Born in a lower middle class family in Rameshwaram, a coastal Hindu pilgrimage town of Tamilnadu in southern India, APJ Abdul Kalam never failed to dream big.
Distributing newspapers after attending school to support his father, who owned a boat and helped commute pilgrims between Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi, his childhood struggles taught him only to stand tall like a beacon against all odds of life.
He did dream big along the shiny shores of the vast ocean to make it to the Presidential palace one day as the first citizen of the country. His exemplary life and ascendance to greatness from a lower walk of life made him become an inspiration for every young Indian who aspire to create history.
He regretted graduating in Physics and the time he spent on it, but later decided to do his aerospace engineering course in Madras Institute of Technology.
He wanted to become a fighter pilot but couldn’t achieve it as he finished one position below the selected eight candidates in Indian Air Force then.
Becoming the missile man
His dreams were not shattered; reality was awaiting to take him to a much greater feat by making him serve the country as one of the most celebrated scientific minds, who helped the country in reaching space.
Having worked under Vikram Sarabhai, he was the director of India’s first satellite launch vehicle SLV III deploying satellite Rohini in the orbit.
He was not a part of the development of Smiling Buddha, India’s Pokhran I series nuclear test, but only witnessed the event as a representative of Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL), which is an armament study laboratory of DRDO.
During the Pokhran II series of tests he was the Chief Project Coordinator along with Indian metallurgist Rajagopala Chidambaram. Both played an integral role in making the nuclear tests successful.
There were allegations from the director of the test site that the test was not successful and did not yield the desired results, but only a fizzle and Kalam made false reports on the success of the tests.
The claims were rejected and not considered as bothering concerns. Media coverage during the event made him a national hero and he became to be fondly called as the missile man of India.
Becoming the people’s president
He was the first scientist and a bachelor and the third Bharat Ratna awardee who later became the President of India.
Like any other political careers, his presidency also seem some tumultuous stages, when he remained inactive with 20 of the 21 mercy plea petitions submitted to repeal a death row, among which one was Afzal Guru, who was involved in the attacks of the Parliament of India.
He took a stand on the mercy plea of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a rapist but in favor of the judgment. The toughest action that he had taken during his presidency was the signing of Office of Profit Bill, according to him.
This bill prevents members of parliament to be the incumbent of any positions that would give them the opportunity to gain financial profits. He also supported the establishment of a uniform civil code.
His simplicity and thought provoking ideas to motivate the young minds for a better future made him the most favorite of all presidents among the people.
After his presidency, he was criticized for the support of a nuclear power plant in Koodankulam, which was opposed by the local.
He was a writer, a poet, and a vegetarian who believed in all religious ideologies. He enjoyed playing a string instrument called veena and he was also the nominee for MTV Youth Icon of the year during 2003 and 2006.
He was also a visiting professor in prestigious institutes like IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Indore, and IIM Shillong, where he died of a massive cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture on ‘The Livable Planet Earth’.
Apart from being a person who had held the highest positions, he was a very benevolent leader who led a simple life even throughout the career, with a vision of making India a superpower by 2020.
His love for the young minds is well known that he nurtured noble values and ideas in their heart to become great individuals of determination and passion. He taught the youth how to dream big and the nation the power of dreaming big.
Image Source: CNN