|Insight Feature |
A Man of Simplicity, a Man of Inspiration……Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam
29 July 2015
* Srishti Bhatia
has lost his pearl. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam, the ‘Missile Man’
who became popular as ‘People’s President’ died after a massive cardiac
arrest and collapsed during a lecture at the IIM Shillong. Born in
humble circumstances in a Muslim family in rural Tamil Nadu, a young boy
who sold newspapers as a boy to help his family make ends meet rose to
the highest office in the land. And they did so not through the
conventional route of a political career but through the mark of hard
work as a scientist in government service.
They spent nearly four
decades as a scientist and science administrator,at the Defence
Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Indian Space Research
Organization (ISRO) and was intimately involved in India's civilian
space program and military missile development efforts and popularly
known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development
of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology.
was also part of the INCOSPAR committee working under Vikram
Sarabhai,the renowned space scientist. They were at ISRO where they were
the project director of India's first Satellite Launch Vehicle
(SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in near-earth
orbit. They visited NASA's Langley Research
Center in Hampton,Virginia,Goddard Space Flight
Center in Greenbelt,Maryland and Wallops Flight Facility. They also
directed two projects,Project Devil and Project Valiant, to develop
ballistic missiles from the technology of the successful SLV programme.
played a major part in developing many missiles under the mission
including Agni and Prithvi. They played a critical organizational,
technical and political role in India's Pokhran-II nuclear tests in
1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974. Known
as the people’s President, he was the first occupant of the Rashtrapati
Bhawan who connected to masses, particularly the youth, who accessed him
via the internet. Kalam set a target of interacting with 100,000
students during the two years after his resignation from the post of
scientific adviser in 1999.
He explained, "I feel comfortable in
the company of young people, particularly high school students.
Henceforth, I intend to share with them experiences, helping them to
ignite their imagination and preparing them to work for a developed
India for which the road map is already available."Combining
idiosyncratic power-point presentations of his vision for India's future
with instructional poems for children, lecturing on everything from
solar energy to the importance of broadband connectivity for India's
villages, Abdul Kalam "ignited minds", to use the title of one of his
five bestselling books (he published 17 in all).
Kalam launched a programme for the youth of India called the What Can I Give Movement, with a central theme of defeating corruption.
After leaving office, Kalam became a visiting professor at the IIM
Shillong, the IIM Ahmedabad and the IIM Indore, an honorary fellow
of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Chancellor of the Indian
Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram, professor
of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University. He taught information
technology at the International Institute of Information Technology,
Hyderabad and technology at Banaras Hindu University and Anna
In his book India 2020, Kalam strongly advocated an
action plan to develop India into a "knowledge superpower" and
a developed nation by the year 2020. Kalam's 79th birthday was
recognised as World Student Day by the United Nations. He has also
received honorary doctorates from 40 universities. They were honoured
with the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan and finally received India's
highest civilian honour,the Bharat Ratna, for his contribution to the
scientific research and modernisation of defence technology in India.
2005,Switzerland declared 26 May as "Science Day" to commemorate
Kalam's visit to the country. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Von
Braun Award from the National Space Society "to recognize excellence in
the management and leadership of a space-related project." As a Muslim
steeped in Hindu culture,they were too many an oddity - 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 incongruity.
melding the Islam into which they were born with a strong sense of the
traditions in which their civilization was anchored, Abdul Kalam was a
complete Indian, an embodiment of the eclecticism of India's heritage of
diversity. With his long silver hair unfashionably combed back and his
thick Tamilian accent, he was an unlikely pop culture idol, but that was
what he became.