The full name of Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, is Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam. He hails from the southern-most tip of India. He belonged to a very poor family of Rameshwaram in his childhood.
The name of Mr. Kalam’s father is Jainulabdeen Marakayar. He was the owner of a few boats which were used to ferry pilgrims between Rameshwaram and Dhanushkody.
Dr. Kalam was the youngest child in the family. He was the only one to do graduation. His brothers and sisters could not even complete their schooling. The poverty of the family can be judged from the fact that once his father had no resources even to pay his fee. Then his sister came to his rescue. She sold her ornaments to enable him doing higher education. Kalam was a typical case of a poor but determined person in his childhood. As a boy, he had even to sell newspapers. Abdul Kalam had his initial education in Rameshwaram. Later he studied at Schwartz High School, in Ramanathapuram. Subsequently, he moved to St. Joseph’s College, Trichi. Though he was not a bright student in terms of the marks that he secured in exams at he developed an interest in Physics. After completing the B.Sc degree course from St. Joseph’s, he joined the Madras Institute of Technology, the best institution for technical education in South India at that time. He specialised in Aeronautical Engineering and became a full-fledged aeronautical engineer after being trained at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bangalore.
After his college education, Abdul Kalam was keen on joining the Indian Air Force. But his dreams of joining the Indian Air Force were dashed when he just missed to make it to the selected list of candidates. Though he was sad at being unable to join the Indian Air Force, he went ahead and joined the Directorate of Technical Development and Production, DTD & P (Air), as a Senior Scientific Assistant.
Abdul Kalam’s job at the DTD & P (Air) became the launching pad for his glorious career in the defence field. After working for some time at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in USA, Abdul Kalam returned to India and helped the country to develop awe some weaponry.
It will be no exaggeration to state that Abdul Kalam is instrumental in firmly establishing India’s core competence in missile technology. His efforts, along with that of his dedicated team, took India into the selected club of nations that call themselves super powers.
In his 14 year work-span as the Director of Defence Research and Development Laboratory. He lined up Prithvi, Agni, Trishul, Akash and Nag. He completed the long delayed ‘Arjun’ tank project and also pushed ahead with an indegeneous Air Craft ‘Kaveri’.
He is one of those few technologists who strive to find multiple uses for what they create. He developed light weight calipers for the polio-effected, out of the carbon material developed for Agni missile. This material made the caliper one tenth of its original weight of four kilos.
He doesn’t favour the import of technology and encourages self-reliant in technology. He says, “Haven’t we proved that we can do things with minimum foreign aid? All we need is determination and belief in ourselves.”
Dr. Kalam is an extremely simple man. He is above seventy and a bachelor. He is a strict vegetarian and teetotaller. He is a ‘work alcoholic’ who knows no holidays in the seven day week. He works 18 hours a day. He is fond of music and spends his leisure hours practising the lute (Veena). He is a great lover of books. he is a voracious reader of both ‘Bhagvad Gita’ and ‘Kuran’. Dr. Kalam quotes, “for great men, religion is a way of making friends, small people make religion a fighting tool”.
Dr.Kalam has received many presitgious awards for his distinguished contributions to the defence of the country. He was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 1981 and with the Padma Vibhushan in 1990. He received the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration in 1997. Dr. Kalam was awarded India’s highest Civilian honour, the Bharata Ratna on 25th November, 1997.
He was appointed as the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and given the rank of Cabinet Minister on 25th November, 1999. He won the Lifetime Contribution Award in Engineering presented by Shri K C Pant, the Deputy Chairman of the planning commission on December 8, 2000.
Dr. Kalam was elected as the President of India on the 26th July, 2002. It is a great honour for the Indians to see such a great patriot to be the first citizen of our country.
He is a man of vision and wants to see India a fully developed nation by 2020. It is to this end that his book “India 2020 : A vision for the New Millennium” is focussed.
In his new book “Ignited Minds”, he affirms, “Our youth must dream, dream, dream! Convert these dreams into thoughts; and then transform these thoughts into actions. We must think big, having low aim is a sin”.
He always asks the teachers and the parents to be role models to the children. He attributes his success to his parents, teachers and the team with which he has been working for the past many years. It is a true testimonial to his character, simplicity, wisdom and personal integrity.
Our own University of Waterloo held a special convocation to honour Dr. Kalam with a Honorary Doctorate of Engineering on Sept. 27th 2010 at the Humanities Theatre. So, we are indeed blessed to stage our annual cultural nite festival where he was honoured.
“ Thinking should be your capital asset, no matter whatever ups and downs you come across in life.”
Compiled by: Lakshmi Sivakumar, Kitchener.