities in Rural Areas) which consumed 26 minutes of the alloted half-an-hour of meeting !
A highly readable book having a very simple yet powerful narrative. A MUST for all Kalam admirers!

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