Last week, say around 6 days ago, some Indian online newspaper had published a news story related to India’s former President and esteemed scientist, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. The story made readers feel as if he had passed away.
Such news, though I later discovered it to be untrue, was like a shock. The controversial news story had spread around when somebody had put a garland on Dr Kalam’s picture, and it was assumed by some group as disrespectful. As per Indian customs, putting a garland around his picture became symbolic of his worldly demise. Thus, it was just a rumor that became a silly eye-catching headline.
This story particularly caught my attention because I had met this great man in 2011 during his inspirational lecture at University of Sydney, in Sydney.
After I read the above fake news, the same evening I ended up reading more about Dr Kalam’s life-story and his inspirational quotes. Funnily, thereafter the same night I had a dream that I’m in some lecture hall and we are waiting for his arrival but we’re informed that he won’t be coming as he’s no more. He’s passed away. So we all quietly come out of the hall. It was a very vivid dream.
Today, on the 28th of August, exactly a week after that gossip news followed by my strange dream, I heard real news about Dr Kalam’s actual death. Again a shock, albeit a true one this time. The news is that he passed away suddenly, during one of his academic visits to Indian Institute of Management at Shillong, India. He was giving a lecture to IIM students on the topic of ‘Creating a Livable Planet Earth‘, when he collapsed due to cardiac arrest.
Is it a coincidence? This fake news followed by my remembering of his lecture in Sydney, then my weird dream of him dying during a lecture; and now he actually passes away – that too when giving an inspiring lecture to university students. Strange and sad at the same time!
So what was special about this truly great man? When we met him personally in Sydney, we could not take our eyes off him. His intellectual lecture was very thorough and engaging, and left us very inspired as we left the hall. It was hard to believe that a simple man with such unaffected looks and polite mannerisms has accomplished so much in life, that too in multiple fields.
Dr Abdul Kalam had very humble beginnings. But today BBC reported him as Extraordinary Indian.
Born in year 1931 in Tamil Nadu in India, he hailed from a poor family of fishermen. He distributed newspapers to help his family. Rising above his modest circumstances, he attained degrees in Physics and Aeronautical Engineering from Madras, now called Chennai. Climbing one step after the other, he later had major contributions in India’s scientific and nuclear programs. For a long period, he worked as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) .
In short, he was an accomplished scientist, lovingly called a ‘Missile Man’. When people argued why India needs to be powerful, he said “Strength respects Strength”; so power is required by a country so as to gain respect in the eyes of those who have already attained such strength. I like it because it’s true at personal level also.
In year 2002, this successful scientist went on to become India’s President, connected to administration and politics, where he was equally well-liked and respected. During that powerful five-year tenure, he was called ‘People’s President’ for he intermingled with ordinary crowd like a commoner.
He was a great visionary and had a proper plan India Vision 2020 for his country’s overall growth, to see it as a developed nation by 2020. For economic growth, his emphasis was on agro-food processing, health, education for women, IT and self-reliance. These apply to India but are well suitable for all other countries.
Other than being a scientist and a president, Dr Abdul Kalam was primarily a professor with years of experience in teaching, a teacher with great love for children and so his desire to teach them till the end of his days came true. He passed away teaching. His famous quote “Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow” holds great truth. He inspired parents to have home libraries so that children watch less TV.
Dr Kalam himself sought opportunities to address school children, inspired them to dream big so that they became achievers in life. He used to tell children and youth, that they should ask themselves this question: “What do I want to be remembered for?“. Very thought inspiring question for youth but we adults can also ask this of ourselves; just to define or redefine our lives before it’s too late.
Dr Abdul Kalam was also into music, particularly Carnatic music and he played musical instrument called Veena. This simple man was vegetarian all his life. He was not just religious but a true spiritualist who was well-versed in texts of many religions, actively imbibing and seeking inspiration from all of them at the same time.
What does such a person mean to the whole world? His concrete scientific, political and academic achievements did change India, and if a populated developing country like India changes positively, it is bound to influence the world constructively. Moreover Dr Abdul Kalam’s life story itself is inspirational for one and all, as were his deeds and legacy he has left behind. We learn from him that a person need not be born to rich and famous parents. One can rise high by sheer grit and determination. There is no excuse. There is no limit.
Besides, a great human being and a determined character that Dr Kalam was, there is a stream of Inspirational Quotes by him that hold great value for young and old alike. A blog outlines 10 Life lessons we can learn from APJ Abdul Kalam.
Another one of his famous quotes is: “You have to dream before your dreams can come true.” I actually saw his demise in my bad dream. That particular dream should not have come true but it has. The loss is irreparable but we can pay homage. India is paying tribute via a whole week of mourning. I will search google for his name to know more about his life, read his quotes and his writings.
For writers and book-addicts, these are some inspiring books written by writer Dr Abdul Kalam. Here’s a list by Goodreads: APJ Abdul Kalam. His autobiographical e-book ‘Wings of Fire’ can be downloaded here. .