Kalam, or the Word of Allah, is an Arabic word which came first in use around 9th Century AD as a school of philosophical theology. It asserted the existence of God as a prime engine of creation and the created. God is immortal, divine and omnipresent. And so is the case with a man, who bears His name.
Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was a man with divine insights and when the nation mourns his departure from the mortal world, I strongly feel that he will remain with us as an immortal influence in the ‘ignited minds’. We must have sorrowful hearts for those who leave a vacuum behind them to be never filled in by others. But for men like Dr Kalam who devoted an entire life for the well being and building of a strong nation, one must not be sorrowful. We the people, who if consider themselves as responsible citizens of a great nation, must rejoice their contribution plans in the making of the nation; something which Dr Kalam taught us. For the life details of the man, it is easily accessible to anyone anywhere. What matters, are the various examples he set in that life for many like us. Let us have a brief look on the inspiring teachings of Dr Kalam which must be imprinted on our souls.
Dr. Kalam’s Life
One of the frequent excuses people may offer for their continuing backwardness is a humble background and poverty. It can be an ailment formatively structural, real or relative. But history names many, who fought their destined ends to deliver the destiny as they wanted for themselves. Dr Kalam’s story is a perfect substance for this. Born on 15th October, 1931 to a boat owner father Jainulabudeen and a house wife mother, Ashiamma in Rameswaram, Kalam saw a poor childhood and started selling newspapers at an early age to supplement the family income. From the narrow lanes of Rameswaram, where he was a synonym to the city, young Kalam dreamed of having ‘wings of fire’. Aspired to be a fighter plane pilot, Kalam was destined for something more significant.
Having earned his graduation from Madras Institute of Technology (1960), he commenced a remarkable career with ‘Aeronautical Development Establishment’ of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). After a decade, he was transferred to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), where he was the project director of India’s first satellite launch vehicle (SLV-III). This was just a beginning of the services he led to the efforts towards strengthening of the nation’s security and aerospace technology development. He was instrumental as the chief executive of ‘Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme’ (IGMDP) which developed ballistic missiles such as Agni and tactical surface to surface missile Prithvi. He also acted in the capacity of chief scientific adviser to Prime Ministers.
The Pokharan-II project was conducted with him at the helm of the affairs, when he was the Secretary of the DRDO. Along with Rajagopala Chidambaram, he served as the Chief Project Coordinator. For a service of dedicated scientific aid and development, the then Vajpayee government conferred Bharat Ratna upon him in 1997.
The People’s President
In 2002, Kalam was nominated for the candidacy of the President from National Democratic Alliance government. He defeated Capt. Lakshami Sahgal to become 11th President of India. But this was again an unusual term of the service. Unlike in the past, where Presidents used to occupy the interiors of the majestic President’s House, Kalam broke the league and came out. People found him living and residing in their close vicinity. He also became the first scientist and bachelor to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Popularly known as the People’s President for his appeal in the masses and particularly the youth of the country, he intervened in some remarkable decision in his term. In his Presidential years autobiography, ‘Turning Point’ he recalls signing the ‘Office of Profit Bill’ as his toughest decision. However, he was denied a second term as the President, even after having shown a willingness to avail it.
A Prolific Author and Speaker
Kalam published a number of best sellers ranging from autobiographies, to action plans for becoming a knowledge super power and remarkably spirituality too. In the most significant work, ‘India 2020’ which he co-authored with Y S Rajan, Kalam offered an integrated action plan to foresee the emergence of India among the world’s four major economic powers by 2020.
He was the foremost visionary who set this goal of witnessing India’s rise to a major knowledge superpower and also established a taskforce kind of team under Vision 2020 to achieve and chase the target. His autobiography, “Wings of Fire” and the political years memoir, “Turning Point” sold like hot cakes, inspiring people for his courage, righteousness and a success saga with no near examples.
He continued writing on various themes, such as rural development, personality development, poetries, spirituality and much more. He was a prolific public speaker too, having been addressed a vast range of audiences. Most popular among youth and student, he never missed making them realise that they should present themselves to the service of the motherland.
What Kalam means to us?
The ‘Idea of India’ was woven and thought of in her diverse contradictions of religion, language, caste, regional imbalances and others. The makers of the modern India, perhaps envisaged a citizen who coming up from all these bondages and partisans, serve the motherland being just an Indian. The heterogeneity of multiple identities should have been celebrated in the homogeneity of a patriotic nationalism. However, Indian history remained a little unfortunate in witnessing the rise of such a citizen force. Its inner strength contended the fragments, but could not deliver a consolidation of nationalist traits on a mass scale. Here, Dr Kalam and his legacy come to our rescue as the light of hope.
A Madrasi Musalman, who offered daily namaz along with reading Bhagvat Geeta and playing Veena is a true adherent of a composite culture which India offered to global history. A dedicated Scientist, for whom Science in the Gandhian spirit meant changing life of the people for good, and transforming the lives around he was and is an example for many budding science students. Unlike our esteemed students in institutions of national prominence such as IITs, who after acquiring state sponsored cheaper education run to America and Europe, Kalam preferred a quite time in his Homeland to serve it. His legacy should inspire people to be here in their nation, with whatever limited means one has to deliver goods for her.
Kalam is not with us now. As soon as the news of his demise spread, social media was flooded with sorrowful messages and links. The various state governments called up for holidays in schools on the subsequent day. But is it a worthy tribute to a man who dedicated his life to only a sole purpose of the service to the Motherland? The moistening eyes which bid him farewell, does he really need them?
What he wanted from us, and how can we really remember him? Many dreams were seen in history ranging from the annexation of the world, to the emancipation of the black population. Many were realised, many suffocated to die. Dr Kalam saw a dream for his beloved country. He wanted us to join hands and realise the achievement of being called a global super power. He wanted an equitable and qualitative life for a billion of his fellow countrymen. His vision of India’s development is yet to be achieved.
And passing away of the Visionary, now makes us immensely responsible for his vision, with action plans to realise it. No matter what one does? One can be sweeping across the streets or developing software, educating the uneducated or inventing path breaking technologies, all efforts should join in towards the welfare of this nation and her people.
Dr Kalam was called a ‘Karma Yogi’ by many of his associates. In a nutshell it means, a dedicated selfless service and is the righteous path of following one’ own Dharma and accepting the destiny as it comes along. Everyone cannot be like this, but at least one can try to keep delivering the promises one does, being a part of the society and humanity. Dr Kalam left us with a dream, yet to be realised. And his legacy and inspirational sage makes him that immortal divine light which will guide us towards a selfless service towards nation.
By Shaan Kashyap
Author studies Modern History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi