Tribute to the People’s President

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam
(October 15, 1931 – July 27, 2015)

The Editorial Board of AIFTP with deepest respect and honour pays its tribute to Bharat Ratna Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, who passed away on 27th July, 2015 at the age of 84 years.

Popularly called the “Missile Man” of India, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam rose from humble beginnings and earned the reputation of being the most admired
“People’s President” who endeared himself to all sections of society, especially the youth.

We present a brief illuminating life sketch of Dr. Kalam to enable us to appreciate and keep record of his great missionary but highly professionally skilled contribution in making our country a super nuclear power by world standards. We have tapped herein various press media sources as well as from the books written by him to ignite the minds of the young generation.

The son of a boat owner, he assumed office as the 11th President on July 18, 2002 and was seen as a figurehead who could help heal some of the scars of the communal riots which broke out in Gujarat just a few months before.

Dr. A. P. J. Kalam, who received several prestigious awards including the Bharat Ratna played a crucial role when India tested its nuclear weapons at Pokhran in 1998 when the Vajpayee Government was in office. A vegetarian and a bachelor, Kalam was quoted as saying that like most of the technology sectors he spearheaded, he himself was “Made in India”, having never been trained abroad.

Gracious in both life and death

There were many faces behind the missile man of India – A prolific poet, sensitive human being, a patriot who always thought that unless my motherland becomes a nuclear nation, it would not enjoy the respect in the league of nations. He was known to play with kids at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Bharat Ratna Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam brought about the blue revolution by heading the integrated guided missile development programme, but very few know that he used to play
‘Rudraveena’ with ease. In one of his poems (in Tamil) Kalam refers to the Agni missile, the ICBM intercontinental ballistic missile which has a range of 2,500 miles, as his son and writes,:
“My parents were sad when I decided against marriage, they were worried as their family name would not be continued, but today when Agni has hit the target of 2,500 km in sea, I am remembered. If they would have been alive, they would have been so happy to see that their grandson ‘Agni’ is so powerful.”

Kalam’s family along with his grandchildren once visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Interestingly, Kalam did not use the kitchen and ordered food. He did not bill anything to Rashtrapati Bhavan’s accounts.

“We have often asked ourselves and others why India in its several thousands years of history has rarely tried to expand its territories or to assume a dominant role. Many of the experts and others with whom we had dialogue referred to some special features in the Indian psyche which could partly explain their greater tolerance, less discipline, the lack of sense of retaliation, more flexibility in accepting outsiders, greater adherence to hierarchy and emphasis on personal safety over adventure.” This is what Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, with co-author Y. S. Rajan wrote in the famous book
‘India Vision 2020’. A vision for the ‘New Millennium’ (1998) – Kalam has raised this profound issue that sourced our national confusion over a couple of thousand years since Ashoka became the role model of India by giving up war altogether. Kalam is being profiled by his millions of admirers as a People’s President, teacher, scientist, visionary, thinker and patriot. He is certainly all these and more. He had bombs and missiles on the one hand with Veena and Gita on the other. The huge bandwidth of the man brings out the complete philosopher-nationalist that he was. He can be deeply noticed and appreciated at greater length in his books, namely,
Wings of Fire, Turning Points, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Target 3 Billion, Guiding Souls and Envisioning an Empowered Nation.

When he spoke, he shone – few shining gems

  • Black colour is sentimentally bad. Every blackboard makes students lives bright.

  • You cannot change your future, but you can change your habits. Surely habits will change your future.

  • Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work.

  • No matter what is the environment around you it is always possible to maintain your brand of integrity.

  • The best brains of the nation may be found on the last benches of the classrooms.

  • You have to dream, dream again before your dreams can come true.

  • Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.

  • Dream is not that which you see while sleeping, it is something that does not let you sleep.

  • Be more dedicated to making solid achievements than in running after swift but synthetic happiness.

  • All birds find shelter during rain. But eagle avoids rain by flying above the clouds.

  • If our country is to become corruption free and 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.

International and National leaders paid tributes to Dr. Kalam

  • Russian President Vladmir Putin in a condolence message said that former Indian President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, terming him an
    “Outstanding scientist and wise Statesman.”

  • Scientist of the world: China. The Chinese academic community paid rich tribute to India’s ‘Missile Man’ saying “he was not simply scientist of India, but of the entire world.”

