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LG’s Speech during 91st Annual Convocation of University of Delhi

Friday, March 14, 2014









14TH MARCH, 2014

Mr. Vice Chancellor, Deans of Faculties, Heads of Departments, Members of Faculties, friends from the media, distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

It is a singular honour for me to address this 91st Convocation of this great historic university that has been consistently in the forefront of higher education in India. The contribution of the Delhi University since its inception in 1922 has been immeasurable – right from the national movement to the present when it has provided leaders and regular members to Indian polity in all fields.

Over the past five years I have often spoken to students, and to be honest there is no greater pleasure that one can have than speaking to sparkling minds that wait to burst out with enormous energy and enthusiasm and pave a way of life that only the young can dream of. At your stage of life, dear students, it is all about the fulfillment of dreams. And the young have the right to dream, dream of the future, dream of the exalted, dream of love and romance, dream of the mountains you will climb and the valleys you will traverse, dream with the rain and dance with the skies.

But at my age, I pause and realize how quickly life passes us by. There is enormous truth in the expression - “the twinkling of an eye” - and so when I speak to the young I always quote the two opening couplets from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and I quote the same to you.

“Dreaming when dawn’s left hand was in the sky,

I heard a voice within the tavern cry;

Awake my little ones and feel the cup,

Before life’s liquor in its cup be dry.”

And then Khayyam mesmerizes in his next rubai when he goes on to say

“And those who stood before the tavern shouted,

Open then the door,

You know how you will while we have to stay,

And once departed may return no more.”

The problem that the young have today is the surfeit of choices. When I was young and the economy was limited there were indeed very few career paths that we could choose from. Today as we look around us the choices are literally unlimited. And in this unlimited choice is the embedded fear of moving without a purpose. In the midst of the abundance of choices there is the lurking fear that we may let life drift away. So the issue here is, and particularly it pertains to you all young men and women who stand at the threshold of a new chapter in their life today - how you would live life to its full. How would you live life when the cup is full to the brim that it spills over as you sip the liquor it offers to full satiation!

You will often be confronted with this question. And so do we flow with the current or turn to something special. The challenge before you is that when at the age of 80 - and you cannot imagine what 80 is - you stand before your mirror and look at your face and say that you are proud to have lived your life the way you have. That you will look yourself in the eye and say that you have stood up to your conviction and that you have had the ability to challenge systems and to accept the fallout that goes with such challenges. This is the time for you to look to the skies and open the windows of your minds. This is the time for you to understand the value of internal as well as external peace. Forthrightness and openness to accept viewpoints of others and an intrinsic belief in an inclusive society will lead society to peace. Giving space to others materially or in thought is a big challenge. It becomes a bigger challenge because in the developing world and in a developing country such as ours, when the size of the cake is limited we tend to first think of ourselves and of our own clans and kin. The concept of sharing gets this much reduced.

We are a great nation that over centuries has assimilated the best of cultures. We have been blessed with great leaders and thinkers. Reflect for a moment on the soundness of our own Constitution that was conceptualized and thought through by some of the finest and most sensitive minds of the time. Because of this Constitution India remains committed to justice, liberty, equality and fraternity of our people.

You are the generation which would take us forward. You have to give utterance to the souls of the poor. You are the young who need to ensure that the poorest of the poor will find voice in society. However, big the challenges, whatever the pitfalls in the most adverse of circumstance, through bloodied heads and bludgeoned bodies you must remain empowered and remain proud to say, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”.

I left this university 41 years ago. What I am today is thanks to this university. It has been blessed with great teachers and with great traditions and I hope that each and every one of you here will feel the onus on you to take forward the traditions of this great institution.

Before I end, I congratulate Prof. Dinesh Singh who has recently been conferred with the Padma Shri. I thank you all once again for this honour. May God be with you!

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