When he passed away, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was doing what he had always wanted to do after demitting office as the President of India – teaching.
He died after suffering a cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Shillong on 27 July 2015. On his third death anniversary, we remember the man who came to be known as the People’s President because of his leadership and motivational qualities.
From Scientist To Missile Man
Born Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam in Rameswaram on 15 October 1931, he received a degree in aeronautical engineering before joining the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 1958.
He subsequently joined the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), where he successfully headed the indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) programme.
He returned to ISRO in the early 80s, to launch the Indian Missile Development Programme. Dr Kalam was the Chief Executive of the Integrated Missile Development Programme (IMDP) when it was launched in 1982.
The objectives of the programme covered a diverse variety of missiles. These included the Agni, Prithivi, and Aakash missile. It is this tenure that earned him the sobriquet Missile Man.
Missile Man Becomes People’s President
The decade before he became President saw Dr Kalam serve as the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister (1992-1997) and Principal Scientific Advisor to the government (1997-2001)
1998 saw him play a key role in the 1998 Pokhran 2 nuclear tests carried out successfully in the deserts of Rajasthan. He soon became somewhat of a household name, and it would not be long before he entered public life and occupied the highest Constitutional post in the country.
In 2002, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA government proposed his name as the President. Given the background and track record of DR APJ Abdul Kalam, the Opposition Congress also agreed to back him, paving the way for his elevation as the 11th President of India.
Dr Kalam turned out to be a popular President, partly due to his earlier achievements in the field of science and technology, but mostly because of his simple lifestyle, and his innovative and open approach when it came to interacting with people.
The last days of his tenure as President saw Dr Kalam trying to popularise a campaign that was close to his heart – Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas (PURA). It is said that he gave away most of his earnings to fund this initiative.
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam wrote several books, including an autobiography Wings of Fire, and Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power within India. He was honoured with India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna in 1997.
APJ Abdul Kalam Quotes
Here are some famous quotes attributed to him.
“If you want to shine like a sun, first burn like a sun”
“Do not wait for something big to happen. Start where you are with whatever you have”
“Unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. In this world, fear has no place. Only strength respects strength”
“Only the person who has the courage to lose sight of the shores can discover new oceans”
“There is no success without failure. Failures are just intermittent blockades. Success if the final destination”