On 27th July 2015, last year we lost a great soul, Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam “The Missile Man” of India passed away while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong.
Adjectives might not be enough to describe this legendary persona, who has won every Indian’s heart with his simplicity and generosity.He’s truly an epitome of simplicity, hard work and morality. A scientist, administrator, researcher, inspirational writer and speaker par excellence and a President who was respected highly by everyone. His ingenious spontaneity, teachings and vision will still continue to inspire generations to come.
A lot has been said over APJ Abdul Kalam’s life and times, but there’s much more to him outside the office— he was perhaps the best embodiment of the spirit of India.
Here are some lesser known anecdotes about the late Dr Kalam that will make us appreciate him even more:
#1. He was the perfect symbol of meritocratic India, the Ideal citizen, and an Optimistic Indian :
Little did Jainulabdeen an Ashiamma know that their son wold grow up to be an exceptional humane. Born in a village to a poor fishing family in Rameswaram, right from his humble beginnings as a student who distributed newspapers to supplement the family’s income to the 11th President of India, he rouse through dint of his hard work.
#2. He had always put his Nation at First:
Whether it was as a scientist or President, he was a patriot first. He was a protégé of three of India’s greatest scientists – Dr Vikram Sarabhai, professor Satish Dhawan and Dr Brahm Prakash. He took only two holidays in his life, it is said – both for deaths, of his father and mother.
#3. When President APJ Abdul Kalam asked a question “What should we do to free our planet from terrorism” on Yahoo.
This question attracted a huge gathering. The best thing was renowned personalities like Sri Sri Ravishankar, Kiran Bedi, and Leander Paes shared their views over this, along with 31,000 other responses, which turned out to be the most answered question globally. Such was his Excellency.
#4. Kalam contributed immensely both as a scientist and as a president.
His contribution at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was immense. Dr. Kalam worked as an Aerospace Engineer with DRDO and ISRO. He was responsible for numerous projects such as Project Devil and Project Valiant and launch of the Rohini-1. During his term as president, he was affectionately known as the People’s President, saying that signing the Office of Profit Bill was was the toughest decision he had taken during his tenure. After completing his term as President, Kalam served as a visiting professor in various esteemed institute.
#5. He was the master of inspiring quotes:
Here is the glimpse of some of his quotes:
“You have to dream before your dreams come true.”
“Great dreams of great dreamers are always transcended.”
“To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal.”
“Man needs his difficulties because they are necessary to enjoy success.”
“We should not give up and we should not allow the problem to defeat us.”
#6. His fight against corruption:
He launched his mission for the youth of the nation called the “What Can I Give Movement” with the main aim to defeat corruption in India.
#7. My name is Prithviraj, Major General Prithviraj:
In the sweltering heat of the desert of Pokhran, the country’s two top scientists, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Indian Atomic Energy Commission head D. R. Chidambaram, were always in character as army generals whenever they visited Pokhran, all in order to maintain secrecy. Kalam as being the one of the person in the circle of trust had to live like a military person wearing army fatigues and talk like he is from the army.
He took the name of Prithviraj as an ironic twist to the fact that it was Dr. Kalam who started and developed the Prithvi ballistic missile , which is India’ first nuclear-capable missile program. Also, Prithviraj is the last Hindu ruler of Delhi, and this is a testament to the love Kalam has for Indian culture and history.
Kalam’s brief role as Major General Prithviraj ensured that, when the nuclear bomb went off and the operation ‘Smiling Buddha’ became a success, the world shockingly woke up to realise that India became a nuclear nation.
#8. He was known to write his own thank you cards with personalized messages in his own handwriting.
What a way this is to show humbleness towards a person to appreciate his/her work. One such cite was when Quora user Naman Narain drew a sketch of Dr. Kalam and sent it to the President. The President sent him a handwritten thank you letter with the card, which consisted of the inspirational message & his signature on it.
“On cloud nine” is what one must feel about this gesture.
#9. He was a Renaissance man :
A practicing Muslim, he was also well versed with Hindu traditions and read the Bhagavad Gita. He was a scholar of Thirukkural (a classic of couplets or Kurals) and was known to quote at least one couplet in most of his speeches. He had a keen interest in literature and wrote poems in his native Tamil.
#10. No matter who you are, what your profession is, he respects you:
That’s Kalam Sir for you.
#11. Guess who did he invite as Presidential Guests??
An incident that highlights Kalam’s simplicity is his Presidential Guest list to Kerala’s Raj Bhavan during his first visit to the state after becoming the President. He invited a road side cobbler and owner of a very small hotel as he had spent a significant time as a scientist in Trivandrum and was quite close to the two during that time.
#12. He refused to sit on a larger chair while President because he didn’t believe in hierarchy.
His humility is probably best described in this incident while he was President. Kalam was the Chief Guest at a convocation of IIT(BHU)Varanasi and saw that of the five chairs in stage, the centre one being designated for him while the others for University officials. But he refused to sit on it as was larger in size than the others, and offered it to the Vice Chancellor, who also refused and ultimately a different chair was got for him.
#13. Dr. Kalam was a great inspiration to many, especially kids, and always inspired them to dream big and achieve great goals in life.
“I will not be presumptuous enough to say that my life can be a role model for anybody, but some poor child living in an obscure place in an underprivileged social setting may find a little solace in the way my destiny has been shaped.” – Dr. APJ Kalam