'Igniting minds', this is what he aimed for all his life and that's what he did till his last breath. In what came as a surprise and a shock for all, India's 11th President Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam died in Shillong on Monday evening after suffering a cardiac arrest. He collapsed while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong and was taken to a hospital but he was declared brought dead.
One of the most loved presidents of the country, Dr Kalam always said, "One of the very important characteristics of a student is to question. Let the students ask questions." It is simply gratifying that till he breathed his last, he was amid students answering their questions, solving their queries. The common man's leader, an inspiration for the youth, Dr Kalam was a living idol for many.
He always had his ways of reaching out to the people, either by his words, his lectures or his books. His was not just a source of strength, but a Bharat Ratna in the truest sense. In one of his last few tweets he said, "an indomitable spirit stands on two feet.. vision and firm thought."
He was born on October 15, 1931 and died at the age of 83 but was more agile than even a teenager. A student of physics, he was a hero in his career in aerospace engineering and attained scientific excellence. However, his heroism did not just prevail in the scientific arena. Even while he was among India's oldest presidents, he successfully became India’s youth icon.
He was respected by one and all not just for his deep knowledge but also for the affable and humane image that he held all through his public life. Be it his sight of getting down from a IAF fighter jet or meeting students in any discussion, he bears a smile in every picture that you can remember of him.
On several occasions, he said that he always had a dream to become a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force as he wanted to be able to handle a machine as it "rose higher and higher in the stratosphere". Having narrowly missed his dream, he said he felt shattered and even went to Rishikesh for a break.
Though when he came back, he gathered his strength and what happened thereafter was history. “It is only when we are faced with failure do we realise that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives,” Dr Kalam said who later played a pivotal role in the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
He took the oath of office in 2002 as the 11th President of the country. The respect that he commanded from all spectrums of political lines and all walks of life led to his unanimous selection to the office of the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces of India.
Towards the end of his tenure, there were demands of a second term for him, however, he maintained that he was willing to take it up only if it was a unanimous decision. Kalam stepped down as President in 2007 but continued to work for the country and inspiring millions along the way.
While he might not be with us today, his words will always echo in our minds and remain an inspiration and a source of strength.
Rest in peace Dr Kalam!
"You have to dream before your dreams can come true." - APJ Abdul Kalam