“Going to Shillong.. to take course on Livable Planet earth at iim…”
This was eminent Indian scientist and former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam’s last tweet. 27 July 2015, became a sad day in the history of India. Dr. Kalam collapsed from a massive heart attack while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong. The 83-year-old educationist and philanthropist was admitted to a private hospital and soon breathed his last. The nation was left shocked and speechless, mourning the president who remained a revered figure across the country for people of all walks of life. Dr. Kalam’s spectacular achievements defy description but he shall always be remembered best as an extremely kind man with a warm smile. The government of India is set to announce a week-long national mourning following his demise.
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, better known as APJ Abdul Kalam, was born on 15 October 1931, in Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu) into a poor family. His father was a boatman and young Kalam went to work very early. His compelling love for education, however, led the young man to work very hard and develop a strong sense of discipline. He studied Physics and graduated from the University of Madras in 1954. Kalam’s first love, though, was aerospace engineering which he pursued from Madras Institute of Technology. Having narrowly missed being recruited as an Air Force pilot, Kalam got to work on designing military helicopters in the employ of the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation).
His humble origins imparted Dr. Kalam a great appreciation of the state in which the majority of the country’s population exists. His characteristic humility and the great emphasis he laid on education and the development of youth came from these early experiences.
Missile Man of India
Apart from designing choppers for defence purposes, Kalam’s earliest work at the DRDO involved the development of expandable rockets for India. By 1969, he took up work with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In the 1970s and 1980s, Kalam was believed to have been the brain behind India’s interest in an advanced missile program. At the ISRO, he was the Director of the project that developed India’s earliest SLV-III, Satellite Launch Vehicle, which allowed India to deploy its first satellite (Rohini) successfully in July 1980. He also was instrumental in the development of India’s Polar Satellite Launching Vehicle (PSLV). Kalam’s contribution to the development of indigenous ballistic missiles was immense. The moniker he is often addressed by – ‘Missile Man’ – is an apt tribute to his efforts.
Kalam convinced the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi to allot funds for the development of two major aerospace projects despite the cabinet’s disapproval. These projects were kept secret till their launch. His directorship brought success to the projects and put India on the map of scientific defence advances. Along with Dr V S Arunachalam, Kalam oversaw the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) worth INR 388 crore. Kalam played a key role in the successful testing of India’s nuclear capabilities at Pokharan in 1998. Agni and Prithvi, two different types of missiles were developed under his leadership.
One of India’s Greatest Scientists
Kalam’s stature as one of the leading scientists of the country earned him many accolades and awards. He held the position of the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and was also the Secretary of the DRDO between 1992 and 1999. Kalam also attracted criticism for being a pro-nuclear scientist but he brushed off all personal attacks in his efforts to making India a leading nation and a superpower. His contributions in the field of health and medicine have also been appreciated widely. In 1998, Kalam and leading doctor Soma Raju, developed an inexpensive coronary stent, dubbed the “Kalam-Raju Stent”. In 1997, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour for his scientific endevours.
The People’s President
Kalam was elected as the 11th President of India in July 2002. Kalam’s nomination was put forth by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which was ruling at the centre. Kalam won the presidential polls by a wide berth. He was sworn in on 25 July 2002. During his term as president, Kalam remained extremely involved in legislative, educational, scientific, and cultural matters, coming to be known as the People’s President. In his tenure, he ensured that he did not remain a figurehead. Kalam remained wildly popular, an inspiration to the country’s youth and an iconic champion of education and scientific development. Kalam stayed in office till July 2007.
Wings of Fire
Post presidency Dr Kalam immersed himself completely in writing and in inspiring the youth of the country. Working as one of India’s leading academician, he lectured students at some of India’s premier institutes and wrote a number of books detailing his vision for the nation. Apart from two nominations for the MTV Youth Icon of the Year award (2003 and 2006), Kalam’s 79th birthday came to be celebrated as World Student Day by the United Nations. Dr. Kalam has left an undying legacy of patriotism and relentless scientific pursuit in the nation.
Books by APJ Abdul Kalam
1. Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technology by A P J Abdul Kalam and Roddam Narasimha, 1988
2. India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium by A P J Abdul Kalam and Y S Rajan, 1998
3. Wings of Fire by A P J Abdul Kalam, 1999
4. Ignited Minds by A P J Abdul Kalam, 2002
5. The Luminous Sparks by A P J Abdul Kalam, 2004
6. Mission India by A P J Abdul Kalam, 2005
7. Guiding Souls: Dialogues on the Purpose of Life by A P J Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari, 2005
8. Inspiring Thoughts by A P J Abdul Kalam, 2007
9. Indomitable Spirit by A P J Abdul Kalam
10. Envisioning an Empowered Nation by A P J Abdul Kalam and A Sivathanu Pillai
11. You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond by A P J Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari, 2011
12. Target 3 Billion by A P J Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh, 2011
13. Turning Points: A Journey Through Challenges by A P J Abdul Kalam, 2012
14. My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions by A P J Abdul Kalam, 2013
15. A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020 by A P J Abdul Kalam and V Ponraj, 2014
16. Transcendence My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji by A P J Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari, 2015
“If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.”
“For great men, religion is a way of making friends; small people make religion a fighting tool.”
“Desire, when it stems from the heart and spirit, when it is pure and intense, possesses awesome electromagnetic energy. This energy is released into the ether each night, as the mind falls into the sleep state. Each morning it returns to the conscious state reinforced with the cosmic currents. That which has been imaged will surely and certainly be manifested. You can rely, young man, upon this ageless promise as surely as you can rely upon the eternally unbroken promise of sunrise… and of Spring.”
“Why be afraid of difficulties, sufferings and problems? When troubles come, try to understand the relevance of your sufferings. Adversity always presents opportunities for introspection.”