A tribute to the man who defined Indian.
At a speech in IIM Shillong, on the eve of July 27th, 2015 students sat before the ‘Missile Man’, the ‘People’s President’, the ‘Architect of Pokhran’, and listened to a man’s inspiring words. They hung onto his wisdom, as it dripped and flowed through them, enriching! They were witnessing pure passion for learning and teaching. They saw patriotism in its purest form. And then . . . it stopped. The man collapsed mid-speech, mid-sentence. At 6: 30 PM he was declared dead; Sending shock waves across the world. Cliche as it may sound, time was standing still. At the temple of hope, in the corridors of knowledge, a gust of wind had blown out a lamp; Silence and darkness prevailed, and they felt eternal. The 11th President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam lived, no more.
Cherished academician, a Bharat Ratna recipient, Dr. Kalam was a self made man, whose sheer hard-work was the sole reason for his spectacular success. Born Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, he hailed from a Tamil muslim family of Rameshwaram and was the son of a boat owner who transported pilgrims to Dhanushkodi and back. Subject to poverty, Kalam was from a happy household where he learnt the lessons essential for a good life. He was determined to rise above his circumstances, and he applied himself throughly in achieving this dream. He once said, “You have to dream before your dreams can come true,” and had lived these wise words all his life.
Another important trait that stood out about the beloved president was his compassion. It was a touching moment when during one of his speeches Dr. Kalam recalled a beautiful memory of his father from childhood. It was an incident where his mother’s long and tiring day had resulted in a burnt roti for dinner, which his father ate without complaining. He recalled that late in the night when the family lay down to sleep he heard his mother apologizing about the burnt rotis. His father’s response? He told his wife he loved burnt rotis. Young Kalam’s curiosity was piqued and he questioned his father a little while later asking if burnt rotis were indeed what he preffered! The father told his young son, “A burnt roti never hurts anyone but HARSH WORDS DO!”
It was these remarkably simple things that led every individual, from all walks of life, to associate with the charismatic that personality Dr. Kalam was. Those inspired, wanted to be like him. He connected with people across all discourses, touched hearts and ignited minds. We may have a 21 Gun Salute for the lost dignitary, but not in 21 lifetimes can we reproduce the sheer brilliance of this man.