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The missile man

Sept. 4, 2020, 10:49 a.m. by Dr Gayatri Mohapatra ( 508 views)

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The people's President is no more but his achievements, teachings, and life lessons continue to inspire and enlighten minds even today.

Dr. APJ Kalam was elected as 11th President of India in July 2002. As President, he shared his vision for India, addressing youth and old with the same passion which formed his entire life.

Dr. Kalam's vision for transforming Indian society through harnessing science and technology for human welfare and progress will always be remembered in the modern history of India.

He was born on 15 October 1931 on the island of Dhanushkodi off the southeastern coast of India to a modest Muslim family. As a young boy, he sold newspapers to help his family.

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He developed an early fascination with flight by watching birds, which developed into an interest in aeronautics after he saw a newspaper article about a British fighter plane.

Kalam got a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Madras Institute of Technology and in 1958 joined the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Later on, he moved to the Indian Space Research Organisation, where he was the project director of the SLV-III, India’s first indigenously designed and produced satellite launch vehicle.

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During his tenure in DRDO, in 1982, he headed the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) to develop five different missiles- Prithvi, Agni, Trishul, Akash, Nag.

After the successful launch of these missiles, he was nicknamed the “Missile Man.”

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A.P.J. Abdul Kalam created the Technology Vision 2020 project in 1998. The project sought to develop India's economy through technology, particularly as applied to agriculture and increase the availability of health care and education. In recognition of Kalam's services to the country and broad popularity, the National Democratic Alliance nominated him for president in 2002.

A Muslim steeped in Hindu culture, he was an Indian extraordinaire. A scientist who could recite classical Tamil poetry, who played the Rudra-veena, and listened to Carnatic devotional music every day, but performed his namaz with no sense of incongruity, he was the embodiment of the true Indian spirit.

With his long silver hair unfashionably combed back and his thick Tamilian accent, he won people's hearts and became an icon to the young& old. His was a life of selfless, humble living that exhibited an undying love for children and a never-ending quest for knowledge and its dissemination.

Even after his retirement, he continued to give lectures on a wide range of subjects In this simplicity lay the secret of his ability to connect with people, across the boundaries of age, class, religion, and region.

Kalam, despite his achievements, always wanted to be remembered as a teacher. And it was as a teacher addressing a gathering at IIM Shillong that he breathed his last on the evening of July 27, 2015.

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His birth anniversary is observed as World Students' Day.

Kalam followed vegetarianism as he believed in leading a simple life is based on non-violence.

He loved his mother's cooking and said "I often used to eat food with my mother in the kitchen"A simple lunch of rice, sambhar, and coconut chutney was his favorite food in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

In his book "Turning point" released in 2012, Dr. Kalam states that the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appeared to be not keen on President APJ Abdul Kalam’s official visit to the state of Gujarat but the former President recalled this painful period when then chief minister of the state Narendra Modi was with him, every step of the tour. Kalam said, “my mission was not to look at what had happened, not to look at what was happening, but to focus on what should be done”.He also said that he was first advised not to go. “One of the main reasons was political. However, I made my mind that I would go and preparations were in full swing at Rashtrapati Bhavan for my first visit as president,” he said. “The prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asked me only one question, ‘Do you consider going to Gujarat at this time essential?’“PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was discomfited by my decision. I replied, ‘I must go and talk to the people as a President. I consider this my first major task.’

Kalam returned the Office of Profit bill which exempted certain offices of state and central government – including the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council – from the purview of Office of Profit for MPs, but when the UPA sent it back unchanged he signed it.

He also visited an ailing Kushwant Singh with a bouquet of red roses from the Mughal garden. Khushwant Singh said he was not only surprised by the President's visit, but also by Dr. Kalam's gesture of seeking his autograph during the half-an-hour meeting & was touched by the president's humility.

After completing his term at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Kalam, who had turned down requests for running for and the second term in office, planned to teach at Anna University, Chennai, after demitting office on July 24, 2007.

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In what was perhaps his last public function as the head of the state, Kalam reiterated his Vision 2020 for his country and said he had “advice for the countrymen”. The advice was: Don't take gifts that come with a purpose and build families with character and a good value system.

This statement won over the hearts of Indians throughout the country as Dr. Kalam left the Rashtrapati Bhavan with his two small suitcases and his books. He left behind all the gifts he had received in his official capacity as the President of India.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam won many awards, both from the Indian government and from the international community. His most notable awards were the Padma Vibhushan, won in 1990, and the Bharat Ratna, won in 1997, for his contributions to science and engineering and service to the government.

Dr. Kalam remained a humble man who refused VIP treatment.

At a function in at IIT (BHU) Varanasi where he was invited as chief guest, Kalam refused to sit on the President’s chair, which was bigger offered especially to him as an honor.

During his tenure as President of India, Kalam made it a priority to meet as many young people as possible one-to-one. When he left office in 2007, he was conferred a loving title of “Kalam Chacha” and personally replied to the hundreds of emails he received from youngsters.

His breakfast meetings with Members of Parliament, the children’s gallery he opened, and his inexorable tours of the nation, all had one significant goal: Vision 2020.

Kalam was worried that the supreme institution of democracy, the Parliament was becoming dysfunctional. He said, “I have seen two different governments in my tenure. I have seen more after that. This disruption just keeps happening. It is not right. I need to find out a way to ensure that the parliament works on developmental politics.”

He continued to inspire youth and old alike, and in the year 2012, he launched a campaign called ‘What Can I Give Movement’ to develop a “giving” attitude in the youth and to encourage them to contribute towards nation building by taking small but positive steps.

When asked how he would like to be remembered, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam responded by saying, as a 'teacher'.

He urged people to "Dream, dream, dream. Dreams transform into thoughts and thoughts result in action."

Comments (1)

Mini 7 months, 3 weeks ago