A legend has passed away. The brightest star in India just left to take his place in the galaxy above. President APJ Abdul Kalam was the most inspirational figure we have seen in this century and the past. Exceptionally talented and unbelievably humble, this man was the most ideal human being there could ever be. Our chest swells with pride at the fact that he was our country’s president once upon a time. From doing groundbreaking work in missile and space programmes to encouraging budding talent, this man has inspired a whole generation towards excellence.
No words can express the loss the nation has suffered. There has been no other figure as inspiring as he, and we hope his life and lessons will give birth to many other kalams who will grace our motherland in the years to come.
Here are 11 outstanding feats this man achieved that nobody ever could, and raised the benchmark of excellence to great heights.
1. The former president and one of the most talented rocket scientists in the country was a fisherman’s son born in a poor family. At one point of time, he distributed newspapers to support his family. But he went on to study aerospace engineering from Madras Institute of Technology, and soon joined DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation). From selling newspapers to designing helicopters – he proved nothing was impossible.
2. The breakthrough in his illustrious career came when he was welcomed at ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) and appointed the project director of the SLV-III mission – India’s first satellite launch programme! And thus, he became the Missile Man of the country.
3. Dr Kalam not only successfully launched the satellite Rohini in 1980, but also expanded India’s space programme to bring it at par with the powers that be of the world. This man was responsible for empowering India on the basis of its military strength after he took the reins of the country’s missile programme in his hands.
4. Brilliance never goes unnoticed, and in 1992, Dr Kalam was appointed chief scientific advisor to the prime minister. He was spearheading India’s missile strategy and power at a time when the country was struggling with maintaining friendly ties with its neighbor Pakistan as well as establishing a stronghold in international corridors.
5. Kalam managed it perfectly well by successfully conducting the Pokhran-II nuclear tests that sent out a clear signal that India could defend itself well. An iron hand and a clear conscience is what it takes to lead a nation, and Kalam proved it bang on.
6. Surprising as it may sound, Dr Kalam also invented a low cost coronary stent! From rocket science to medical engineering, there was nothing this man couldn’t do. In 1998, he developed this stent with cardiologist Soma Raju, and named it the “Kalam-Raju stent”.
7. The simplicity of his demeanour and the brilliance of his wisdom was evident in his simple lifestyle. Even after becoming president of the country, his needs were few. His books and veena (Yes, not many know he could play the veena really well) were pretty much the things he needed to be happy. A mark of a truly great person indeed.
8. He gave away all his wealth and savings to a trust called PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas) that he founded. A rocket scientist and president of a nation with no bank balance – could there be a better example of a greater man?
9. The mark of greatness lies in humility. At a convocation ceremony at IIT Varanasi, Dr Kalam refused to sit on a chair because it was bigger than the other chairs. Treating everybody equal is a virtue not even the greatest of minds manage to conquer.
10. When he became president, his “presidential guests” at the Kerala Raj Bhavan were – a cobbler and the owner of a small eating joint.
11. His vision of the country was a progressive one, and no other politician has encouraged young talent like he has. Even while president, he continued to visit schools and shared his knowledge with young minds. He was known to adore children and never refused a child. In the last days of his life, he dedicated himself to sharing his wisdom with the young generation. It is poetic justice that he went away delivering a lecture at a university. As they say, died with his boots on.
We salute the great man who led by example. His was a life well lived, and dedicated to the service of the nation. Here’s hoping he will continue to inspire us to strive towards excellence, and there will be many more kalams in the future. R.I.P, sir.