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Kalam wanted IIM-S students to suggest ways for making Parliament more productive

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By Aishwarya Nag Choudhury

The demise of the former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam is being mourned all over the nation. Popularly known as the ‘Missile man’ of India, Kalam was on a trip to Shillong when he passed away on Monday evening at the age of 83.

He was on his way to speak to the students of Indian Institute of Management Shillong (IIM- S). However, he collapsed while addressing the students around 6.30 pm and was immediately rushed to Bethany hospital, where he died at 7.45 pm.

While television screens, newspapers, and social media are overflowing with the news of Kalam’s demise, Srijan Pal Singh MD of Giving Light, author and advisor to APJ Abdul Kalam, who was travelling with the former president has written an account of his last day on his Facebook wall. Singh, who was a student of Kalam starts his tribute by saying “This is what I will be remembered for…”

Singh’s post recorded the activities of the former president on his last day. He wrote about the flight, and how he complimented Kalam on the color of his suit. “He was wearing a dark colored ‘Kalam suit’, and I started off complimenting, ‘Nice color!’ Little did I know that this was going to be the last color I will see on him.” wrote Singh. He gave an account of their travel, the two and a half hour car ride, and an exercise he prepared for the students after the speech.

For the past two days, Dr. Kalam was worried that time and again Parliament, the supreme institution of democracy, has been dysfunctional. He said, “I have seen two different governments in my tenure. I have seen more after that. This disruption just keeps happening. It is not right. I really need to find out a way to ensure that the parliament works on developmental politics.”

He then asked me to prepare a surprise assignment question for the students at IIM Shillong, which he would give them only at the end of the lecture. He wanted them to suggest three innovative ways to make the Parliament more productive and vibrant. Then, after a while he returned on it. “But how can I ask them to give solutions if I don’t have any myself.”

They also discussed the environment and the Punjab attacks during their ride. Kalam was concerned about a security personnel who had to stand throughout the journey in an open jeep and later personally thanked him. This, Singh said “was an experience from the beauty of his humility.”

On reaching the University, Singh recalls the president did not want to be late for the lecture. “Students should never be made to wait, he always said,” Singh wrote. “Two minutes into the speech, sitting behind him, I heard a long pause after completing one sentence. I looked at him, he fell down. We picked him up. As the doctor rushed, we tried whatever we could. I will never forget the look in his three-quarter closed eyes and I held his head with one hand and tried reviving him with whatever I could. His hands clenched, curled onto my finger. There was stillness on his face and those wise eyes were motionlessly radiating wisdom. He never said a word. He did not show pain, only purpose was visible,” he added.

Srijan Pal Singh, in his post, wrote about a conversation he had with Kalam a few days prior to the trip. “Often he would ask me, you are young, decide what you will like to be remembered for? I kept thinking of new impressive answers, till one day I gave up and resorted to tit-for-tat. I asked him back, first you tell me, what will you like to be remembered for? President, Scientist, Writer, Missile man, India 2020, Target 3 billion…. What? I thought I had made the question easier by giving options, but he sprang on me a surprise. “Teacher,” he said.” On revealing the account of the last day of the former president, Singh posted “This is what I will be remembered for…”

On retrospect, Singh writes that ‘Teacher’ is what he always was; standing and lecturing till his last breadth. He ends his post by thanking Kalam for his many contributions to his country. “The man is gone, the mission lives on. Long live Kalam,” posted Singh as a conclusion to his tribute.

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This Bengal Teacher Collects, Cooks Food to Feed The Poor Kids

We provide day meals to around 180 street children every day with this food," Kundu explained.

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In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a boy receives rice from a novice Buddhist monk near Mahar Aung Myae monastery in Hlaing Thaya, northwest of Yangon, Myanmar. Monks in the desperately poor neighborhood combine whatever food they received during morning alms into a giant pot and redistribute it to the less fortunate.
In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a boy receives rice from a novice Buddhist monk near Mahar Aung Myae monastery in Hlaing Thaya, northwest of Yangon, Myanmar. Monks in the desperately poor neighborhood combine whatever food they received during morning alms into a giant pot and redistribute it to the less fortunate. VOA

While the habit of wasting food at festivities, parties or even at household dinners has become an increasingly callous trend in urban living, a computer science teacher from West Bengal’s Asansol is working diligently to put a leash on food wastage and save hundreds from hunger.

