THE LIFE OF ABDUL KALAM AT A GLANCE

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, also known as the 'missile man', is the 11th President of India. This scientist turned politician led a simple yet inspiring life, and always kept the welfare of the citizens on his mind. A driven and enthusiastic person, bent on achieving new heights, later, devoted his whole life to the country.

 Childhood and early life

Kalam does not come from a very privileged background. His father was just an ordinary boatman and his family business failed. During his childhood, he would wake up early in the morning to sell newspapers, to supplement his family's meagre income. He would walk for miles to collect and then distribute the newspapers. He was a bright young boy, with a thirst for knowledge, and a strong drive to learn. He spent hours on his studies, especially mathematics. He never let the lack of resources or poverty become a hurdle in achieving his goals. His childhood ambition was to become a fighter pilot but he narrowly missed achieving his dream.

 Career as a scientist

After studying physics and aerospace engineering, in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, he joined Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) got the opportunity to work with the renowned space scientist, Vikram Sarabhai as a part of the INCOSPAR committee. Later, he was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969 as the project director of India's first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III), which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in near-earth orbit in July 1980. In 1980's, he returned to DRDO to head an advanced missile program.

 Kalam as a President

Succeeding K. R. Narayanan in his presidential term from 2002 to 2007, he became the first scientist ever to occupy Rashtapati Bhawan. He always had the welfare of people on his mind, and thus earned the reputation of 'People's President'. Perhaps that became evident, when he won the unanimous vote of the ruling and opposing party for the Presidential elections.

While serving his tenure, his schemes and work taken up towards the development of the nation are notable. In order to understand the problems faced by the citizens, he went on tours and travelled to various rural areas and cities. He had a vision to see India as a developed country and his visions, plans and actions go hand in hand.

 Kalam as an author

Kalam wrote many books in his lifetime. In his book, Turning Points, Kalam explains his experiences as the president, which is a beautiful and inspiring read. He penned several other books like - India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium (1998), Wings of Fire: An Autobiography (1999), Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India (2002), and A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020 (2014).

 Awards and Honours

The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 1981 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1990 for his work with ISRO and DRDO and his role as a scientific advisor to the Government. In 1997, Kalam received India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, for his contribution to the scientific research and modernisation of defence technology in India. Kalam received honorary doctorates from 40 universities.

During his lifetime and even after his death, he received notable awards and tributes. The Tamil Nadu state government announced that his birthday, 15 October, would be observed across the state as "Youth Renaissance Day".  Several colleges and universities were renamed after him.

 Death

On 27 July 2015, Kalam travelled to Shillong to deliver a lecture on sustainable development, where only five minutes into the lecture, he collapsed and died from an apparent cardiac arrest. He gave his whole life to the country, and had no time for a personal life. He died a bachelor.

A patriot at heart, and a mind fuelled by science, Kalam lead a truly inspiring life. Even after achieving so much in his life, he always remained a humble person and lived a very simple life. His whole life, he was driven by his scientific and practical vision ? the vision of a developed India. He taught all of us that hurdles become hurdles when we give up to them and that success is ours if we are ready to work hard for it.