Remembering The President


A year ago, India lost a visionary par excellence Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. For leaders of today, consider this fact: when he died he left no mansion, no car, no offshore bank accounts. Rather unusual for someone who was Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister, Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and then the Honorable President of India. A different kind of President was he, with achievements too many to list.

Trying to speak to Dr. Kalam about his worth, many discovered respect in which this noble man defied the stereotype of an accomplished scientist. He was the most respected leader and adored teacher of our times. He seemed most reluctant, almost embarrassed to speak about himself.

All of Dr. Kalam’s initiatives were welcomed with different degrees of credit as he channelized his time and energy towards nation building. Everywhere he went, he raised questions of the most appropriate model of development that encompassed sustainability, employment and holistic living. Surprisingly enough, he had answers for his questions. He regaled the young, old and journalists alike with his talks- an art he excelled in. The scientific mind and communicative skills of Dr.Kalam helped him seek the innovative ways of arriving at real solutions. According to him, any development anywhere shouldn’t be just made against any specific projected requirement. An example, instructive in this respect was the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.

Throughout his life, whatever post he held, his moral superiority reigned with no desire to attract publicity. His greatness created in our minds an image of a humble man whose honesty and simplicity propelled him to greater heights for the good. His was a definitely ignited mind that will resource our earth for generations to come.

Educationists and policy makers believed that Dr. Kalam’s vision for India would be successful. Hence many educational institutions were renamed after him in addition to key roads in various cities. Wherever he was, he was in the full bloom of reputation and was personally admired by all whom dignity of employment or splendour of reputation had made eminent. Dr. Kalam made no fuss over any “fizzle” for he measured his self-worth with a clear conscience.

To say “for great men, religion is a way of making friends; small people make religion a fighting tool,”  one has to have a strong conviction that different religions and ideologies are meant to achieve peace and happiness. He shrugged off remarks and reviews on his religious roots, traditions he followed and beliefs he clinged on to with ease because of his convictions. He respected religious sensitivities and had every credential necessary to teach the world as to how conflicts can be solved within a broad framework of acknowledgement of different faiths and identities, in short a confluence of religions.

Whatever Dr. Kalam thought, said and wrote has a lot of implications for the world in which we live. He believed in encouraging public discourse and disseminating knowledge but was never guilty of sentimental effusions. Through his simple, easy way of conversing Dr. Kalam delighted all and offended none. No verbal knots or jugglery. Through his smile, words just flowed convincing us in a manner as only the speech of a born visionary can.

The main virtue of Dr. Kalam was his distinctiveness, his originality; and this he maintained till the end. He had in him the influence of ‘Lights from Many Lamps’,  of ‘Thirukural’ in his ways of life and of ‘Man the unknown’ in how he dealt with other people. Being engrossed in such wonderful works, Dr. Kalam in his most inspired moments made us all incredibly aware of truth. Given the manner in how he advocated the sacred truths of Thiruvalluvar and Kaniyan Pungundranar across the globe, he was a Tamilian in heart and soul, a global citizen whose virtues prompted many across the globe to learn more about Saint Poet Thiruvalluvar and his truths- Dr. Kalam was much more of a Tamilian than many politicians of Tamilnadu who proclaim themselves to be guardians of the language.

If there was a Tamilian who could ever help people, even foreigners understand Thirukural as a transcendent truth kindling their curiosity, it could be none other than this son of Rameshwaram. Thiruvalluvar stands tall in Hualien, Taiwan since November 2015, also because Dr. Kalam’s intentions were always right, opinions solid and his faith in goodness pure. If it wasn’t for Dr. Kalam’s prompting or motivation, Poet Yu Hsi wouldn’t have been inspired to translate Thirukural into Chinese. And Poet Yu Hsi of Taiwan, also the first Mandarin writer to receive the Franz Kafka Medal for Literature, instituted by the Czech Republic in 2011, will continue to explore and describe the great mind named APJ Abdul Kalam through his mind blowing poetry.

“A complete Indian” or “The best exemplar of the Idea of India” or “A rare combination of a great statesman, acclaimed scientist, and a source of inspiration to the youth”, India needed Dr. Kalam and vice versa. Isn’t it a duty of our leaders to uphold his life of honesty, modesty and intellectual courage as a model of integrity in public life!

I’m reminded of his last moments at IIM Shillong. And it’s natural to suppose “‘Creating a Liveable Planet” should mean ‘Development with a human face’, which is an arduous agenda that admits of no short cuts or spectacular immediate results. Industrialization is easily pursued without keeping in mind the socially and environmentally relevant and urgent task of developing and sustaining grass-roots environmentalism. As much as has been done yesterday and today may be redone and undone tomorrow.

All his books provide the foundation for ambitious implementation of holistic  developmental projects for future generation. Writings of his captured a mind in all it’s states, indulgent to both enthusiastic obsessions and passive acceptance, ambition and equanimity, co-existence and co-exclusion. Watching videos of Dr. Kalam, I’ve come to know that his simplicity came from his intuition and faith in God. His simplicity was visible in many forms.

Gutsy is the epithet that comes to my mind when I think of Dr. Kalam. The best part is: his ideas and initiatives paid off.  Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Area (PURA) mooted and steered by him proved that an urgent enterprise such as rural transformation would reduce historic inequalities. I wonder if this idea of Dr. Kalam calls for institution building, tamper-proof flow of funds to beneficiaries and a creation of credible leadership.

As for me, Dr. Kalam represented the last shadow of greatness. If anybody wishes to follow this course, then there are enough good reasons.