By: Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
The journey of a poor boatman’s son, who sold newspapers to help his family after his school time, from the temple town of Rameswaram in the extreme south of the country to the highest seat of power in Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi, is no less than a fairy-tale. It is hardly surprising that APJ Abdul Kalam will be remembered as India’s most popular President. India’s Missile Man, a great educationist, teacher, communicator, inspirational leader, and humanitarian, people’s President APJ Abdul Kalam, loved and respected by one all, was immensely popular among the students and the youth. Kalam was the role model of the young generation, communicating with whom he liked most.
Normally we see that the president and the people portray the president as a figurehead whose only job is to cut a few ribbons or lay some foundation stones. If we ask the common man on the street, he will belt out Dr. Abdul Kalam’s name as the president that he wanted to see leading his country. He had everything going for him and was loved by one and all – the kid on the street and the older gentleman sipping coffee in his retirement days. He was a messenger of humanity and a spectacular personality. His achievements have always ensured that India has held its head high. His simplicity, honesty, and people skills were inimitable.
One needs to admire APJ Abdul Kalam for his phenomenal rise – from a rural town to the pinnacle. He retained a childlike curiosity till his end. His last interaction, while with students, is a fine example of his attachment towards our youth. APJ Abdul Kalam had said, “Don’t declare holiday on my death; instead work an extra day if you love me.” There are too many political holidays on birth and death anniversaries of leaders. Great leaders like Kalam, who is no more with us, always desired that their countrymen work hard rather than remember them through political holidays on their birth and death anniversaries.
Kalam had the rare distinction of being a scientist who contributed to the progress of developments in space, defense, and atomic energy. No other President or head of a state has this distinction. His simple but powerful speeches and inspiring writing have always ignited young minds.
He has bequeathed a “mixed legacy”. His eventful life has a lot to commend. Full marks to him for doing all that he could to “ignite” young minds and unleash the latent energy in them. He excelled at motivating students “to aim high and work hard” to realize their full potential. His love for children is what made him dedicate his book, Ignited Minds, to a child who once impressed him with her answer to his query, “Who is our enemy?” The answer: “Poverty.” The nation has lost a great visionary and an outstanding technocrat.
Kalam was a saint and a living legend. He was a Muslim but he held equal respect for Quran and the Bhagavad Gita. He played the Rudra-veena in his spare time.
In the passing of Dr. Kalam, India has lost one of its tallest sons of the 21st century whose ideas, life, and works will continue to inspire generations to come. “India’s Missile Man” and “the People’s President” brought life and dignity to everything he did and every position he held. As he wished so he lived – a teacher throughout his life till his last breath. He not only had a vision for a developed India but had a blueprint of how to achieve this within a time frame. His passing is a great loss to the country on the threshold of leaping into the future with great hopes. Lastly, I would like to recall Einstein’s words about Mahatma Gandhi: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a man ever walked upon this Earth.” A person like Dr. Kalam is born once in centuries. A real star on earth has now become a guiding star in the skies. Let us hope that our tribute to the great man would carry forward his mission for a strong and prosperous India. (The author is a freelance writer, journalist & cartoonist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)