I first heard his name when I was in 1st grade (2003). “Who is the President of India?” my teacher asked. The same question came up even in the next two grades too. The answer was Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Cutting his photographs and pasting it in the notebooks were a common homework. And in this process his face was vivid in my mind. But I never knew what a president was or what APJ Abdul Kalam did for the people.
After his tenure of presidency too, his name and his photos kept appearing before me through the television and newspapers. Even then I didn’t have any clue why he was so famous. But I loved him. I loved and adored him from the first time I saw his photo. His tranquil face, warm smile, eyes sparkling with enthusiasm, everything in him makes one feel like he is there next to you, more like a fatherly figure, who is always there to encourage you and guide you to the right path to success.
A small boy with a spark, born in a small island in India called Rameswaram, turned into a bright light with education, his will power and determination. This light appeared to motivate every Indian for 83 years, 9 months and 15 days. And to the shock of all Indians the light extinguished itself on 27th July 2015. Who would have thought a boy from a fishing family would become the first person of this country? Who would have thought he would play the pivotal role in the nuclear tests of India? After all he was a Muslim, coming from a poor family and even had to sell newspaper to win bread for his family. But he proved all those people wrong. He was determined and hardworking. He valued education the most. For Kalam, learning had no age and learning had its effect on everything, he had said,
“When learning is purposeful, creativity blossoms. When creativity blossoms, thinking emanates. When thinking emanates, knowledge is fully lit. When knowledge is lit, economy flourishes.”
Abdul Kalam burgeoned into a great scientist who made India prouder. His career started by making a small helicopter for DRDO. In 1969, he became the project director of India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite. He considered joining ISRO his biggest achievement. IN 1965, he started working on expandable rocket project, which became more prominent in 1969. He was appointed Chief Executive of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program, under which he played a major role in developing missiles including Agni, an intermediate range ballistic missile and Prithvi. He was the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of Defense Research and Development Organization from July 1992 to December 1999. He played an important role in the Pokhran-II nuclear tests. Well, his contributions to science and defense, though not known much abroad, are really remarkable. After all this was one of the things he was passionate about.
“Science is global. Einstein’s equation, E=mc2, has to reach everywhere. Science is a beautiful gift to humanity, we should not distort it. Science does not differentiate between multiple races.”
Kalam’s route to the Presidential post was rather intriguing and not something that happens often in India. Kalam was not the original choice for President in 2002. It was widely believed that PC Alexander, principal secretary to former PM Indira Gandhi, would get the job. Alexander, who was the governor of Maharashtra during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, was acceptable to most of the NDA constituents. And his past made him believe that even the Congress would back him. To his dismay, Sonia Gandhi refused to back Alexander’s candidature. For a very brief period, it seemed vice-president Krishna Kant would get the job. But he was also denied the opportunity after being tipped off to be ready for the election. During this period, the BJP was trying to shed its rabid pro-Hindutva image — a pursuit that ultimately ended with LK Advani’s ill-fated paean to MA Jinnah. And Mulayam Singh, it is believed, offered a deal that the BJP couldn’t resist. (Ironically, when Kalam became the front-runner for the President’s post in 2012, it was Mulayam Singh who backed out at the last minute, paving the way for Pranab Mukherjee’s election.) When the Samajwadi Party agreed to support Kalam as the next President, a consensus soon developed even within the Congress to back his presidency. His election could have been unanimous, but for the Left’s decision to prop up Captain Lakshmi Sehgal as token of resistance. Kalam’s tenure had the potential of getting marred with controversies. But it is an ode to his personal integrity and administrative tact that he managed to steer India through a political storm.
Kalam wanted to educate and IGNITE the minds of the youth. He was constantly engaged in interactive sessions with students and young people even after his tenure as the President. That was what he loved most. He inspired us to set our aims high and bring glory to our nation while being a good member of the family, society and the nation. He told again and again that success and failure are part of life and we have to defeat failure. Be what you are, be unique, there is nothing wrong in this, he stressed.
“I have so far met 19.5 million youth of the nation in last two decades and learnt who wants to be unique. The world around you is doing its best day and night to make you just everybody else, including your relatives and friends.”
“To become ‘unique’ the challenge is to fight the hardest battle which anyone can imagine, until you reach your destination.”
Our dearest teacher loved teaching, being with students was all he wanted in life. Once a student asked why he wasn’t married. He answered that if he had been married he would not have been able to spend his full life to our nation and its students. I don’t think there was or there ever will be a person so dedicated to his country and had treated all children of the country as his own. And even bid adieu to us while doing his favorite job – talking to students. He believed in engaging ourselves in what we truly love till our time on earth and he was one those very few lucky people who got that opportunity.
Don’t shed a tear. He was a guiding spirit in our life. A person is not lost until we take them out from our heart.
Let us Seed the Visionary Dream of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in our minds by taking this 10 point oath:
1. I will have a goal and work hard to achieve that goal. I realize that small aim is a crime.
2. I will work with integrity and succeed with integrity.
3. I will be a good member of my family, a good member of the society, a good member of the nation and a good member of the world.
4. I will always try to save or better someone’s life, without any discrimination of caste, creed, language religion or state. Wherever I am, a thought will always come to my mind. That is “What can I give?”
5. I will always protect and enhance the dignity of every human life without any bias.
6. I will always remember the importance of time. My motto will be “Let not my winged days, be spent in vain”.
7. I will always work for clean planet Earth and clean energy.
8. As a youth of my nation, I will work and work with courage to achieve success in all my tasks and enjoy the success of others.
9. I am as young as my faith and as old as my doubt. Hence, I will light up then, the lamp of faith in my heart.
10. My National Flag flies in my heart and I will bring glory to my nation.
‘I wanted to fly’ Kalam
Kalam said in 1941: I was 10 years and studying in class-V. Whenever my science teacher Subramanium entered the class he radiated knowledge and purity of life. One day he drew a sketch of a flying bird and explained how bird flies. ‘That day I not only learned how birds fly but my aim in life changed- I wanted to fly.’
I was an aeronautical engineer and I tried to be a pilot, but there were only nine seats and I was at the tenth place, I could not clear the physical exam.
“Sometime you don’t get what you want.”
In 2002 Indian leaders asked me to be president-I said OK. In 2005 when the chief of air staff came up to me I told him about my unfulfilled dream of becoming a pilot. The air chief asked me to go through the training and finally I flew for 30 minutes in April 2007.
The message is “If you dream and aim in life, gain and acquire knowledge and do hard work, defeat the problem then you will succeed,” said Kalam.
“Dream, Dream Dream
Dreams transform into thoughts
And thoughts result in action.”