“Failure will never go beyond me if my willpower to achieve something is strong and satisfactory.”
-APJ Abdul Kalam

Some life stories are not just great but are inspirational stories for the world. Few people die, but their great morals and names never leave the world; APJ Abdul Kalam is one of them. The greatest scientist in India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, was the former President of India and played a major role in developing weapon sciences such as missiles and nuclear weapons in India. His full name was Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam; he was a member of DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and was named the “Missile Man of India”.

  • Date of Birth- 15th October 1931
  • Place of Birth- Hindu pilgrim centre Pambam Island Rameshwaram
  • Death- 27th July 2015
  • Cause & Place of Death- Heart Attack (Shillong)
  • Parent’s Name- Jainulabdeen Marakayar and Ashiamma
  • Profession- President, scientist, and Teacher

Inspiration for thousands of students, Abdul Kalam, was honoured with “Bharat Ratna”. He dedicated his entire life to the field of Science and Technology. Kalam was elected as India’s 11th President of India in 2002, and during his entire tenure, he was known as the “People’s President”. After working as President for 5 years, He went back to the field of Science and took many lectures, met young students, and inspired them. Even when he took his last breath in Shillong at the age of 83, he delivered a lecture at the Indian Institute of Technology Shillong.

His Early Life

Kalam was born in a low-income family on 15 October 1931 in the Hindu pilgrim centre Pambam Island Rameshwaram, India. His father, Jainulabdeen Marakayar, was the holder of a ferryboat that travelled the way between Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi (now an abundant village) and worked as Imam at the local mosque. In contrast, his mom, Ashiamma, was a housewife. They all belonged to a Tamil Muslim family, and Kalam was the youngest among four brothers and one sister.

Kalam’s family belonged to a very rich merchant community, “Marakayar Traders”, and had rich ancestors. Yet, his family loosed their luck by 1920; their trade between two countries, India and Srilanka, was unsuccessful and made them this poor that they had nothing except for their ancestor’s home when Kalam was born. At a small age, he had to vend newspapers so that he could help his family in earning. Kalam started going to school in Schwartz Higher Secondary School, Ramanathapuram. He was an average student in school but loved studying math and other subjects and had a strong wish to learn.

His School and College Life

In his school years, Kalam had normal grades yet was portrayed as a splendid and dedicated understudy who truly wanted to learn. He went through hours on his studies, particularly Science. After finishing his schooling at the Schwartz Higher Optional School, Ramanathapuram, Kalam went to Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, associated with the College of Madras, where he graduated in physics in 1954. He moved to Madras in 1955 to concentrate on aerospace engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology.

Kalam as a Scientist

After completing his degree at the Madras University of Technology in 1960, he joined DRDO in Aeronautics Development Establishment as a scientist. He designed a small aircraft as the first scientific work of his career. Still, as he wasn’t satisfied with his job, he also started working in other places like the INCOSPAR committee working under Vikram Sarabhai, well known Indian Scientist.

In 1963 Kalam Joined the Indian Space Research Organization as the Project Director of India’s First Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III), which effectively launched the Rohini Satellite to near-earth orbit in 1980.

In 1965 he started working independently on a rocket project in Defense Research and Development Organization, and after 4 years, he got approval from the government and added more engineers to it. From 1963 to 1964, he went to NASA’s Langley Research Centre in Hampton, Virginia. Also, he visited Goddard Space flight centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the wallops flight facility.

In the year 1970, he got an invitation from Raja Ramanna to be the observer of India’s First Nuclear Test named Smiling Buddha as the representative of Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory even when he wasn’t part of its development. In the same year, he directed two projects, Project Devil and Project Valiant, in which he wanted to build up Missiles with the help of SLV program technology. While developing them, Kalam Faced an issue when Union Cabinet disapproved it. Still, later, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi provided him with a secret fund for this project which was under Kalam’s directorship. Kalam convinced the Union Cabinet that they would hide the true nature of these secret aerospace projects.

His research and educational leadership brought him great laurels and status in the 1980s, which incited the public authority to start an advanced missile program under his directorship. In the years between 1970 – and 1990, Kalam worked to build-up the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and SLV-III projects. They both were successful and powerful projects. In 1980, he was powerful enough that the Government was ready to initiate an advanced missiles project under his directorship. Later under the direction of Defense minister R.Venkataraman, he started working on Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) with a budget of 3.88 billion as a Chief Executive. Later he took part in the development of many missiles, including “Agni” and “Prithvi”, but a few disliked the project due to the misconduct, price, and taking further time.

In July 1992, Kalam became the Head Scientific Advisor of the Prime Minister and as well the Secretary of DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization). He was Chief Project Coordinator for the Pokhran-II nuclear test, and he got the title of “Best nuclear scientist” by the media. Kalam was criticised by the director of the site K Santhanam that the thermonuclear had been a fizzle, and he issued an incorrect report.

