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Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam: From newspaper boy to President- Not less than An Avtar of the God in Kaliyuga!

Former President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam died on Monday 27th July 2015 from a massive cardiac arrest in Shillong, Meghalaya, where he had gone to deliver a lecture on ‘Livable Planet’ at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong. He was 83. Dr Kalam reportedly collapsed on stage at the IIM in Shillong and was rushed to hospital.

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born on Oct. 15, 1931, on an island off Tamil Nadu. He had said that his interest in aeronautics began when he was a small boy, delivering a local Tamil newspaper, and noticed an article about the Supermarine Spitfire, a fighter jet used by the British in World War II.

He studied aeronautical engineering in the hope of becoming a fighter pilot but was eliminated from contention in a final round of qualifying interviews. He took an entry-level job at Hindustan Aeronautics instead and was later hired by the Indian space research organization and defense research and development organization. There he helped develop India’s first satellite launch vehicle and guided missile program

Kalam was the embodiment of every Indian ideal. His rags-to-success story made him an achiever against insurmountable odds; contribution to Indian defence and military gave him the aura of a nationalist; conduct in the Rashtrapati Bhawan turned him into a People’s President– a People’s Prince type epithet that instantly gave the West a measure of his popularity; and his inspiring speeches and books made him a hero of the youth and children. As a son, student, scientist, President, teacher, preacher, poet, writer, aficionado of classical Indian music, inspiration for a film (I am Kalam) and the new Chacha of children of India, Kalam lived an all Indian dream.

Some people become great by the chair they represent… few great ones bring new greatness to the chair by their persona…. APJ brought greatness to every position he held and marked it with significant contribution.

As a student born in a humble family, he sold newspapers to support the family and finance his education. When Kalam was rejected for the job of a fighter pilot, a dream he had nourished since childhood, he took up an entry-level post at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. And there was no looking back. A man, who was considered not good enough to fly a plane, became the architect of India’s missile programme. From somebody who was rejected as a fighter, Kalam went on to become the face of India’s nuclear programme. Kalam showed the world that he had wings of steel and determination of iron.

He took the final journey, teaching, what he always wanted to be remembered doing. And till his final moment he was standing, working and lecturing. He left us, as a great teacher, standing tall. He left the world with nothing accumulated in his account but loads of wishes and love of people. He was a successful, even in his end.

A heavenly body on the earth and heaven calls him back, depriving us of him..

Don’t shed tears. He doesn’t need that.
Don’t be sad, don’t get disappointed, don’t even say he’s no more now.

Keep him alive in you, by achieving what he has dreamt for!

Let’s make our India, the biggest, healthiest and the most prosperous country by 2020!
Let’s make his Vision come true! Let’s make our country, “Kalam’s Vibrant India!”

Truly secular at heart, when he was President of India,  A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had stopped the annual iftar party at Rashtrapati Bhavan organised with public funds, the only religion-based dinner hosted by the country’s highest constitutional authority. Kalam broke with the tradition, directing that the funds that would have been spent on the iftar be donated to orphanages.

Kalam was a Muslim who could quote Sanskrit and give a learned speech on the applications of that ancient language in cryptology. With equal felicity, he could relate stories of his father’s religious duties and teaching of the Quran. He recalled the temples that formed a part of his childhood landscape. He could refer to ancient Hindu scriptures and talk with passion about the social benefits of modern science. He could play the veena and gaze at the stars with a matching fervour. Above all, he would never tire of prescribing practical solutions to everyday problems. He could do all these because they came naturally to him. They were not political statements or designed to impress.

A great Muslim died on an auspicious day of Hindus in a Christian city. He maintained Secularism and Democracy in death also.

When the history of post-Independence India is written, Kalam would rank right up there on the top inspirations. He will inspire India and Indians for years to come.

In his poignant goodbye to Kalam, his aide Srijan Pal Singh says, he once asked Kalam what would he like to be remembered as: “President, scientist, writer, Missile Man, Indian 2020, Target 3 billion..what?”
Kalam replied: “Teacher.”
Yes, Kalam would be remembered for teaching us the value of both karma and raj dharma.

In generations to come, India will no doubt produce finer minds; it is unlikely to give us a bigger heart. More than his achievements as a missile and defence technologist, beyond governmental accomplishments and far removed from the prizes and honours he received, APJ touched human lives. A role model for so many and a great human being departed us.

Lifestory snapshot:

Few inspiring things you may not know about our beloved Dr. APJ Kalam:

He always woke up at 4 AM
Since the age of 8, Kalam used to wake up at 4 in the morning. He would take a bath and leave home to study mathematics.

