A farewell to eternal soul, Peoples’ Prez: Dr. Kalam

August 2, 2015

“Death is better than a vegetating ignorant life; it is better to die on the battle-field than to live a life of defeat.” …. Swami Vivekananda

With the death of Dr. Kalam, India has lost a visionary, ingenious, insightful and compassionate person. No Indian President has fired the imagination of the common man in this nation of a billion-plus as Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen (APJ) Abdul Kalam did. The outpouring of the entire nation on his death has been absolutely unprecedented.

Dr. Kalam is among very few heads of the Indian state who documented their vision for the country and society on crucial issues like agriculture, infrastructure, education, healthcare, information and communication technologies keeping in mind the genuine problems troubling India at the time. He gave his thoughts the shape of a book, ‘India Vision 2020’ with the help of government’s Department of Science and Technology. The book that recognised five core areas “for integrated action to double the growth rate of GDP” continues to inspire generations across sections and occupations of our society.

My first interaction with Dr. Kalam was way back in 1998 at Hyderabad Airport when he was the Scientific Advisor to the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.  I was in Hyderabad on official work being employed with an IT MNC, when I got an opportunity to interact with this extra ordinarily talented and yet humble individual. We discussed about the future of Information Technology and the role it could play in propelling development to the last man standing in the queue. Despite his busy schedule he spared some time for interaction and suggested that we need to develop various application software in Indian languages so that the majority of our people in India who are not fluent in English could make best use of them. He was advocate of an open knowledge regime where everyone should have a free access to information.

This very first meeting touched me, because I saw a man who was simple, very humane and yet professional at the same time. I was to realise his other qualities gradually as I met him on couple of other occasions later.

I saw evidence of his extraordinary humility and willingness to share his knowledge with others in our subsequent meeting. Both these qualities are so crucial for our leaders.  I remember when Dr. Kalam was the Hon. President of India and occasion was the inauguration of Piramal Life Sciences Centre at Goregaon in Mumbai.

After the lecture, I got an opportunity of  interaction with Dr. Kalam. There he told me that India needs to make the most use of IT in exploring nano- technology and encouraging research in field of pharmaceuticals and life sciences. He insisted that universities should have access to the best technologies. He was not in favour of patenting those restricting commoners from using it. I found Dr. Kalam to be an extremely warm-hearted and simple individual.  I have personally experienced his warmth and affection.

Dr. Abdul Kalam was the first ever scientist to become India’s head of state, who made stellar contributions to the country in both capacities. He opened the doors of Rashtrapati Bhawan to commoners and set range of precedents to follow. He loved to interact with the masses especially children and sharing his knowledge with them making them to aspire and dream big. Each of his trip to any institute or the country use to have his scheduled interaction with school children. His connect with a common man and his appeal amidst the masses made the “missile man” a “people’s president”.

Even top BJP leadership of the day firmly believes, supporting him in the presidential run during and garnering majority in 2002 elections is one of the best decisions of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government.

In 2002, President KR Narayanan’s term was up. The Congress suggested a second term but the BJP-led NDA, then in power, rejected the idea on the plea that in the past 20 years no president had been given a second term.

It was the statesman Shri Vajpayee who persuaded the NDA allies to back a progressive, ‘Bharat Ratna’ and a man with impeccable secular traits for the post of President. And that is how Kalam became India’s eleventh President. He won the race not because he was the best candidate for the job but because he was the least objectionable with proven record.

However, Shri Vajpayee’s successor did not show the required instinct in the following 2007 Presidential polls and refused to offer the necessary support despite the fact that Dr. Kalam had the much larger clout and popular appeal than his counterparts.

Even at the time of his death, Dr. Kalam was in demand on the speaker circuit. His books remained best-sellers — half of Amazon India’s current top 10 are written by him. Coming true to his credentials Dr. Kalam was on a tour working and sharing his knowledge and vision even his last day.

Incidentally I was also on a tour to Tamil Nadu at Coimbatore, ooty, Madumalai and Kothagiri and noticed the gloom and melancholy on faces of hundreds of school students who were holding a march holding his photos and placards remembering him. Tamilnadu had declared a bandh and I saw that all had willingly as a mark of respect pulled down the shutters including the local hawkers and street shops. Every lane and every bus stop, market , major crossings, traffic junctions his posters , images and had garlands on them even in remote villages I was passing through for three days.  I witnessed on Television that Ordinary, grief-stricken people thronged up at his last journey, lined up for hours to pay tribute to India’s first citizen. They came in buses, by train and boats from Chennai, Pondicherry, even USA, to bid farewell to this ‘great soul’.

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The common man saw in him a living role model. Not surprising therefore that Dr. Kalam’s Twitter account will continue to remain operational. His followers have decided to keep his Twitter account running with the changed name “In Memory of Dr. Kalam.”

Some people are eternal. Dr.  APJ Abdul Kalam belongs to this category.

क्षमा शोभती उस भुजंग को जिसके पास गरल हो। उसका क्या जो दंतहीन विषरहित विनीत सरल हो ।। सहनशीलता क्षमा दया को  तभी पूजता जग है। बल का दर्प चमकता उसके पीछे जब जगमग है ।।

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