A tribute to APJ Abdul Kalam

By Sanchit on Tuesday, June 22, 2010

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APJ Abdul Kalam tribute
Fame is something that descends on people who show exceptional qualities in their deeds and words. But, it really needs much more for a person to find a place in the hearts of millions of people and at the same time, keep his feet on the ground. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, whom we fondly call APJ Abdul Kalam, is such a man who touches the lives of millions people with his charismatic persona. He is not just an Ex-President of India or the undisputed father of Indian missile technology; he is perhaps the only Indian who stands closest to Gandhiji, the father of our nation, for whom ideals and actions never ran in parallel lines.

Son of the soil

Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 at Dhanushkodi in the Rameswaram district of Tamil Nadu. He was neither educated abroad, nor was his family financially very strong to support his academic pursuits. His father, Jainulabiddin Marakayar, had to rent boats out to fishermen to pay for his school fees. His father possessed great innate wisdom, true generosity of spirit and was a spiritual person.

Kalam received secondary education at the Schwartz School, a missionary institute in Ramanathapuram, and later joined the St Joseph's College at Tiruchirrapalli, where he graduated with a Bachelor in Science. Abdul Kalam went on to study Aeronautical Engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology.

He was the first graduate in the family. His brothers did not even finish their school studies. He distributed newspapers at a young age to help with household expenses.

An Indian to the core, the only brief overseas exposure that he got during his formative years was in 1963-64 when he was invited by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to spend four months in the United States at the Wallops Island Rocketry Centre and the Langley Research Centre.

A vegetarian, a teetotaller and a confirmed bachelor, Abdul Kalam recites the Quran and the Bhagvad Gita with equal ease.

`Flying’ dreams and disillusionment

After completing his third year at MIT, Kalam joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bangalore as a trainee. When he came out of HAL as a graduate of aeronautical engineering in 1958, he was eager to join Indian Air Force as a pilot. The other alternative was to seek a job at Directorate of Technical Development and Production (DTD&P) of the Ministry of Defence. He applied for both and attended interviews. He stood ninth in the batch of 25 in IAF, and only eight officers were selected to be commissioned in the Air Force. He felt the long cherished dream slipping away from his hands.

Disillusioned, Kalam visited Hrishikesh, bathed in the Ganga and met Swami Sivananda whom he later remembered as “a man who looked like Buddha". According to his own personal accounts, Sivananda asked Kalam about the reason for his sorrow. Kalam told him about his unsuccessful attempt to join the IAF and his long-cherished desire to fly. Sivananda guided him saying: "Accept your destiny and go ahead with your life. You are not destined to become an Air Force pilot. What you are destined to become is not revealed now but it is predetermined. Forget this failure, as it was essential to lead you to your destined path. Search, instead, for the true purpose of your existence. Become one with yourself, my son! Surrender yourself to the wish of God." Back from Hrishikesh, Kalam received appointment letter from DTD&T and joined the organisation as a senior scientific assistant. There he led a small team that developed a prototype hovercraft.

Tryst with space science

In 1962, Kalam moved out of DRDO and joined Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) where he succeeded in putting the 35-kg Rohini-I satellite on a low-earth orbit with help of the SLV-III (Satellite Launch Vehicle). After spending 19 fruitful years in ISRO, he returned to DRDO in 1982 to head the country's Integrated Missile Development Programme, which culminated in the successful launch of the Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul and Nag missiles.

Dr. Kalam was Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister & Secretary, Department of Defence Research & Development from July 1992 to December 1999. He was Chief Scientific Advisor to the Govt of India till he demitted office in November 2001.

Dr. Kalam is one of the most distinguished scientists of India with the unique honour of receiving honorary doctorates from 30 universities and institutions. He has been awarded the coveted civilian awards - Padma Bhushan (1981) and Padma Vibhushan (1990) and the highest civilian award Bharat Ratna (1997). He is a recipient of several other awards and Fellow of many professional institutions.

People’s President

Dr. Kalam became the 11th President of India on 25th July 2002, with a focus to transform India into a developed nation by 2020.

During his term as President of the national, Abdul Kalam earned the respect and love of people and was often referred to as the People’s President. Throughout his Presidential term, Kalam made it a point to inspire the young minds and prompt the young generations to dream big to achieve bigger goals for the nation.

Kalam visualised a glorious profile of India to emerge by the year 2020. Its details are as follows:

1. A nation where the rural and urban divide is reduced to the minimum.

2. A nation where there is an equitable distribution and adequate access to energy and quality water.

3. A nation where agriculture, industry and service sector work together in symphony.

4. A nation where education with value system is not denied to any meritorious candidates because of societal or economic discrimination.

5. A nation which is the best destination for the most talented scholars, scientists, and investors.

6. A nation where the best of health care is available to all.

7. A nation where the governance is responsive and transparent.

8. A nation where poverty has been totally eradicated, illiteracy removed and crimes against women and children are absent and none in the society feels alienated.

9. A nation that is prosperous, healthy, secure, peaceful and happy and continues in a sustainable growth path.

10. A nation that is one of the best places to live in and is proud of its leadership.

When he was interacting with a group of journalists, just before he stepped down as the President, he said he was proud of his three achievements as the President of India. One was to make Rashtrapati Bhavan a ``People's Bhavan'' by throwing open its majestic doors to people from all walks of life. The second was to spread and popularise his PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) concept. And the third was to get acceptability for his Vision 2020 for India.

During that interaction, he also he hinted at his distress over reports that he had sought a second term. He clarified that he had always maintained that he would accept another term only if there was consensus on his name. (The only party that opposed to his candidature was the Congress and have a look at the Congress choice HERE and HERE.) He said that he had never talked about numbers.

Man of composure

As we prepare this tribute to Abdul Kalam, controversy is raging over an incident in which former President Kalam was frisked by the staff of America’s Continental Airlines. 77-year-old Kalam was frisked in violation of the mandatory protocol at Delhi International airport before he was to board the Newark-bound Continental Airline flight on April 21.

The issue came up in the Parliament and the airlines tendered apology over the incident. However, kalam refused to give up his composure. “Whatever is reported is true. However, I have no complaints against anybody,” he was quoted as saying, when asked about the incident.

Source: B S Anilkumar,India Syndicate

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