Chandra Sekhar Kundu, the founder of Food, Education and Economic Development (FEED), collects excess untouched food from college and office canteens everyday and distributes it among nearly 200 poor children from Kolkata and Asansol.

Apart from supplying the daily meal to the underfed for the last four years, Kundu and his associates cook fresh food every night for street children in at least three places in Asansol and provides them necessary lessons on food education and nutrition.

Apart from supplying the daily meal to the underfed for the last four years, Kundu and his associates cook fresh food every night for street children in at least three places in Asansol and provides them necessary lessons on food education and nutrition.

“So many people in our nation stay hungry. It is not possible for us to feed them all but at least if we stop wasting food and give away the excess to those who need it, I feel we can prevent many from spending another night on an empty stomach,” said Kundu, also called the ‘food-man’ by many in his neighbourhood.

“I did an RTI on food wastage in 2016 and found out that around 22,000 crore tonnes of foodgrain is wasted in India every year. If we can save only 10 percent of that, it would be enough to match our government’s arrangements for mid-day meals each year,” he said.

Kundu’s life changed forever on the night of his son Srideep’s birthday party in 2015 when he went outside to dump some spare food and found two street children scavenging for pieces of chicken from a dustbin.

“Pained by the sight, I brought them to my home and provided them whatever we could arrange. I felt extremely guilty for throwing away the excess dishes minutes ago and wondered why I never gave it much of a thought before. I could not sleep that night,” he reminisced.

Within a few months of the incident, Kundu made a short film on food wastage to raise awareness on the issue. The effort was largely appreciated by his colleagues and students at the Asansol Engineering College.

Kick-starting his tirade against the food wasters, he set up an NGO named ‘Bengal Save Food and Save Life Brigade’ with his team of students and fellow teachers from the college, who initially collected the extra food from the college canteen and fed 15 to 20 poor children dwelling in Asansol station.

“We formed FEED in 2016 and approached the canteen owners of a number of educational institutions and offices in Asansol and Kolkata. Today we have tie-ups with the CISF barracks in Asansol, IIM Calcutta and a few other offices under a project called ‘Commitment 365 days’ where the canteens of the respective organisations provide us their excess food on a daily basis.

food to poor
Apart from supplying the daily meal to the underfed for the last four years, Kundu and his associates cook fresh food every night for street children in at least three places in Asansol and provides them necessary lessons on food education and nutrition.

 

“We provide day meals to around 180 street children every day with this food,” Kundu explained.

The street children living under the Gariahat flyover in south Kolkata and a slum in Joka, among other places, are the beneficiaries of the scheme.

While the day meals are collected and supplied, the volunteers of the organisation cook fresh food for the poverty stricken as they do not want to serve dishes stored for a long time

“It is difficult to collect food at night as it might be too late for the children. It would be unhygienic to serve them food from the afternoon. So our volunteers cook fresh food at two places of Asansol. Close to a hundred kids have dinner every night,” he said, adding that the initiative is partly funded by the Steel Authority of India (SAIL).

Buoyed by the success, Kundu has started another initiative called ‘Share your special day’ where people from all walks of life can make their birthdays, marriage or anniversaries memorable by filling the plates of under-fed kids with nutritious food.

Also Read: Sikhs In U.S. To Donate Funds, Food To Unpaid TSA Workers

“Several people have come forwared and contributed since we started it almost two years back. Many newly-weds join us to celebrate their anniversaries while some parents contribute on their kid’s birthday. It seems the bright smiles in the faces of those kids makes their special day a bit extra special,” said Kundu, who regularly posts pictures of those children and the contributors on his Facebook page.

“We have expansion plans. We are in talks with a number of organisations and eateries in Kolkata so that more such children can be helped. We also need a refrigerator to be able to store food for longer period and a vehicle for transporting it,” he added. (IANS)