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APJ Abdul Kalam: My philosopher's stone, my mentor and my guide

APJ Abdul Kalam: My philosopher's stone, my mentor and my guide

Of all the roles that he played in his life, from being a scientist, a President, an author, the missile man, the one that he held the dearest was that of a teacher.

Every person has an idol and every person holds a dream very close to their heart to be associated with them once in a lifetime. But not all are lucky enough. Srijan Pal Singh, however, was among the lucky ones. Srijan spoke exclusively to IBNLive.com from Guwahati just before boarding the plane with the casket carrying Dr Kalam's body.

A graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, Srijan worked with his idol Dr APJ Abdul Kalam on promoting various missions like What Can I Give, Energy Independence for the nation, nuclear and space missions, and PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas). His association did not just end with these programmes but he also co-authored a bestselling book with Dr Kalam titled, Target 3 Billion.

Having worked so closely with him, Srijan recalls the former president as the "most sensitive person" he has ever come across in his life. "For me for four things stand out for when I think of him. He personified humility, integrity, sensitivity and curiosity for me. He was an inspiration for me and for all those from my generation. I had just passed out of IIM when he became the president in 2002. He gave nation a hope. With his passing away, the nation and all of us, have lost a beacon of hope," he says.

Recalling his conversations with Dr Kalam, he said that his inspirational words still echo in his memory. "He used to say 'if I can do it, you can do it and if we can do it, India can do it.' He has always been a role model and an inspiration for the youth," he remembers.

In his association of over six-and-a-half years, Srijan says every moment was worth cherishing. "I got to work with my childhood idol which people long for. He used to ask me that you have done your graduation from a premier institute but how do you plan to use it? He always used to tell me to do something for others, something for the future of the country.

Of all the roles that he has played in his life, from being a scientist, a President, an author, the missile man, the one that he held the dearest was that of a teacher. But how would his students like to remember him?

For Srijan, Dr Kalam was a philosopher's stone. Starting from being a teacher, he became his mentor and played many other roles. "He has been there with me to guide me with his experience. He would always focus on the smaller things which made a big difference. He would ask me and all people from my generation to take care of their parents as that virtue, he felt, was being neglected by the children today.

While today's generation is glued to their mobile phones and gadgets, Dr Kalam advised children to look away, to look around. "Whenever I used my phone, he would tell me, keep it aside, leave your Whatsapp and Facebook and see how beautiful the world is. 'Look at the scenery around yourself, there is so much to look at, the world is splendid out there' he would say," Srijan says as he recalls the memory of his mentor.

Though Dr Kalam is not with us today, his love for children and the common people of the country remains well known. All through his life, he missed no chance to reach out to the common man and help them come out of their miseries in any way he could. In his personal capacity, Srijan plans to carry forward the legacy that his mentor has left behind.

"He wanted to work for the unprivileged children. He wanted to work with a vision 2020, he gave due importance to the need of solar power. Associated with him so closely, I have been working to eliminate the problems concerning the underprivileged. I am also working to make urban amenities available for rural India and will continue to do so," he asserts.

His words have been an inspiration for one and all. Srijan recalls that Dr Kalam always motivated people to take up thorny roads. "He always used to tell me to take up difficult missions as it is the impossible missions which are actually worth taking up. He always said, 'Do not let problems become your captain, be the captain and sail through your problems'. These were the words of wisdom which he received from his own teacher and which he passed on when he took to the role of a teacher himself," he says.

The great man is not with us today, but inspirational words and his memories will always remain dear to our heart.

Dr. Kalam during his visit to Srijan's home in Lucknow. He loved pakodas and he had it during his visit to Srijan's house too.

(Srijan Pal Singh is a management graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He worked with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam (from Jul 2009-Dec 2012) in promoting various missions like What Can I Give, Energy Independence for the nation, nuclear and space missions, and PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas). From November 2011 to November 2012, Srijan was instrumental in starting a youth movement called What Can I Give Mission, which is now a network of over 1,000,000 volunteers from across India. He has recently co-authored a book with Dr Kalam titled, Target 3 Billion which is based on sustainable development of the rural areas of the world.)