  • Irreparable loss
    Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina described Kalam as
    “a rare combination of great Statesman, acclaimed scientist and a source of inspiration to the young generation of South Asia and said his death is an irreparable loss to India and beyond”.

  • President of India Hon’ble Pranab Mukerjee
    “In Kalam’s passing away, we have lost a great son of India who dedicated his entire life for the welfare of the motherland and its people. Dr. Kalam was a People’s President during his lifetime and will remain so even after his death. Kalam will be remembered for his passion for science and innovations and his contributions as an eminent scientist, administrator, educationist and writer. His achievements as leader of India’s defence research vastly enhanced the safety and security of the nation.”

  • Prime Minister Hon’ble Narendra Modi
    “He was a great scientist who contributed immensely to the fields of science and technology and space. I have lost a marga darshak. He was a source of inspiration for the whole country, particularly the youth. Even in his last days, he remained connected.”

  • A. S. Kiran Kumar, ISRO Chairman
    “It is a terrible loss to the country. He wanted an update on the GSLV MK-III (Project, an earlier version of which he headed) and was very happy with the progress.”

  • N. R. Narayana Murthy:
    “President Kalam was a true patriot and a Statesman. As a President, he connected with and inspired so many people, particularly youngsters. At a personal level he was a very simple, kind and genuine man – a great role model.”

  • Eminent Scientist Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar
    “I remember addressing the gathering, which was chaired by Dr. Kalam. While beginning the lecture, I addressed him as ‘Mr. Technology of India’. I went on to dwell on the theme of India’s big challenge in the coming years as we opened up. My penchant for patents was well known then. I referred to this issue of ‘patent literacy’ and said as to how this illiteracy had to be removed in order for India to face stiff global competition. After the lecture, there was a lunch. Dr. Kalam came to me and said “Mashelkar, you have address me as “Mr. Technology of India”. You also talked about patent literacy movement. But, can I tell you that your ‘Mr. Technology of India’ is also “Mr. Patent Illiterate of India !”
    What a great person he was!

  • A.M. Naik, L&T Chairman
    “We at L&T are proud to have been closely associated with him. On a personal note, I was very honoured that Dr. Kalam came to Mumbai a couple of months ago and handed me a unique memento on my completing 50 years in L&T. The nation will remember Dr. Kalam as one of India’s finest Presidents.”

From Brahmos to poetry, Kalam’s legacy lives on

The Brahmos, largely Kalam’s brain child, continues to shine forth as pillar of special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia. Therefore, he will always have a special pride of place in Russia. The first launch of Brahmos in 2001 turned into a giant step in India-Russia strategic co-operation, heralding a new stage in mass production of this supersonic missile for the army, navy, aircraft carriers and submarines of both countries. He was awarded an honour to be a Honorary Professorship of Moscow State University.

In 2002, on a visit to Russia, President Kalam was emotionally moved while visiting the Tomb of the ‘Unknown Soldier’ at the Red Square in Moscow, and instantly on the spot he penned a poem in the memory of Soviet soldiers who had sacrificed their lives in World War-II. The poem read as follows:

“Life is a phoenix, can rise from the ashes

Presents a future at challenging situations

This altar of ashes is a fountain of new life

War was trusted, martyrdom shined

Memories of soldiers ignite duties of life

Phoenix is a metaphor of life in its action

Ashes remind us to celebrate greatness of those lives.”

In a unique gesture, President Kalam presented the poem to President Putin during the banquet hosted in his honour at the Kremlin. This was the quintessential Dr. Kalam, brimming with great love and respect for Russia.

“Can India become a great power?”

The Economist magazine (March 30, 2013) in its cover story asking “Can India become a great power?” answered it at the end of its editorial:
That India can become a great power is not in doubt. The real question is whether it wants to be. This is what the nationalist-philosopher Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam wanted this nation of 1.25 billion to say in one voice: “Yes we want to be!” Instituting an in-depth study of our history to learn and internalise the lessons from it is the greatest tribute to this great man. We are confident that the nation hereafter will walk on the path shown by its great leader of the century and he will be the role model for the entire country in the years ahead!

With this we pay and record our humble tribute to Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam!

Dr. K. Shivaram
From the Editorial Board

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