The path of perseverance

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” scientist Thomas Alva Edison declared. This pronouncement has passed into proverbial parlance. But like most maxims, it is more easily admired than absorbed. While ‘inspiration’ sounds impressive, ‘perspiration’ seems unpleasant. How simple life would be if struggle was not a stepping stone to success!

Through the ages, discerning people have realised that ideas and ideals, however lofty, must be buttressed by dogged determination. Leading his country during the World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill foresaw that before the UK could triumph it must face trials. He graphically described what lay ahead for his compatriots as ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’.

Confronted with challenges of a different kind, Dr K R Narayanan, literally and metaphorically, endured the affliction that Churchill had envisaged in a time of military conflict. The able statesman, who became our tenth President, suffered several setbacks in his quest for learning.

Born in 1920, Kocheril Raman Narayanan studied in Uzhavoor, then in Travancore and now in Kottayam, Kerala. Everyday, he walked 15 km to school, only to encounter hurdles there.

Shortly before his death in 2005, Dr Narayanan told a journalist: “We had to pay school fees and my father had very little money. The management cooperated up to a point but, after months of no fees, they sent me home. My father scraped together some money and sent me back. Frequently, I had to stand in the corner or on the bench for non-payment of fees.”  Occasionally, the impoverished student was not admitted to the classroom. Standing outside, he strained to hear the lessons being taught. Under such circumstances, anyone else might have abandoned education. Not so Dr K R Narayanan! Undeterred by hardship, he resolutely continued to acquire knowledge.

The young man’s persistence bore fruit. Aided by a scholarship from the royal family of Travancore, he did exceedingly well in his later academic career. He secured the first rank at the University of Travancore examination in 1943, setting foot on the road to Rashtrapathi Bhavan, which he occupied in 1997. Let us, like great personages, past and present, enjoy the satisfaction of attaining our goals. First, however, we must patiently pursue the path of perseverance!

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