India is today remembering Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam or APJ Abdul Kalam – the person we know as the “Missile Man” of India, on his birth-anniversary. Kalam, who had an illustrious scientific career with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), was the 11th and by far the most popular President of the country.
Kalam was born on October 15, 1931 at Tamil Nadu’s Rameswaram and went on to get a degree in aeronautical engineering from Madras Institute of Technology. In 1958, he joined the DRDO. Subsequently, he joined ISRO in 1963. In ISRO, he introduced major changes such as fibre reinforced plastics activities. A strong advocate of self-reliance in defence technology, Kalam rejoined DRDO in 1982.
Kalam played a pivotal role Pokhran-II nuclear test In 1998. Kalam was appointed as the Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister and Secretary (1992 to 1997) and Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India (1999-2001). He was also the Vice President of Astronautical Society of India. Kalam was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1981, Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and Bharat Ratna in 1997.
A different self of Kalam can be seen through his astute sense of lietrature. An aesthete and an exponent of Karnatak or Carnatic music, Kalam could play veena and had written poetry in Tamil. In 1994, Kalam’s book “My Journey” was published. The book comprises translation of seventeen of his poems in English. He also penned two books, titled India 2020: A Vision for the new Millennium and Wings of Fire: An Autobiography that went on to become bestsellers.
Kalam had envisaged Technology Vision 2020, through which he laid out a road map for transforming India from a less-developed to a developed society in 20 years.
Kalam suffered a massive heart attack during a lecture session at the IIM-Shillong and breathed his last at a city hospital on July 27, 2015. Several of his quotes continue to inspire and one such “An indomitable spirit stands on two feet: vision and firm thought” is apt to describe the man with the ocean of knowledge.