He read his Namaz like a true Muslim
After coming back from the tuition, Kalam used to read the namaz. Thereafter, till 8 in the morning, he used to sell the newspapers at Rameshwaram Railway Station.

Author of inspirational books
He had written many inspirational books, like Wings of Fire, which aims at motivating Indian youth. Guiding Souls: Dialogues on the Purpose of Life reveals his spiritual side. He was also a poet, and had written some poems in his native Tamil.

He was an Aeronautical engineer
Dr Kalam pursued Aeronautical Engineering from Madras Engineering College and joined ISRO in 1962.

Built India’s first space vehicle
Under the leadership of Kalam, India made its first Indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle i.e SLV-3. In 1980, Rohini satellite was installed near the Earth’s orbit and India became the member of International Space Club.

Awarded India’s 3 highest honours
The Government of India has honoured him with the nation’s highest civilian honours: the Padma Bhushan (in 1981), Padma Vibhushan (1990) and the Bharat Ratna (1997) for his contribution in ISRO and DRDO and his role as a scientific advisor to the Government of India.

Missile Man
Thereafter, Kalam designed the Indigenous guided missile. He prepared missiles like Agni and Prithvi using Indian technique.From 1992 to 1999, Kalam also served as the Defence Advisor to the then Defence Minister. He was also the Chief Scientific Adviser of India.

India enters Nuclear Nations list
Meanwhile, the Vajpayee government performed the Pokhran nuclear test for the second time and India was included in the nuclear nations.In 1982, Kalam was made the Director of DRDL (Defence Research Development Laboratory).

Unique laurels
Kalam is the third President of India to have been honoured with a Bharat Ratna before being elected to the chair of President. He is also the first scientist and first unmarried person to become the President of India.

Youth Icon

“No other democratic nation has 600 million youth. The ignited mind of the youth is the most powerful resource — on the earth, above the earth, under the earth — and we have that,” he said. When he was elected as President, Kalam made it a priority to meet one-on-one with young people, setting a target of 500,000 such exchanges for his five-year term. Many came to know him as “Kalam Chacha” (“Kalam Uncle”). Even after his retirement, his priority was reaching to youth of India and inspiring them. His 79th birthday was recognised as World Student’s Day by United Nations. Kalam used to regularly meet school and college students and talk to them about science, technology and life. He often shared with them his vision on where India should be by 2020. Anecdotes about Kalam replying to random letters written to him by children are plenty. In the last 15 years, he had interacted with more than 18 million youngsters either face-to-face or over the internet.

Uniform Civil Code

In September 2003, in an interactive session in PGI Chandigarh, Kalam supported the need of Uniform Civil Code in India, keeping in view the population of the country.

His vision for India as a future superpower

I have identified five areas where India has a core competence for integrated action: (1) agriculture and food processing; (2) education and healthcare; (3) information and communication technology; (4) infrastructure, reliable and quality electric power, surface transport and infrastructure for all parts of the country; and (5) self-reliance in critical technologies. These five areas are closely inter-related and if advanced in a coordinated way, will lead to food, economic and national security.

“Unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. In this world, fear has no place, only strength respects strength.”

His vision for India Media

He strongly advocated Indian Media to be positive and cited multiple examples. I was fortunate to attend a video conference by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam when he was President and here is an excerpt from the message: “I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was the day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert into an orchid and a granary. It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news. In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. We need to correct ourselves and improve.”

Few Inspiring thoughts by APJ:

  • “You have to dream before your dreams can come true.”
  • “Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.”
  • “No religion has mandated killing others as a requirement for its sustenance or promotion.”
  • “Pyar karne ke liye toh ye zindagi bhi kam pad jati hai, pata nahi log nafarat ke liye waqt kaise nikalte hai.”
  • “Difficulties in your life do not come to destroy you. But to help you realise your hidden potential and power. Let difficulties know that you too are difficult.”
  • “Life is a difficult game. You can win it only by retaining your birth-right to be a person.”
  • “We will be remembered only if we give to our younger generation a prosperous and safe India, resulting out of economic prosperity coupled with civilizational heritage.”
  • “Those who cannot work with their hearts achieve but a hollow, half-hearted success that breeds bitterness all around.”
  • “Educationists should build the capacities of the spirit of inquiry, creativity, entrepreneurial and moral leadership among students and become their role model.”
  • “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.”
  • “If a country is to be corruption free and become 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.”
  • “My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This is my message to the young people.”
  • “God, our Creator, has stored withing our minds and personalities, great potential strength and ability. Prayer helps us tap and develop these powers.”
  • “One best book is equal to hundread good friends but one good friend is equal to a library.”
  • “Dream: is not what you see in sleep but is the thing which doesn’t let you sleep.”
  • “To succeed in your mission, you must have single minded devotion to your goal.”
  • “When surrounded by day-to-day issues, there is a tendency to forget the good things we are bestowed with.”
  • “Life and Time are the world’s best teachers. Life teaches us to make good use of Time and Time teaches us the value of Life.”
  • “If a country is to be corruption free and become 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.”
  • “Don’t take rest after your first victory because if you fail in second, more lips are waiting to say that your first victory was just luck.”
  • “You are young, decide what will like to be remembered for?”
  • “All Birds find shelter during a rain. But Eagle avoids rain by flying above the Clouds.”
  • “Failure will never overtake me if my definition to succeed is strong enough”.
  • “Man needs difficulties in life because they are necessary to enjoy the success.”
  • “If you want to shine like a sun. First burn like a sun.”
  • “It is very easy to defeat someone, but it is very hard to win someone”
  • “All of us do not have equal talent. But, all of us have an equal opportunity to develop our talents.”
  • “Be more dedicated to making solid achievements than in running after swift but synthetic happiness.”
  • “Thinking should become your capital asset, no matter whatever ups and downs you come across in your life.”
  • “Without your involvement you can’t succeed. With your involvement you can’t fail.”
  • “Failure will never overtake me if my definition to succeed is strong enough”.
  • “Your life is your message to the world. Make sure it’s inspiring. Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. We are the only answer to meaning of life.  Each of us has the power to give life meaning.”
  • “We must think and act like a nation of a billion people, not like that of a million people,”

Books by APJ: Kalam wrote 12 books in total and he was also fond of writing songs and poetry.

  • Wings of Fire : An Autobiography: APJ Abdul Kalam With Arun Tiwari
  • 2020 – A Vision for the New Millenium : APJ Abdul Kalam With YS Rajan
  • Envisioning an Empowered Nation: Technology for Societal Transformation: APJ Abdul Kalam With A Sivathanu Pillai
  • Ignited Minds: Unleashing The Power Within India: APJ Abdul Kalam
  • My Journey: APJ Abdul Kalam
  • Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technology: R Narasimha and APJ Abdul Kalam
  • The Luminous Sparks: A biography in verse and colours: APJ Abdul Kalam
  • The Life Tree: Poems: APJ Abdul Kalam, Painting illustrations by Manav Gupta
  • Mission India: A Vision for Indian Youth: APJ Abdul Kalam with YS Rajan
  • Children Ask Kalam: Children and APJ Abdul Kalam
  • Guiding Souls: Dialogues on the Purpose of life: APJ Abdul Kalam with Arun K Tiwari
  • Inspiring Thoughts: by APJ Abdul Kalam

Here is the list of favorite books of APJ:

  • Thirukural. Written by Thiruvalluvar more than 2,000 years ago, it is a collection of 1,330 rhyming Tamil couplets or aphorisms (kural)
  • Man the Unknown by the Nobel laureate and doctor-turned-philosopher Alexis Carrel.
  • Light from Many Lamps: A Treasury of Inspiration by Lillian Eichler Watson
  • Empires of the Mind: Lessons to Lead and Succeed In a Knowledge-Based World by Denis Waitley
  • Everyday Greatness by Stephen R Covey and David K Hatch
  • Medicine and Compassion by Chief Monk Choakyi Nyima Rinpoche and Dr David R Shlim
  • Tiya by Samarpan

Controversy against APJ:

Even APJ is not spared by anti-social elements. Asauddin Owaisi: “APJ Abdul Kalam was not a true Muslim because he was a vegetarian and read Bhagwad Geeta.”

Never mind Owaisi, APJ was a true Indian. देख ले ओवैसी, आज पूरा देश एक सच्चे मुसलमान के लिए रो रहा है। बात मुस्लमान की नहीं देश के साथ इमान की है।
जात-धर्म से फरक नहीं पड़ता हमको, हम दिल से करते है सलाम…
जो कर गये देश के नाम जिन्दगी वो देश भक्त थे “कलाम”…!!

Few memories:





















3 thoughts on “Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam: From newspaper boy to President- Not less than An Avtar of the God in Kaliyuga!

  1. India needs integrated action on five areas as proclaimed by him viz Agriculture and food processing; Education and healthcare; Information and communication technology , Infrastructure, reliable and quality electric power, surface transport and infrastructure for all parts of the country; and self-reliance in critical technologies . If we focus those areas collectively and constructively, it may very helpful for us to attain the status of superpower in near future !

    Liked by 1 person

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