Life as President and Post Presidency

DR.A.P.J ABDUL KALAM

In 2002, Kalam was chosen as the 11th President of India. He was chosen as a candidate for Presidency. He received 922,884 electoral votes, more than Lakshmi Sahgal’s 107,366 votes, to win the 2002 presidential election. From July 25, 2002, to July 25, 2007, he served as President. He and NDA both were popular and in power at that time; all other candidates backed him, so it was a clear win for him. The polling for the presidential election started on July 15, 2002, in Parliament and the state assemblies, with the media reporting that Kalam’s victory was a foregone conclusion that the election was a one-sided affair. The count took place on July 18, 2002. Kalam won easily and was sworn in as the 11th president of the Republic of India on July 25. He then moved into the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1954) and Zakir Husain (1963) were the first two Bharat Ratna holders who afterward held the office of President of India. Kalam was the third President of India to get the award before becoming the President.

As a President, APJ Abdul Kalam made many tough decisions and was loved by people. He also won the label of People’s President”. He received criticism for not deciding on 20 of the 21 mercy petitions submitted to Kalam during his term. According to Article 72 of the Indian Constitution, the President of India can commute or suspend death sentences for prisoners on death row. In his five years as President, Kalam only responded to one mercy request, dismissing the request of the later-hung rapist Dhananjoy Chatterjee. The Kashmiri terrorist Afzal Guru, who was found guilty of conspiracy in the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament and was later given the death penalty by the Indian Supreme Court, offered the most noteworthy argument.

He also supported that India needed Uniform Civil Code in 2003 at PGI Chandigarh; In 2007, he first decided to stand again in an election where the chance of his winning was at its peak, but he refused to participate again in elections after 2 days. Pratibha Patel won the elections as the First Female President of India.

On June 20, 2007, the day before his tenure ended, Kalam said he would be open to serving another term as President, assuming he was assured of winning the 2007 election. But two days later, he decided not to run for President again, saying that he wished to keep Rashtrapati Bhavan apart from any political activities. He was put forth by the third front, which included J. Jayalalithaa, the United National Progressive Alliance leader, Chandrababu Naidu, Mulayam Singh Yadav, and Om Prakash Chautala leaders. However, he lacked the backing of the Shiv Sena and UPA constituents on the left to win a second term.

As the 12th President Pratibha Patil’s term ended on July 24, 2012, media sources from April suggested that Kalam would probably be nominated for a second term. Following the reports, several people supported his campaign on social networking sites. When the Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, and Indian National Congress suggested him for the 2012 presidential election, the BJP indicated they might support that candidature. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee also endorsed Kalam one month before the election. Mulayam Singh Yadav withdrew days later, leaving just Mamata Banerjee to support him.

After leaving the Presidency, he started working as a visiting professor in many colleges, such as the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, Ahmadabad, and Indore. He worked in many other positions as a Professor in various colleges and universities.

In 2011, he was again in the news media when he got criticism for his Koodankulam Nuclear PowerPoint for not talking to the local public. Because they perceived him as a pro-nuclear scientist and were disappointed by his promises on the safety aspects of the facility, the protesters were opposed to his presence. In 2012, to avoid corruption, he started a youth program named What Can I Give Movement.

Kalam as a Writer

Scientist and philosopher Kalam is the author of numerous works. The youthful brains of India were to be inspired by his ideology and philosophy. His thoughts and style are straightforward, but his ideas are quite persuasive. He was more concerned with the growth of the backbenchers in the class than he was with the frontbenchers.

Kalam started as a scientist and ended up teaching. He was an exceptional teacher with a natural ability to connect with his students. He aspired to make India a superpower in knowledge and was certain that only young people could guide his ambition toward fulfillment. He spoke with a fair amount of clarity and coherence. His articles are useful, simple, and applicable to everyday life.

Dr. Kalam has experienced enough hardships throughout his life, and his writings reflect this. Some of his publications contain instances from his own experiences, lessons he’s learned struggles he’s faced, and triumphs he’s enjoyed. As a writer, he is cautious enough to allow the readers to determine how their lives will unfold. He wanted to open young people’s brains so they could decide what to do and where to go. It would be accurate to say that his writings are firmly based on youth-related themes.

APJ Abdul Kalam was a great teacher, a favorite Leader, and a great scientist, but apart from these things, there is one more achievement he is well known for “his writings”. Here is a list of books by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam his career to inspire people.

  • Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technology by A P J Abdul Kalam and Roddam Narasimha
  • India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium by A P J Abdul Kalam, Y. S. Rajan
  • Wings of Fire: An Autobiography by A P J Abdul Kalam, Arun Tiwari
  • Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India by A P J Abdul Kalam
  • The Luminous Sparks wrote by A P J Abdul Kalam
  • Mission India by A P J Abdul Kalam, Paintings by Manav Gupta
  • Inspiring Thoughts by A P J Abdul Kalam
  • Invincible Spirit by A P J Abdul Kalam
  • Envisioning an Empowered Nation by A P J Abdul Kalam with A Sivathanu Pillai
  • You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond by A P J Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari
  • Turning Points: A journey through challenges by A P J Abdul Kalam
  • Target 3 Billion by A P J Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh
  • My Journey: (titled – Tamil) Transforming Dreams into Actions by A P J Abdul Kalam
  • A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020 by A P J Abdul Kalam and V Ponraj
  • Forge your Future: Candid, Forthright, Inspiring by A P J Abdul Kalam
  • Reignited: Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future by A P J Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh
  • Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji written by A P J Abdul Kalam with Arun Tiwari
  • Advantage India: From Challenge to Opportunity by A P J Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh

When Kalam questioned Pramukh Swami, the spiritual leader of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sampradaya, how India could accomplish this five-pronged vision of growth, it was a “transformative moment” in his life, according to Kalam. In his final book, Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji, released only a month before his passing, Kalam describes his spiritual vision for the next 15 years of his life. Pramukh Swami’s response-to add a sixth area-developing faith in God and spirituality to overcome the current climate of crime and corruption-became the spiritual vision.

Other advancements in Science and technology, such as a research project to create biomedical implants, piqued Kalam’s keen interest. He favored open-source technology over proprietary software and believed that widespread usage of free software would enable more people to benefit from information technology.

In the two years following his retirement from the position of scientific adviser in 1999, Kalam established a goal of engaging with 100,000 students. “I feel comfortable around young people, especially high school students,” he said. From now on, I want to share my experiences with them to spark their imaginations and prepare them to work for a developed India for which there is already a road map. His ultimate goal is to unleash the hidden fire inside each learner to light up the skies with victory.

His Personal Life

APJ Abdul Kalam was a very simple person; Kalam was the youngest of five children; the three older brothers were Mustafa Kalam (d. 1999), Kasim Mohammed (d. 1995), and Mohammed Muthu Meera Lebbai Maraikayar (5 November 1916 – 7 March 2021). The oldest child was a sister named Asim Zohra, who died in 1997. He was very close to his older brothers and their extended families throughout his life. Despite being a lifelong bachelor, he frequently sent his older relatives small sums of money.

He never even had a television at home. He preferred waking up early at 6:30 or 7:00 am and never was in any controversy because of his personal life. He lived his life as simple as possible. Their only personal belongings to him had been a Veena, his books, a laptop, some clothes, and a CD player. He had no will when he died, and all his possessions went to his brother.

His Love for Spirituality and Religion

Being a follower of Islam, he followed daily Namaz and fasted during the month of Ramzan. Still, since his childhood, his dad taught him both proper faith in Islam and believing and respecting all religions. He told himself that when he was a child, his dad was a Muslim Imam, Head Priest of Ramanathaswami Hindu temple, and a Church Priest was used to sit together and discuss things. These things gave birth to the feeling of secularism inside him. He read Quran, and on the other hand, he learned Sanskrit and read Bhagwan Geeta. He was a vegetarian and loved to play devotional music. Kalam used to write Tamil Poetries and play the Veena.

Kalam was the follower of a Hindu Guru, Pramukh Swami, as he found him spiritual and sacred, according to him as he mentioned in his book “Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji”.

His Death

Kalam went to Shillong to the Indian Institute of Technology to take a lecture on “Creating a Livable Planet Earth” on the 27th of July, 2015. While getting down the stairs, he felt a little uneasy, but he still went to the auditorium after taking little rest. At around 6:35, he collapsed, and it was just 5 minutes of his lecture. He was taken to the “Bethany Hospital” in critical condition; there was a lack of pulses, and he had no sign of life. When he was in ICU (Intense Care Unit), he has confirmed dead due to Cardiac Arrest at 7:45 pm. His last words were to his assistant and a famous author Srijan Pal Singh, “Funny Guy, Are you doing well?”

After his death, his body was taken to Guwahati from Shillong by the Indian Air Force by helicopter and then to New Delhi by an Air Force C-130J Hercules on the 28th morning. In the afternoon, the flight was received by the President, Vice president, Prime Minister, and Chief Minister of Delhi (At that time, Arvind Kejriwal). All the Chiefs of the three forces (Air Force, Navy, and Army) were also there to show their respect.

His body was wrapped in the Indian Flag and taken out into his residence in Delhi. Many public figures and many well-known personalities, such as Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Head Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister, were waiting there for his body.

