Powerful were his missiles
More powerful were his words
Most powerful were his thoughts and dreams…. to transform India into a prosperous nation
Avul Pakeer Jainulbadeen Abdul Kalam.
Former President, eminent scientist, researcher, author and humanitarian Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam breathed his last on 27th July’15 bringing an end to a selfless life dedicated to empowering his fellow countrymen especially youth and children.
Dr. Kalam is mainly credited for the vision 2020 roadmap to enable India to be an economic and intellectual superpower and put an end to poverty and illiteracy. Dr. Kalam has been conferred upon with many awards and honor including Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration along with India’s highest civilian honor Bharata Ratna along with 43 honorary doctorates. He has also received international honors and PhDs from USA, UK, Switzerland, Singapore and Canada. As many as 6 biographies have been written on him while he authored as many as 17 books meshing serious thought ideology with his experiences as a scientist, researcher, teacher and a political leader with a strong undercurrent of humanism and patriotism.
Born into a fisherman’s house in Rameshwaram, Tamilnadu in 1931, He had a strong spiritual and interfaith influence courtesy to his three close friends in his childhood — Ramanadha Sastry, Aravindan and Sivaprakasan. Dr. Kalam’s deep interest in ancient Indian wisdom, heritage and spirituality had its seeds sown in childhood.
After graduating from Madras Institute of Technology, Dr. Kalam joined DRDO as a scientist and designed a small helicopter for Indian Army. He later moved on to ISRO to give wings to the space aspirations of India. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam spent four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He was intimately involved in India’s civilian space program and military missile development efforts. He thus came to be known as the “Missile Man of India” for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. Nurtured the mentorship of Satish Dhawan, Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Brahm Prakash, Kalam and his team went on to design many satellites and launch vehicles starting with SLV-II (Rohini). He also directed two projects, Project Devil and Project Valiant, which sought to develop ballistic missiles from the technology of the successful SLV programme. Despite the disapproval of the Union Cabinet, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi allotted secret funds for these aerospace projects through her discretionary powers under his directorship. He played an integral role convincing the Union Cabinet to conceal the true nature of these classified aerospace projects. He went on to make many special ballistic missiles for India, which included Prithvi, Agni. India owes its development as a nuclear nation to his organizational and technical support for Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998.
Every mission of him wasn’t a success. There were poking failures which stuck sore thumb out. Every time he failed, the media and the scientific groups criticized him. But Dr. Kalam came back strongly. During the Agni and Prithvi missile, the projects have been criticised for mismanagement and cost and time overruns, he gave a fitting reply by proving them wrong with successful completions. In 1998, along with cardiologist Soma Raju, Kalam developed a low cost coronary stent, named the “Kalam-Raju Stent”. Dr. Kalam, strongly believed as a scientist and thinker about using science and technology to take inventions to people across the social and economic barriers of people and bring across difference in the lifestyle and perception.
Dr. Kalam set a target of interacting with 100,000 students during the two years after his resignation from the post of scientific adviser in 1999. He mainly identified himself with the youth and the teenagers of the country and strongly believed in the power of knowledge empowerment and intellectual thinking. He would insist on the power of dreaming and innovation and the ability to bring out the transformation – both in the self and society. His words came in with a remarkable sense of power often sprinkled with witty humor and unmistakable commitment to bring about a transformation and change in the status quo. Post his thumping victory and assuming his office as the 11th President of India, He travelled across the length and breadth of India and interacted with lakhs of students. He would often take ideas and align their thoughts about becoming responsible, innovative, committed to make India a knowledge superpower and a developed nation by 2020. He strongly urged the student fraternity to think, read, question, work towards a new beginning. Probably no youth leader have inspired the youngsters in the country so much as He did at his age.
Dr. Kalam took an active interest in other developments in the field of science and technology, including a research programme for developing bio-implants. He also supported Open Source technology over proprietary solutions, predicting that the use of free software on a large scale would bring the benefits of information technology to more people. He had the knack of making the impossible look possible and he actually made it possible for ordinary people to dream they could be anybody. And he believed in making India an in-house superpower. The designer of state of the art technologies and path breaking innovations never pursued a PHD from the abroad.
Often when we talk about winner not doing different things but doing things differently, Dr. Kalam is a striking example.
Once, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam rejected the suggestion to put broken glass on the wall of a building that needed protection. Dr. Kalam refused broken glass on walls of DRDO in view of bird safety highlighting his deep rooted sensitivity. Be it a young kid from the corner of India or a scientific advisor to the Prime Minister, He listened with precious attention and unmistakable submission and conviction. Always known to have carried minimal security and changing the status quo, Dr. Kalam sessions were filled with dynamism. He is reported to have rushed into the crowd to stop power cuts from disturbing his interactions and refused to have sit on Presidential chairs on his interactions with kids.
President Kalam has given up all his life savings and salaries to a trust he founded named PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas) walking the talk of keeping rural development close to his heart. And when he led, he led by example. He was patient for his autographs and clicking pictures. He was known to have written Thank You cards by himself and also dialed and congratulated people himself reflecting his humility and his simple nature. A famous story on the internet reports that –“ When a subordinate of President Kalam at DRDO couldn’t take his children to an exhibition due to work pressure, He surprised his subordinate and took the children instead” reflecting his care and concern for his subordinates and people. He never preached belongingness, sensitivity and innocence but lived it in every moment of life.
Dr. Kalam was deeply spiritual. He took interest in Tamil poetry and played the veena. Kamal endorsed Carnatic devotional music and a strong advocator of ancient Hindu culture. He used to read Bhagavad Gita and was a strict vegetarian. Many of his speeches quoted remarkable quotes from the Gita, Vedas, Upanishads and other Indian texts. A strong advocate of Indian soul with a global outlook, Kalam represented a true Indian at his heart.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has lauded Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam as a man of humor and his deep care for society.
“He led a remarkable life: a scientist, artist and philosopher. Holding the highest office, he was still approachable by one and all” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar added. On hearing that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was traveling to Sri Lanka to meet Prabhakaran, President Kalam offered to join him in resolving the conflict, going beyond protocol. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also recollects that he was an avid lover and proponent of Indian classical music.
He said that Dr. Kalam once suggested that he and Sri Sri play the Veena together and his favorite song was “Endaro Mahanubhavulu” which means “there are many great souls and I adore them all”.
Dr. Kalam was present on the prestigious occasion of the Silver Jubilee where he addressed the gathering. Here’s his speech from the occasion of Silver Jubilee Celebrations in 2006
-Surya Tej Borra
Surya Tej Borra is a volunteer with the Art of Living Foundation. A graduate from the prestigious BITS Pilani, he works with Google. His interests include Cinema, writing, travelling, cooking & music.