APJ Abdul Kalam: The 200% Indian! Back   Home  
After nurturing India's missile and nuclear programs for 43 long years, when Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam decided to call it quits recently, there was trepidation in the corridors of power in New Delhi. Why had the father decided to let go of his favourite child? Was it that he faced some pressure from official circles?

However, true to his nature, Dr. Abdul Kalam was quick to brush away the slightest hint of controversy and proclaimed that he would continue to be available for the country and that his decision to quit as Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government had nothing to do with politics. "I want to work with children. I think I can ignite in their minds a love for science…"

Dr. Abdul Kalam has merely moved his area of operation from the scientists to young minds… In his typically silent manner, the scientist hopes to create more scientists so that his dream of a Developed India is achieved that much quicker. No wonder that his colleagues described him as '200 per cent Indian'.

Dr. Kalam Speaks out.

Though a man of few words, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the father of India's missile and defence program, was never one to shirk voicing his studied opinion on issues concerning the country.

The man who was associated with nearly every technological milestone in India - from the first rocket launch vehicle and Indian satellite to the first strategic missile and nuclear program - Dr. Kalam always had grandeur dreams.

His recipe for success was to simply convert these dreams into reality.

Here are a few of his thoughts on burning issues:

On arms race in the region:

Nobody must expect India to be sandwiched between Pakistan and China and do tapasya. For 3000 years we have been invaded because we had no resistance to offer to the invaders. Why should we repeat the same mistake again? If our neighbours have nuclear weapons, we must have them too. We have not created these bombs for decoration!

On India as a major global power

We can achieve this goal if we have concerted action in the five critical areas of agriculture, power, education & healthcare, information technology and strategic sectors like nuclear and space. For its success, government needs to build partnerships with industry and research and development organizations.

On children

I have shared my imagination and dreams with them and realize that they are able to grasp it better than adults. We have to ignite a love for science in these young minds besides setting a goal for them in national growth.

On the lack of systems

Everything will be in place once the people in power realize that the vision is always higher than the individual.

On his vision

I have three visions. One is that we should respect and guard our freedom, because nobody respects those in bondage. The second vision is development. Though we are right amongst the top in terms of economic indicators, we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a developed country. And the third vision is that India must stand up to the world. Only strength respects strength. There is no place for fear in this world.

On the most unforgettable moment

When we designed light metallic calipers using carbon-carbon (also used in Agni) for the physically handicapped. The expression on the faces of little boys and girls who could throw away the heavy 3-kg calipers for the 300 gm lightweight ones was indeed a sight to behold. It was absolute bliss. Just proves that space science can be used to make life better for all.

On India's neighbours

India must learn from China and Pakistan as to how it can use economics to dominate global politics. Despite a host of problems that the west has with China, it has managed to hold its own with all the top powers. Despite the fact that we are a developed nation compared with our neighbours, we fare poorly due to lack of marketing ourselves. We must market ourselves aggressively with our neighbours in their markets while giving them equal status in ours.

5 things you didn't know about kalam
  • That Dr. Abdul Kalam is a bachelor and a teetotaler?

  • That he recites the Holy Quran and the Bhagvad Gita daily and is equally at home with both Holy Scriptures?

  • That Dr. Abdul Kalam has gone abroad for studies only once in 1963-64 to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States?

  • That as a young boy, he sold newspapers to enhance his family's income?

  • That he is so modest about his achievements that at every felicitation ceremony he gives full credit for India's success to his colleagues?
Childhood and Career
  • Oct 15, 1931 Born at Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram district,Tamil Nadu.

    His father had to rent boats to pay his school fees. He studied at the Schwartz High School in Ramanathapuram.

  • 1954-58 After graduating in science from St. Joseph's College in Tiruchi, he enrolled for Aeronautical Engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology in 1954.

  • 1958 Kalam joined the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and served as a senior scientific assistant, heading a small team that developed a prototype hovercraft. But the project, never took off.

  • 1962 Following the lukewarm response to his hovercraft program, Kalam moved out of DRDO and joined Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)

  • 1963-82 Kalam joined the satellite launch vehicle team at Thumba, near Trivandram and soon became Project Director for SLV-3.

  • 1980 Rohini put into orbit in the month of July

  • 1981 Kalam honoured with the Padma Bhushan

  • 1982 Kalam returns to DRDO as its Director. Takes charge of India's integrated guided missile development program.

    The program envisaged the launch of five major missiles.

  • 1992 Kalam takes over as the Scientific Advisor to Union Defence Minister.

  • 1997 Kalam honoured with "Bharat Ratna", india's highest civilian award.

  • May 11, 1998 Adorning a Gorkha hat in the Rajasthan deserts, he orchestrated India's underground nuclear tests

  • The scientist from a small hamlet in Tamil Nadu who had dreamt of India as a nuclear power many years ago had finally achieved it!

Published if MSN