On the 29th Morning, His body was taken to Palam Airbase and went to Mathurai by Air Force aircraft C-130J. In Mathurai, all state dignitaries and chiefs of three forces received his body. After a huge ceremony, he was taken to his hometown at Rameshwaram and kept on an open ground allowing civilians till 8 pm to pay him respect. On 30 July 2015, the Journey of this amazing person ended at the age of 83 when his body was laid to rest at Rameswaram’s Pei Karumbu Ground with full honours. Over 3.5 lakh people attend his funeral, including the Prime Minister, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, and the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala.

His death was huge grief for the entire India, and people’s reactions to his death are not forgetful. Millions of people paid tribute to him on social media, and the Government of India declared a 7-day State Mourning period as respect. The President, Prime Minister, and Vice president all showed their respect and pain in his death, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his death was a great loss for our country’s science community. He also said the country is going to remember his achievement for generations and keep taking their inspiration from him.

Awards and Honors

There is no award for what Kalam did for our country. His achievements are numerous and irreplaceable, but he has been bestowed with many awards and honours.

He got 7 Doctorate Honorary Degrees from various Universities, which are given below-

  • Distinguished Fellow – Institute of Directors, India, 1994
  • Honorary Fellow – National Academy of Medical Sciences, 1995
  • Honorary Doctorate of Science – University of Wolverhampton, UK, 2007
  • King Charles II Medal – UK, 2007
  • Honorary Doctor of Engineering – Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 2008
  • International von Kármán Wings Award – California Institute of Technology, USA, 2009
  • Hoover Medal – American Society of Mechanical Engineers, USA, 2009
  • Doctor of Engineering – University of Waterloo, Canada, 2010
  • IEEE Honorary Membership – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, USA, 2011
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws – Simon Fraser University, Canada, 2012
  • Honorary Doctor of Science – University of Edinburgh, Scotland, 2014

In 1981, he was honoured with Padma Bhusan by the Government of India, and in 1990, he was honoured with Padam Vibhushan by the Indian Government. But neither did he stop working for India, nor the Indian Government forgets to praise his work. Hence, in 1997 he got the National Honour of “Bharat Ratna” from the Indian Government and Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration the same year by Government. Veer Savarkar Award was also awarded him in 1998.

Kalam got various tributes after his passing. The state government of Tamil Nadu declared that his birthday, October 15, would be celebrated as “Youth Renaissance Day throughout the entire state. In addition, the state government established the “Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Award,” which consists of an 8-gram gold medal, a certificate, and 500,000 (US$6,300). Beginning in 2015, the prize will be given to state residents on Independence Day who have contributed to advancing Science, the humanities, or educational success.

The CBSE put themes on Kalam’s name in the CBSE Expression series 2015 to commemorate his birth anniversary.

On October 15, 2015, the 84th anniversary of Kalam’s birth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ceremonially distributed postage stamps honoring Kalam at DRDO Bhawan in New Delhi.

In honor of the late President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) named a new bacteria they found on the International Space Station (ISS) Solibacillus kalamii.

In 2000, Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology & Research Academy honoured him with the “Sastra Ramanujan Prize”, whereas, in 2013, he won Von Braun Award from the National Space Society.

After his death, many Governments made changes in the names of educational institutes or started new programs, which are mentioned below-

  • In 2015, CBSE set topics on his name in the CBSE Expression series on his birth anniversary.
  • In 2015, the Tamil Nadu government named his birthday date 15 October as “Youth Renaissance Day” and announced an award named “Dr APJ Abdul Kalam” in the field of ScienceScience and the welfare of students.
  • After discovering a new bacterium, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JTP) named it as Solibacillus Kalami.
  • Kerala Technological University was named on his name ” APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University.”
  • After his death, an Agricultural College of Kishanganj, Bihar, was named “Dr Kalam Agricultural College, Kishanganj”.
  • Uttar Pradesh Technological University (UPTU) was Renamed APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University by UP Government.
  • India’s First Medical Tech Institute was named on APJ Abdul Kalam “Kalam Institute of Health Technology, Vishakhapatnam.
  • Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Science City has been Developing Patna since February 2019.
  • Many other institutes with his name were developed in his memory.
  • Abdul Kalam Island, in September 2015, replaced Wheeler Island.
  • Aurangzeb Road in New Delhi was replaced by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road in August 2015.
  • In February 2018, a newly found plant species as Drypetes Kalami, in his honour.

Memorial for APJ Abdul Kalam

In Pei Karambu, an island in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu, DRDO built APJ Abdul Kalam National Memorial. In July 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave it a ceremonial opening. There is a display of a replica of missiles and rockets, which Kalam worked on. Along with hundreds of portraits illustrating the mass leader’s life, acrylic paintings about his life are also on display. There are many Statutes of Kalam with a big statue of Kalam playing the Veena, and many paintings of his life are there. Two smaller statues depict the commander in both a seated and a standing position.

 

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