986 – Accepting Defeat

National Integration Through Thirukkural And Sanskrit

Accepting Defeat

The following narrative is from an experience in the life of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

Dr. Satish Dhawan was the Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation. (ISRO).  Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was in charge of a mission to develop a satellite.  In the year 1975, on the day of the launch, the mission failed to launch the satellite in the orbit. Instead it crashed into the sea mid-way due to lack of fuel. During the pre-launch inspection, Abdul Kalam and his team of scientists, did notice a leakage in the fuel system.  They thought that the leakage was negligible as there would be enough fuel in the system. This presumption lead to the failure.

A press conference was scheduled to communicate the outcome of the mission. Abdul Kalam was dejected and hesitant to address the press conference. Dr Satish Dhawan understanding the situation, offered to address the press. He told the press “We failed! But I have a very good trust in my team and that next time we will be succeeding for sure”. This surprised Abdul Kalam as the blame of the failure was taken by the chairman of ISRO.

The next mission was prepared and launched successfully on 1980. At this moment of success, Dr Satish Dhawan told Abdul Kalam to attend the press meet without his presence.

When the team failed, he took the blame. But when the team succeeded, he redirected the success to his team, thus portraying the picture of a true leader.

Dr Kalam later said that, till that experience, all he had seen was people blaming juniors even for their own mistakes. But the exact contrast happened in this case, where a higher official was taking the  blame for the mistakes committed by his junior staff and letting them enjoy the credit in the moments of success. This he said,  made a lasting impact in his approach to handle setbacks and defeats thereafter. He learnt the importance of being polite and gracious even in times of disappointments and setbacks and to at least not blame others for his mistakes.

Thiruvalluvar in his couplet 986 says, the touchstone for the greatness of a noble person is his peculiar trait to accept with humility his mistakes and defeat at the hands of a person inferior to him in status, just like he would accept it if it were from a person higher in stature.

சால்பிற்குக் கட்டளை யாதெனின் தோல்வி 
துலையல்லார் கண்ணும் கொளல்.

Saalbirkuk Kattalai Yaadhenin Thoalvi
Thulaiyallaar Kannum Kolal

பரிமேலழகர் உரை: 

சால்பிற்குக் கட்டளை யாது எனின் – சால்பாகிய பொன்னின் அளவறிதற்கு உரைகல்லாகிய செயல் யாது எனின்; தோல்வி துலை அல்லார் கண்ணும் கொளல் – அது தம்மின் உயர்ந்தார் மாட்டுக் கொள்ளும் தோல்வியை இழிந்தார் மாட்டும் கோடல். (துலை – ஒப்பு. எச்ச உம்மையான் இருதிறத்தார் கண்ணும் வேண்டுதல் பெற்றாம். கொள்ளுதல் – வெல்லும் ஆற்றலுடையராயிருந்தே ஏற்றுக் கொள்ளுதல். இழிந்தாரை வெல்லுதல் கருதித் தம்மோடு ஒப்பித்துக் கொள்ளாது, தோல்வியான் அவரினும் உயர்வராயின், அதனால் சால்பளவு அறியப்படும் என்பதாம்.).

Sanskrit Translation by Shri S.N. Srirama Desikan

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