The Passage of a Great Man

Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, better known as Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, passed away today. His demise occurred today at IIM Shillong, where he suffered a cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture.

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam delivering a lecture. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

There was possibly no other Indian who was so universally acclaimed and respected by all. Wherever he went, Dr. Kalam was a figure of dignity and respect.

Dr. Kalam’s roots are indeed humble. He was born and raised in south India. His autobiography, Wings on Fire details his journey from a humble village in south India to perhaps India’s most acclaimed figure.

After studying aerospace engineering and physics, he worked at the Defence Research and Development Organisation and subsequently the Indian Space Research Organisation.

He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Bharat Ratna in 1981, 1990 and 1997 respectively, amongst many other awards and titles from various other organisations, both national and international, amongst them the Royal Society and the IEEE. His contributions to India’s growth were immense.

If India today possesses the ability to indigenously manufacture, assemble and use any type of missile, credit it to Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He kick-started India’s missile programme. Agni, India’s precursor to ICMBs and Prithvi, a surface-to-surface missile, were his brainchilds. He also played an integral part at ISRO, which today makes India possess a regular, standing space launch system, amongst the cheapest in the world. He was also Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister of India during India’s Pokhran-II nuclear test in 1998.

He was elected President of India in 2002. After serving a full term upto 2007, during which he was affectionately known as the People’s President, he returned to education, writing and public service. That was truly where his heart lay.

Words fall short to describe this great personality. He has penned a great many books, some on his life, most on his dream of a new India, and how to reach that status. He was a man who had influenced many, by his words, and thoughts (and flowing grey locks). Regardless of whether we erect a living memorial to this great man, he will continue to live on in people’s hearts. Forever.

As the Flag of India is lowered to half-mast tomorrow, millions shall join the nation in a national mourning. Let us remember this great figure’s vision more than mourning for him. He devoted his life to the service of humanity, of his country. He expected us to take the vision of a new India forward, which is precisely what we should be doing.

“We will be remembered only if we give to our younger generation a prosperous and safe India, resulting out of economic prosperity coupled with civilizational heritage.”

“If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.”

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