Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam the most loved and non-political man we have had

New Delhi: With less than three months to go for the Presidential Elections to choose the country’s 13th president, there is speculation that APJ Abdul Kalam might return to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Reports say Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party, J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress have reached an understanding on supporting Kalam for the top post.

Also on Sunday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, an ally of the ruling UPA government, said that he wants a non-political person to become the next president.

“In my opinion, a non-political person would be the ideal choice as the next president,” Pawar told reporters.

Pawar was responding to speculation that the NCP was going to field former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma as its presidential nominee. Pawar said his party had no such plans, adding “we have only 16 MPs, we know our limitations”.

The NCP chief’s statement is important in the context of reports that the Congress may field its own nominee for the presidential elections. Sources say the Congress contender could be Defence Minister


There has also been talk of Congress’ Sam Pitroda, Vice President Hamid Ansari, SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal.

The debate over who would, or should, be the President of India after Pratibha Devi Patil steps down in July is getting heated. Every party except the largest two, the Congress and the BJP, has started airing its views, and most seem to be veering around to at least one point – the new person for the job should be apolitical, above partisan politics, and having learnt the lesson these past few years, non-controversial. I would also put respected, loved, looked up to and possessing an unimpeachable character among the qualities.

While the two largest parties hold their cards close to their chests, it may not mean much as they do not have too much space to manoeuvre since neither of them has the numbers to influence the outcome. In a way, that is great, for we know what can be inflicted upon us in scenarios where one party calls the shots and has all the numbers.

The development is heartening, no doubt, and thanks to the social media, there is intense debate and discussion on what and who the next head of state should be. Among the number of names being thrown around, the name of the former President APJ Abdul Kalam has been the most in contention. The media is abuzz with excitement at the prospect of Kalam making it back as the resident of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

(Cartoon by Ajit Ninan)

But I have a different take on this. First of all, at least one powerful party may not let that happen for reasons that perhaps cannot be discussed on an open platform like this blog. More importantly, howsoever good Kalam was as President, and there is no doubt that he was easily the most loved and non-political man we have had, I find it very sad that we have to even nurture thoughts of calling him out of retirement to be our President yet again. No, I am not saying Kalam is unfit for the job, for he was a wonderful ambassador of India, but do you see the tragedy in this? A nation of over a billion people, do we have such a bankruptcy of human resources, leadership that we cannot find another who is worthy enough to occupy the highest office and possesses the qualities mentioned earlier? It is sad, isn’t it?

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam usually known Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, was the 11th President of India, serving from 2002 to 2007, he is one of the few presidents who have touched the hearts thats why during his term as President, he was popularly known as the People’s President. In India he is highly respected as a scientist and as an engineer. He is popularly known as the Missile Man of India for his work on development of ballistic missile and space rocket technology.

Stories of extreme hardship, braving impossible odds and innumerable sacrifices, abound in the lives of nearly 90 percent of the students in the country. But among them, some perform exceptionally well. Their academic laurels are so brilliant, that at times their CV looks intimidating. And each one acknowledges that it’s the right education that made them what they are today.

APJ Abdul Kalam

Several months back, after finishing an interview with Dr APJ Kalam, and just before leaving his Rajaji Marg residence he made me repeat these three words in a schoolteacher’s tone: perseverance, hard work and patience.

This, he said, was alone the path to progress. Later, much later, I realised, that those were the very words he’s lived by all through his life. They are both philosophical and practical, quite like the world he grew up in as a boy in the island town of Rameswaran, in south India.

His father, a humble boat owner, Jainulabdeen, was a devout Muslim and a close friend of the Rameswaran temple priest. Kalam was brought up in a multi-religious, tolerant society; one with a progressive outlook. His father often quoted from the Quran to make the young Kalam see the world without fear. He had seven siblings, and a doting mother who, at times, made chappatis for Kalam, while the others were given rice as Kalam’s day would start at four in the morning and end at 11 pm.

His father wasn’t educated, but he wanted Kalam to study. Kalam would get up at 4 am, bathe, and then go for his mathematics class, which was taught by a teacher who took only five students in the whole session; and bathing before class was a condition he had laid to all his students. After his morning class, Kalam along with his cousin Samsuddin went around town distributing the newspaper. As the town had no electricity, kerosene lamps were lit at his home between 7 pm and 9 pm. But because Kalam studied until 11, his mother would save some for him for later use.

Being a bright student, Kalam always had the support of his schoolteachers. Schwarzt High School’s Iyadurai Solomon often told Kalam that if he truly, intensely desired something, he would get it. “This made me fearless,” said Dr Kalam. And outside school, Ahmed Jallaluddin, who later became his brother-in-law, and Samsuddin, encouraged Kalam to appreciate nature’s wonders. So at once, while growing up, he was exposed to a religious and a practical way of looking at the world.

The flight of birds had fascinated him since he was a boy, but it was years later he realised that he wanted to fly aircrafts. After finishing school, he took up Physics at St Joseph’s College, Trichi, but towards the end he was dissatisfied. When he discovered aeronautical engineering, he regretted having lost three precious years. But he was glad to have discovered Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Hardy and F Scott Fitzgerald and other English poets in his college years.

At Madras Institute of Technology (MIT), Chennai, where Kalam studied aeronautics, he learnt an important lesson: the value of time. He was leading a project on system design, when one day the principal walked into the class to see his work. He appeared dissatisfied and told Kalam that he wanted the project finished in the next two days; else his scholarship aid would be withdrawn. That unsettled Kalam; years of his father’s hardships would come to naught. Kalam worked without food and sleep. On the last day, his professor came to check on his progress. He was impressed and said: “I was putting you under stress and asking you to meet a difficult deadline,” recounted Dr Kalam.

Although Kalam has led several projects in his professional life, he’s treated each like his last. Such was his passion. No wonder, he’s always led projects. His advisor, Major General R Swaminathan explained Kalam’s success as a leader. “He has this unique capability of being a boss as well as a worker. He can take on any role with ease.”

When Dr Kalam’s first major project SLV 3-failed the first time he was almost shattered. Also, around this time, Kalam’s childhood mentor, Jallaluddin, died. “A part of me too passed away…” said Dr Kalam. But he never thought of quitting after SLV-3. “I knew that for success, we have to work hard and persevere.” And so, SLV-3 was launched again, this time with success. He drew strength from philosophy, religion and literature to tide by his professional setbacks; also a life with few companions. In time, he also learnt to deal with professional jealousy and uncooperative team members.

Kalam played a pivotal organisational, technical and political role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear test in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974. He is chancellor of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (Thiruvanthapuram), a professor at Anna University (Chennai) and adjunct/visiting faculty at many other academic and research institutions across India.

Success followed Dr Kalam. Prithvi, Agni, Akash, Trishul and Nag missiles were huge successes. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan and Bharat Ratna, and then he became the President of India; one of the few presidents who have touched the hearts of so many poor children in the country. Because he also came from a poor background, he knew the power of education in changing one’s future.


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