Intro : People loved him so much that wherever he went thousands of people would queue up just to see him and he would also greet him graciously, bypassing all protocols and security instructions.
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, a versatile genius was a scientist, teacher, administrator, and above all an excellent human being and a mentor. With his demise, India has lost one of its greatest sons. There are very few people like who dedicated their lives for the nation. Whenever somebody asked him about why he did not think of a family, he use to say you are my family, everyone in India is my family member.
I met him for the first time when I was selected by Government of India for the post of Press Secretary to the President of India. Within the 10 days of Dr Kalam taking over the Presidency, I joined him as a Press Secretary on August 5, 2002. On the very first day I had an interaction of about half an hour with him, in which he explained me about his mission and vision. I told him “Sir, there is high regards for you among media and masses, you are known as the missile man of India, you are the father of our Space and Missile program, you played a pivotal role in the Pokhran nuclear tests and therefore, before President you are Bharat Ratna. This is the reason why media and masses have great expectations from you. He replied with confidence and humility that “I will not disappoint the masses of India”. He further added that my goal is to serve the nation and the position of President is just a means to fulfill that goal.
On the very first day, he clearly instructed that the Rashtrapati Bhawan should not be an isolated fort during his tenure. Common people should find it approachable. Their voice should be heard. VIP culture should end and each work should be done as per the provisions enshrined in Constitution of India. Soon the Rashtrapati Bhavana turned into People’s Bhavan and Dr. Kalam became people’s president.
People loved him so much that wherever he went thousands of people would queue up just to see him and he would also greet him graciously, bypassing all protocols and security instructions.
Within few months of his Presidency he surprised everybody by returning an ordinance curbing the role of Election Commission vis-à-vis the model code of conduct during elections. He had to give his assent as per the Constitutional provisions when the cabinet sent the draft second time. While doing so he conveyed to the cabinet that he would look into each Constitutional matter seriously in person. Subsequently, from 2002 to 2007 it was a routine practice that whenever government passed any ordinance, the concerned minister would come to Dr. Kalam to have elaborate discussion on the ordinance.
During his tenure, Dr. Kalam had a mission of establishing communication with more than 10 lac students. To accomplish this, wherever he went he insisted on organising special programs for students. Thousands of students use to interact with him directly. He had only one message for them: Dream big, have higher goals and work hard to accomplish them. Dreaming small is a crime and there no alternative for hard work.
He used to make his own power point presentations and while attending any international conference or a meeting Kalam keep his point of view through PPTs. Once Dr. Kalam stunned President George Bush by his presentation on India’s energy requirements, similarly to President Musharraf he explained the need of India and Pakistan jointly fighting against poverty. I still remember the comments passed by both George Bush and Parvez Musharraf. They said we have to be scientist to understand this.
I always regarded Dr Kalam as the best exemplar of the Idea of India, one who embodied the best of all the cultural and spiritual traditions that signify India’s unity in immense diversity. He harmonised science and spirituality. — LK ADvani
“Dr. Abdul Kalam – the man who ushered India on a new journey has just finished his own. You will continue to inspire us for centuries”.
“A scientist and statesman, Dr Kalam rose from humble beginnings to become one of India's most
“His Majesty the King has commanded our National Flags will fly at half mast to mourn the passing of India's former president Dr. Abdul Kalam”.
Kalam during his tenure visited 16 nations. Each of these nations regarded Kalam as a great scientist and gave immense importance to his visit. Russia, UAE, Tanzania, Sudan, South Africa and Switzerland were prominent among them. He also addressed the European and African Union Parliaments. He received warm welcome and standing ovation there. Switzerland decided to celebrate a science day in his honour. When he delivered his address in the Swiss University at Lusan, 25 Nobel Laureates were present in the hall to listen to him.
There were many awkward moments during his Presidency but his dilemma was clearly visible when he had to give his assent to Office of Profit Bill. He had returned that bill as he was convinced that any parliamentarian holding office of profit is morally and legally unjustifiable. When the Parliament ratified the Bill second time then constitutionally he had no option but to give his assent. Before doing that also, he had an elaborate dicsusions with the officials and again proved is ultimate faith in the Constitution.
My last meeting with Dr Kalam was on July 22 ,2014 when I went to his residence at 10, Rajaji Marg, to greet him on the occasion of Eid. This was a one on one meeting of about 40 minutes. I met him in his study room situated on first floor, where he would be busy with his colleagues. We had a discussion on various issues, including what is happening in the government and the parliament. He also enquired about my department. He told me about his next visit to Shilong on July 27 where he took his last breathe while delivering a lecture to the students. He died while doing the work closest to his heart. Whenever I use to meet him, he use to tell me to do every work sincerely, with full dedication and make a mark in the place you work with. Try to do something new. We all Indians should take a pledge that we shall not only remember him but will strive hard to accomplish his mission of making India a developed nation by 2020.
S M Khan (The Write is Director General, The Registrar of Newspapers For India and former Press Secretary to the President of India.sharing his experience with former President Late Abdul Kalam) (August 9, 2015 Page 12 -13)