Former President, APJ Abdul Kalam known as the Missile Man of India, died on Monday evening after he collapsed following a massive cardiac arrest during a lecture at Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Shillong.
He was confirmed dead two hours after he was brought to the ICU of Bethany hospital in a critical condition following the collapse. Kalam, fondly known as the ‘People’s President’, was nearing 84. A seven-day national mourning was declared by the Centre. He served as the President between 2002 and 2007 and refused to accept the offer of a second term in office due to the lack of consensus. As a President of the country, he was immensely popular and greatly admired due to his warmth, simplicity and love for children. Kalam was born into a poor Tamil Muslim family in Rameshwaram in 1931. After attaining a degree in aeronautical engineering from a technology institute in Chennai, he joined the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre as one of its top engineers. He served as the chief scientific adviser to the Prime Minister and the secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from July 1992 to December 1999. Kalam played a significant role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998 and was considered the brain of missile program in India.
He utilized every opportunity to constantly inspire the youth of the country through motivational speeches and personal interaction often travelling to remote schools and colleges, addressing students and inspiring them to follow their dreams, even after his tenure. Kalam responded to the hundreds of emails he received from school students and youth who sought his advice. His reply to an inland letter from a student in Malappuram district is heart-touching. He continued to serve the nation after his tenure engaging in writing, educating and inspiring the people especially the youth. Kalam once said in an interview in 2013 that people remembering him as a good teacher would be the highest honour for him. He received many prestigious awards including Padma Bhushan and Bharat Ratna, India’s top civilian honour conferred by the government. A humble persona that he is, he dedicated his entire life for serving the nation which was his goal as well as his priority. He inspired millions to dream and have the determination and hard work to achieve their goals which would lead to success. He taught us that one can reach the skies still holding onto our beliefs, commitment to our values and broadmindedness and at the same time remain devoted to secular democracy. Kalam would be remembered for his simplicity, passion for science and contributions that enhanced the security of our country. He will remain in our hearts and will continue to inspire millions. May his soul rest in peace.