A.P.J Abdul Kalam was the eleventh President of India, who was in the office from 2002 to 2007. Popularly known as the People’s President, Mr. Kalam is famous because he was not only a politician but he is also a scientist, an engineer, a writer, and a scholar. The successes that he achieved started with very humble beginnings; the son of a boatman in a small village in Tamilnadu who sold newspapers to support his school education.
Mr. Kalam was born in a village called Rameshwaram on October 15th 1931 and his father was a boatman who rented boats to the local fishermen. As a young boy Kalam was intrigued and fascinated by Nature and its power. This is evident in his books where he has mentioned the annihilation of his native place, a small village called Dhanushkodi, by a storm.
Although he started as a newspaper vendor when he was a kid, Dr Kalam’s career “skyrocketed” as he became a scientist and an engineer. He helped in the management of projects for developing missiles such as Agni and Prithvi. He worked as an aeronautical engineer with DRDO and ISRO. He is popularly known as the missile man of India and was also involved the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1996 which drew worldwide political attention and criticism.
Kalam was not born in a very well to do family but the family was rich as far as traditions and principles were concerned. Kalam’s father, a devout Muslim, was also close friends with many Hindu religious priests and people. Abdul Kalam is also a scholar of Thirukkural, the art of aphorisms, which is unique to the Tamil language. His spirituality is evident in many of his books; especially The Wings of Fire that starts with a hymn from Atharva Veda, which are very old Sanskrit texts.
The political views of Mr. Kalam are ambitious as far as India is concerned; he has spoken many times about making India a superpower by rapid advancement in information technology and science. He advocates the nuclear testing carried out by India and holds the point of view that nuclear power has the capability to make India a superpower in the near future. He also has other interests besides politics such as bio-implants. He is also a strong advocate of open source software as they are frugal albeit effective.
Wings of fire
The biography of Mr. Kalam is one of his famous books that was written with Arun Tiwari, the co-author. This book gives a detailed account of his childhood, his personal life and career. The personal and professional hurdles that were faced by him during his childhood and when he was young are laid bare in the biography. There are many hymns and Sanskrit Shlokas that adorn the chapters; an indication of his inclination and interest in all religions.
Other interesting facts
Some other interesting facts about Mr. Kalam are that he is a vegetarian and has never married. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan award on the republic day of India in the year 1981. He also vividly and surprisingly remembers (in Wings of fire) that he saw a painting at a NASA facility that depicted Tipu sultan’s battle with the British. He was fascinated because of the oddity of the find and that there was a rocket flying in the background.
He became the first Asian to be bestowed the Hoover Medal, on Wednesday April 29, 2009, which is America’s top engineering prize, for his outstanding contribution to public service. Kalam has received honorary doctorates from almost thirty universities, including the Carnegie Mellon University and the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore. He received the Padma Vibhushan in 1990; and the Bharat Ratna in 1997 for his work with ISRO and DRDO and his role as a scientific advisor to the Indian government. He has also been honoured with Bharat ratna even before he became the president. Furthermore, he is the first scientist and the first bachelor to occupy Rashtrapati Bhavan.