Born in humble circumstances in a Muslim family in Rameswaram, on October 15, 1931, a young boy who sold newspapers from door to door to help his family make ends meet rose to the highest office in the land. Studied physics and aerospace engineering, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam’s life, as a student was very challenging. It was infused with hardships and struggles.
As a Muslim steeped in Hindu culture, he was a scientist who could recite classical Tamil poetry, who played the Rudra-veena, a traditional South Indian instrument, and listened to Carnatic devotional music every day, but performed his namaz with no sense of disparity.
Fondly called India’s ‘Missile Man’, Dr Kalam was particularly close to young people and he loved to be among students. India is remembering APJ Abdul Kalam on his death anniversary today.
Until his last breath, he did what he beloved the most, inspiring the youth via his lecture. Dr Kalam passed away due to cardiac arrest while delivering a speech at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Shillong on 27 July 2015.
On his fifth death anniversary, the internet is filled with messages and tribute, remembering one of the most inspiring presidents the country has ever had. Twitter’s filled with netizens posting his quotes and photos of not just his personal life but also of him being around children and missile testing sites, honouring his legacy.
He authored around 25 books as well. Some of them are ‘Wings of Fire’, ‘Ignited Minds’, ‘Turning Points’, and many others. Among his numerous awards were two of the country’s highest honours, the Padma Vibhushan (1990) and the Bharat Ratna (1997). During his tenure as the President of India, Kalam rejected one case and commuted a death sentence in another, while he did not decide on 23 other cases.
He was committed towards teaching and thus United Nations, in the year 2010, recognised October 15 as World Students’ Day.
Dr Kalam was elected as the 11th President of India in 2002 with the support of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the then-opposition Indian National Congress. Moreover, it is safe to say he was the least controversial president to date.
He was widely referred to as the “People’s President”. He returned to his civilian life of education, writing and public service after a single term.
Spending the next four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Dr Kalam was intimately involved in India’s civilian space programme and military missile development efforts.
Abdul Kalam was also, unusually for an Indian who occupied the high positions he did, a man of great simplicity.
In an interview with NDTV in which the audience was all students, Dr Kalam provided the students with his E-mail and asked the students to respond the answer to the question he was about to ask. The question he asked was “If there is something that you’d be wanted to remember for, what would it be?” However, before asking this very question he addressed the students sitting as the audience, and said, “Smiling I a fantastic thing, you know. Because when you start your day with a smile, the whole day will be smiling [back at you]. If you don’t smile, then the day won’t smile either.”
Reminiscing with few beautiful words by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam on his death anniversary
1. A dream is not that which you see while sleeping, it is something that does not let you sleep.
2. I was willing to accept what I couldn’t change.
3. All of us do not have equal talent. But, all of us have an equal opportunity to develop our talents.
4. 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.
5. If you want to shine like a sun, first burn like a sun.
Whether it was his career in science or politics, APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India, inspires people across the world. India mourns his death, but will long celebrate his life.
The country will forever be grateful for his contribution and commitment to education and inspiring the youth. His presence will be missed. But the spirit to dream, chase and achieve our dreams shall remain forever with us.
In his life and his work, APJ Abdul Kalam embodied the best of what India can be.
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