“Dream, dream, dream,
Transforms into thoughts,
Thoughts result into action”.
This was stated by visionary Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India at a jam-packed hall in Kolkata on January 2, 2003 when he inspired thousands of school children to dream, to dream big, and let those dreams culminate in thoughts and actions. “Dream is not that which you see while sleeping, it is something that does not let you sleep,” the ‘people’s President’ had elaborated later.
Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, internationally known as the “Missile Man of India”, was born on October 15, 1931 at Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram district of Tamil Nadu. He got his early education in his hometown, after which he graduated in science from St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchi. Thereafter, Dr. Kalam took his Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology in 1954.
Dr. Kalam started his career with the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) in 1958 and served as a senior Scientific Assistant, heading a small team that was tasked with making a prototype hovercraft. After a four-year stint at DRDO, Dr. Kalam joined Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and became a member of the satellite launch vehicle team at Thumba. Within a short time, he was appointed the Project Director of SLV-3. Under his able leadership, the team succeeded in putting the 35kg Rohini-1 satellite on a low earth with the help of SLV-3. Then, after spending 19 fruitful years in ISRO in various capacities, he returned to DRDO to head the country’s Integrated Missile Development Programme, which culminated in the successful launches of a series of missiles such as Agni, Prithvi, Trishul, Akash and Nag, etc.
Thereafter, Dr. Kalam focussed on development of nuclear potential of the country and proved his mettle by the successful nuclear tests at Pokharan, Rajasthan in May 1998. The nation lauded his achievements and in July 2002, NDA Government at the Centre chose him as the 11th President of India, which was a landmark event of great importance in the history of India, because it was for the first time that the nation gave preference to the quality of the person rather than political moorings.
Apart from the above achievements, the credit of developing composite products and reinforced plastics from modern technology also goes to him. Dr. Kalam was primarily responsible for developing a new material called Carbon-Carbon which could help in making light calipers for polio victims. Besides, the credit of conceptualising the much talked-about, national technology plan named “Technology Vision-2020” also goes to him.
Owing to his splendid achievements, he was widely honoured with a number of awards nationally and internationally. He was awarded Padma Bhusan in 1981, the Padma Vibhusan in 1990 and the H.K. Firodia Award for Excellence in Science & Technology in 1996. In 1997, Dr. Kalam was conferred “Bharat Ratna”, the nation’s highest civilian award. However, truly speaking, no award is good enough to thank him for his great contribution in putting India on the frontiers of modern technology and making our country self-reliant in hi-tech fields.
In addition to his high credentials and achievements, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was also well known for his simplicity, humble life style, modesty, personal integrity and vision for India. He was basically a man who could inspire, lead and build an excellent team. He stood as an icon surrounded by a halo of remarkable qualities of mind and heart seldom seen in life. Besides, deep-rooted secularism was his another noble trait. Although he was a devout Muslim, his favourite passtime included reading Bhagvad Gita, playing Veena and listening to Indian music. His patriotism needs no comment. He breathed India, dreamed of India and visualised a great India. Besides these, Dr. Kalam was also a great writer. He authored and co-authored many books such as ‘Wings of Fire’, ‘India 2020—A Vision For The New Millennium’, ‘My Journey’, ‘Ignited Minds—Unleashing the Power Within India’, etc. Even after holding the highest constitutional title, he had been touring the entire nation, meeting the students, talking to them, lecturing them, interacting with them and inspiring them.
His dedication to his duties can be gauged from the fact that he died while delivering a lecture to students in the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong, Meghalaya after a sudden cardiac arrest on July 27, 2015 at the age of 83. He was an outstanding scientist and a pioneer engineer who devoted his entire life to the nation and died while serving it. India continues to miss this great scientist as his traits and words of wisdom keep on inspiring one and all.