Variously described as India’s ‘Missile Man’, a ‘Techo-Yogj’, Avul Pakir Jainulabddin (A.P.J.) Abdul Kalam became the twelfth President of India. With the outcome of the Presidential elections panning along expected lines, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was elected President getting nearly ninety percent of the vote value from the electoral college. He was administered the oath to this august office on July 25, 2002. Those who have known Abdul Kalam closely talk about his frugal lifestyle, humane nature and dedication-sometimes he packed in 18 hours of work in a day. He is a man guided by just one mission—_that every Indian should benefit from technology. lveryone who knows him speaks of his impeccable honesty and ability to steer clear of controversies Lt. General (retired) V. Sundaram, who headed missile programme under Kalam, said; “His simplicity and fairness has drawn a lot of us to him. He may take some time to pick up the threads, but I am sure he will succeed in his new assignment.”
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was born on October 15, 1931 in a middle class Tamil family of a town called Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. He received his primary education in a local school of the pilgrimage town of Rameshwaram, His father, Mr. Jainulabddin was not a formally educated man but was well-informed about social and religious things and could read and write English quite well. His father greatly influenced and inspired Kalam in his early years of life. His mother, Ashyamma was a kind and generous lady who showed great affection for Kalam. Two other persons who influenced Kalam in his early life were—the head-priest of Rameshwaram temple, Mr. Lakshman Shastri, and his science teacher, Mr. Shiv Subramanya Aiyer.
After finishing his primary education at Rameshwaram panchayat elementary school, he was sent to Sehwartz School in Ramanathapuram town for further education. On finishing his school, he joined St. Joseph’s college at Tiruchirapalli and passed his B.Sc. Then he took up aeronautical engineering at Madras Institute of Technology. Kalam’s classmate and relative, M.M.A.Noordeen mentions that Kalam took up aeronautics on the advice of Professor Fr. Sequeira while he was at St. Joseph’s college.
In 1958, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam joined the Directorate of Technical Development and Production in the Ministry of Defence. But fame and adulation came to Kalam with S L V-3 project at the Indian Space Research Organisation. R. V. Perumal, the associate director at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, hailed Kalam for his fiery determination to make India a strong and rich nation. Kalam himself has noted four milestones in his career. The years at l.S.R.O.’; when ‘Agni’ met its mission requirements in 1994; the nuclear tests “which made me feel proud as an Indian”; and when he made lightweight callipers for children at the orthopaedic centre at the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad. The man who led the nuclear weaponisation programme and believed “only strength respects strength” is now involved in a brain research centre for mentally challenged children, a project to digitally format knowledge preserved on palm leaves a cochlea implant for deaf children.
For his achievement and services in various fields, he received various awards as recognition. In 1981, he was awarded Padma Bhushan. In 1990, he was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan. The nation’s highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna was conferred on him in 1997. These awards testify that he used very little except hard work, motivation and practical approach to lead a brilliant team of what the world for long considered as garage technicians into changing the threat of perception towards India. This boat-owner’s son, who sold newspapers to pay his school fees, is the key behind India’s nuclear weapons programme, the country’s major meal-ticket in diplomacy.
Kalam is strict vegetarian (nicknamed Kalam lyer), teetotaller’ and remains a bachelor. He plays the Veena, writes poetry in Tamil and admires poet Subramanya Bharati. He prays twice a day, and can quote with equal ease from the Koran and the Bhagwad Gita. He says that India’s problem is not with its youth but its national vision. He writes: “The nation should have a vision. That vision should echo in Parliament and the nation should decide. The vision should further echo in family and among children.
Famous quote by him :
Intezar karne walon ko sirf utna milta hai jitna koshish karne wale chod diya karte hain.