India’s Missile Man, the People’s President, the Problem-solver, a nationalist thinker – he was known by many names, but former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was a man the masses – cutting across religion, age and gender – loved and respected as their President. His was a story that inspired the young and the restless to actually sit up and do something about the problems plaguing the society and the country on the whole. Hailing from a very humble background, a self-made man – he spearheaded the country’s missile program at the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and went on to be awarded the prestigious Bharat Ratna in the year 1997. Besides, he also held the unique honor of being recognized by 30 universities and institutions with an honorary doctorate.
During his tenure as the 11th President of India, there was a dimension of dignity and respect that the common man associated with the President’s office. Rashtrapati Bhavan threw its doors open to the public during his presidency. Dr. Kalam had this innate ability to influence the impressionable minds of the students and young children alike whom he considered very dear. One of the anecdotes in this regard would be his personalized thank you cards that he would sign and send out in response to the numerous letters and cards he received from students across the country.
Moreover, he was a visionary and could foresee a developed India. He had a roadmap in mind that would propel India to greater heights – Vision 2020, an ideology anchored in development using technology and freedom powered by strength. He epitomized humility in all its glory and in fact during press conferences, one could often see him interact with journalists and crosscheck with them if their questions had been duly answered. This was highly uncommon a sight in the journalistic world. A passionate teacher – that truly embodied his persona – he had a thirst for knowledge and the curiosity of a child. This was primarily why he appealed to all sections of the Indian society. In fact all his books, be it the highly inspirational “Wings of Fire” and “Ignited Minds”, all espoused the same ideals.
India has lost a great leader. It would thus be apt to remember Dr. Kalam in his own words that he perfectly embodied, particularly words we students must strive to live by:
“A leader must have vision and passion and not be afraid of any problem. Instead, he should know how to defeat it. Most importantly, he must work with integrity.”