There are some who realize their dreams, no matter what the odds are while others fret and whine about being born in the wrong place, growing up in different situations, and not realizing their dreams. APJ Abdul Kalam was the perfect example of the first kind, once he said “Every pain gives a lesson and every lesson changes a person”.
On his death anniversary, we will look into Kalam’s untold and unheard stories of success and what made him “The People President”. He played a pivotal role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998.
Early Life: When a seagull gave purpose to Kalam’s Life
Kalam, an ordinary boy from a little-known town (Rameswaram) on the coast of the Bay of Bengal once saw a seagull fly and became one of the greatest minds that inspires millions of dreams.
Kalam was the youngest among his five siblings. 10-year-old Kalam used to distribute Newspapers (Dinamani Newspaper) to help out the family in earning. He was quite active and was curious about the world. One of his favorite places in the small village was Manikam’s Library where he devoured books, newspapers, and periodicals in search of knowledge and answers to his curious questions.
The clear blue skies of Rameswaram were often punctuated by British RAF fighter aircraft, As world war II was ongoing. Kalam used to chase them along the seashore and often wondered what makes them fly. This was the very reason why AZAD (Kalam’s home name)wanted to be a fighter Pilot, his ‘dearest dream’.
Kalam once shared, “When I was a young boy, 10 years boy, the second World War was going on. I had a teacher, Siva Subramania Iyer. So, My teacher was teaching how birds fly. All the theory behind it he started telling. There we saw seagulls and sea birds flying. That day, my teacher, Siva Subramania Iyer injected in me what should be the goal in my life, that is something to do with flight (aeronautical science).”
When Kalam failed in the interview for Air Force pilot and went into the mountains
Kalam failed to qualify for the Air Force pilot test in Dehradun. Only eight seats were offered in the test, but Kalam bagged the 9th rank. This shattered his childhood dream of flying a fighter plane. In sheer disappointment, he took a bus to Rishikesh and headed towards the banks of Ganga. It was one of the defining moments in Kalam’s life as in his words he wrote “stood at the edge of a cliff with a lake below.”
Kalam met the man whom he would often call the Guru of his life in Rishikesh. Swami Sivananda walked towards Kalam and questioned him about the source of his sorrow. Sivananda gave Kalam the mantra of his life — ‘Defeat the defeatist tendency’.
From there Kalam never looked back and in his course of life, he left no stone unturned to achieve his dreams. And from their inspiring Millions of mind and eventually being the 11th president of India, ‘The People’s President’.
Strength Respects Strength
APJ Abdul Kalam once said, “Unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. In this world, fear has no place. Only Strength respects Strength”. He places India on the world map when he played a pivotal role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, which announced the arrival of India in Nuclear power.
Kalam as a professor: A teacher till the very end
In an interview, Kalam said, “If the people remember me as a good teacher, that will be the biggest honor for me.” Kalam was very fond of teaching and inspired generations from his teaching. After leaving office(Post-presidency), Kalam became a visiting professor at the IIM Shillong, IIM Ahmedabad, and IIM Indore.
He was also an honorary fellow of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram; professor of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University; and an adjunct at many other academic and research institutions across India. He taught information technology at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, and technology at Banaras Hindu University and Anna University.
Kalam’s Notable Books
- Wings of Fire
- India 2020
- Ignited Minds
- Indomitable Spirit
- Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji