A President to remember4 min read
“To become ‘unique’ the challenge is to fight the hardest battle which anyone can imagine, until you reach your destination,” said APJ Abdul Kalam, the statement which was enough to illustrate his own life.
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, hailed from devout humble beginnings being the son of a boat owner. His struggles began early in life and he faced them challengingly. Dr. Kalam stands as a figurehead for times to come for he was a Bharat Ratna awardee not only adept at his field, but an admirable President of India. Above all, he was a good human being and the gravity of simplicity which he engraved in his personality, was one of the many qualities that endeared him to the Indian public.
Dr. Kalam, also known as the “Missile Man of India”, held at his disposition a side of India’s military defenses for he was the true mastermind behind most of India’s significant defense machinery. Acknowledged as the driving force behind India’s quest for cutting-edge defense technologies, Kalam’s contributions to India’s satellite program, guided and ballistic missiles project, nuclear weapons program and the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project made him a household name. For his contribution to the missile program, he was awarded with Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in 1997. He was also awarded Padma Bhushan in 1981 and Padma Vibhushan in 1990.
With high regards for his contribution to the development of ballistic missiles in India, his most prestigious contribution was in 1998 during the Pokhran Nuclear Bomb tests (Operation Shakti) when the Vajpayee Government was in power.
Kalam succeeded K R Narayanan and served a full five-year term from 2002 until 2007 after he won the Presidential election which was a mostly one-sided contest with Lakshmi Sahgal, a revolutionary of the Indian Independence movement. With his appointment, Kalam became the first scientist and first ever bachelor to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan. More than anything, he was the President of the people.
Dr. Kalam was more popular for the visionary comments he made keeping in purview various societal frameworks, where the most appealing ones were targeted at students and young minds. Popular for his matchless communicative skills, Dr. Kalam made it a point to involve students in his speeches and lectures irrespective of their age-group. After the lectures, he would often ask students to write to him and he did not fail to respond to many messages that he got.
He believed that an ignited young mind was not only an asset for the country, but also a resource for the country’s future. In fact one of his most famous sayings, “The best brains of the nation may be found on the last benches of the classroom” is often mused upon by many intellectuals.
He authored several books, with the ‘Wings of Fire’, ‘India 2020’ and ‘Ignited Minds’ being the most read best-sellers. These narratives clearly demonstrate the simplicity of the unfathomed man and yet how strong the simple words can mean. In fact, in his book Ignited Minds, he mentions a line “Thinking is the capital, Enterprise is the way, Hard Work is the solution.” which he follows up with what ignited minds can achieve once they are filled with passion.
Post-presidency, Kalam worked as a visiting professor at IIM Shillong, Ahmedabad and Indore, and several research and academic institutions across the country and the world. He always had his ways of reaching out to the people, either by his words, his lectures or his books. His was not just a source of strength, but a Bharat Ratna in the truest sense. In one of his last few tweets he said, “An indomitable spirit stands on two feet – vision and firm thought”. He delivered his last lecture at IIM Shillong on July 27, 2015 where he collapsed whilst delivering the lecture and then shortly after, breathed his last.
The nation stands numb and shocked, in grief without tears in their eyes, without the ease of belief in their hearts, to the news of one person which makes the large masses panged at their cores. It is not because the person was a great propagandist or an eloquent leader. It was because he connected with the common man. His death is a jolt to the Indian public today but his legacy will live forever. May he rest in peace.
Edited By Sakhi Todi