“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.”-Kalam
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen( APJ) Abdul Kalam was born in a small village to a boat owner and his wife. At an early age he was selling newspapers to help his family sustain themselves. His first dream to become a fighter pilot was crushed as he placed 9th in the qualifiers for IAF and there were only 8 positions available. A crushed dream would have spelled the end of ambitions for many but for him it just ignited his desire to prove himself and thus began what can only be described as a fairy tale journey. But that would be doing a disservice to the incredible hard work and determination that made him an inspirational figure.
He began his career with DRDO but then it was at ISRO that he found his true home. He achieved extraordinary things in Satellite Launch Vehicles and then later on in Missile development. Over the years, working on various ISRO and DRDO projects, he made a name for himself as one of the foremost space and nuclear scientists in India. He earned the title of the Missile man of India for his extraordinary contribution to improving India’s defense capabilities in this arena. He was also the Co-Chief Project Coordinator for the Pokhran -2 nuclear tests.
A little known fact is that along with Cardiologist Soma Raju he also developed a low cost coronary stent called Kalam-Raju Stent.
His scientific achievements notwithstanding his term as President is the platform from where he truly touched the nation of a Billion people. His messages of inspiration crossed all divides of religion, age, caste and creed. His simple eloquence; the beatific smile; and the utter conviction with which he delivered his messages inspired people from all walks of life, people with different socio economic backgrounds, with or without science backgrounds and made them all believe that nothing is truly impossible. He symbolized the fact that hard work pays and sanity still prevails in what may seem at times to be a chaotic world.
His desire to be remembered as a teacher manifested itself in his enthusiastic interactions with students across the nation. He was an incredible project manager, a gifted scientist and a brilliant writer but his true calling was being a teacher. His lectures and speeches were simple and succinct ;and with his own personal example he showed that your birth, your circumstances, your religion and your failures do not stop you or define you in any way. That life is a journey of a thousand steps and even if you stumble at a few you can pick yourself up and reach the very top. That if you are passionate enough about your vocation then age wouldn’t stop you from thoroughly enjoying the twilight of your career or life for that matter. And that a life well lived makes you immortal and inspirational for generations to come.
There are countless inspirational quotes and anecdotes about APJ Abdul Kalam or as he came to be known, the People’s President; but for me what truly makes him extraordinary is his humility and humanity. The kind of stature accorded to him by virtue of his achievements could have made him inaccessible or arrogant. But he cared for his fellow human in a way few truly can. He was always a humble gentleman who wanted to teach and try and inspire the next generations to aspire for something extraordinary. With the essence of a true teacher he used his examples and experience to show the various facets of life and arouse through truth and simple messages the latent or; in times of despair; seemingly impossible ambitions amongst generations of not only Indian students but across the world wherever his story and words reached.
There are legends and true stories that awe and inspire us. And then there are the best teachers like APJ Abdul Kalam who make it all seem simple and reduce the complexity of life and ambitions to simple maxims. Who define what it takes to be extraordinary and that the seemingly impossible is within our grasp if we do not give up and work hard every step of the way. He may have passed on but he has ignited a billion minds. His messages will live on in the memories of a nation and his amazing life would continue to fuel the imagination and dreams of students in the remotest of villages to the biggest of metropolitan cities.

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Some people truly transcend barriers and make an indelible mark on the psyche’s of all those they directly or indirectly touch. You, most venerable sir, were one of them. May the fires you lit burn brightly and make the future a brighter and happier place for Humanity.

By- Shipra Goel and Aseem Mahajan

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