APJ Abdul Kalam: The Inspiring “People’s President”

APJ Abdul Kalam

On 27th July 2015, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam passed away due to cardiac arrest while addressing students in IIM Shillong. Winner of Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Bharat Ratna, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam even in his last moments kept working towards elevating and igniting the minds of Indians with his knowledge and experiences. 

“While I was posted there (at Rashtrapati Bhavan) there were times when I had the night shift. It was really difficult for us to keep ourselves awake but at times like these Mr. APJ Abdul Kalam would send us tea. I have never seen people at high posts do anything close to this for us.” 

– Rakesh Katoch, an Indian military soldier

“See the flower, how generously it distributes perfume and honey. When its work is done, it falls away quietly. Try to be like it, unassuming despite its qualities.” 

– Bhagavad Gita

Dr Kalam’s contributions in the field of technological development for missiles and space launchers has helped Indian space and defense organisations to become self-reliant. However, due to his unequivocal support for nuclear trials and other experiments, Dr Kalam was often criticized by journalists, social activists and politicians.

APJ Abdul Kalam
PC: Pinterest

His belief that building of any nation involves “sacrifice, toil and virtue” helped him stay undeterred on the path of scientific progress. On 25th July 2002, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam swore-in as the 11th president of India. In his oath-taking ceremony, as the President of India, Dr Kalam reserved space for 100 children invited from all over the country.

Dr Kalam’s love for children, whom he saw as the future nation builders, is a fact known to all. During his tenure as the President, Dr Kalam worked diligently towards making value-based education accessible to children. With the end of his presidential term in 2007, Dr Kalam decided to go back to being a writer, scientist, and educator. 

“Wings of Fire”

The youngest child of Jainulabideen and Ashiamma, Dr Kalam was born in Rameshwaram. Rameshwaram is a town located on the Pamban island. Every year thousands of pilgrims from all over India visit Rameshwaram to offer prayers at the famous Shiva temple. 

Dr Kalam’s father, a man well-versed in Quran, ensured that the multi-religious and tolerant society of Rameshwaram helped his children develop a progressive outlook. Being born into a family with limited resources, from a young age Dr Kalam had to financially support his family. 

APJ Abdul Kalam
PC: makemytrip, Rameshwaram

Life on the island, especially living in proximity to the sea, had a huge influence on Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s personality. In his memoirs, Dr Kalam recounts how their lives were brought to a standstill by cyclones. Once, a cyclone destroyed his father’s only boat that his father built to supplement the family’s meagre income. He used this boat for taking pilgrims from Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi, another town of religious significance for Hindus. 

However, instead of giving up Dr Kalam’s father built several new boats, expanded his business and continued taking pilgrims to Dhanushkodi until Dhanushkodi was destroyed by a cyclone in 1964. Inspired by such incidents Dr Kalam remained firmly resolute while facing several challenges that were beyond his control in his life. 

APJ Abdul Kalam
PC: pinterest

Besides his parents, his cousin Samsuddin and his brother-in-law Jalaluddin greatly influenced Dr Kalam’s life. At Schwartz Higher Senior Secondary School, Dr Kalam’s teacher, Iyadurai Solomon, constantly motivated Dr Kalam towards achieving his goals. 

In 1954, Dr Kalam graduated from Saint Joseph’s College with a degree in physics. However, Dr Kalam soon realized that his interest lay in aerospace engineering and he enrolled himself into Madras Institute of Technology(MIT). 

Broken Dreams

In one of his autobiographies, My Journey, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam states that seeing his father’s boat come alive from pieces of wood was his first introduction to the world of engineering. Dr Kalam on several occasions also talked about his passion for planes. 

At MIT he would sit for hours in front of two decommissioned aircraft. These aeroplanes according to Dr Kalam were symbolic of the human capacity to create marvels if they thought and moved beyond their boundaries. These planes symbolised for him dreams of men that could come true. 

After completing his degree from MIT in 1958, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited(HAL), to receive training that would help him develop technology related to space and defense. As soon as Dr Kalam completed his training, he received calls for interviews from two places. 

One call was for the post of the fighter pilot in Indian Air Force(IAF) while the other was from the Directorate of Technical Development and Production(DTDP). While the interview for the post in IAF was at Dehradun, for the job at DTDP he had to go to Delhi. Since the IAF interview was scheduled 10 days ahead than the one at DTDP, Dr Kalam decided to use those ten days to explore Delhi.

Becoming a fighter pilot was Dr Kalam’s “dearest dream”. He succeeded at bagging the 9th position at IAF. However, at that time in 1958, only eight slots were available for the post of the fighter pilot. Hence, Dr Kalam could not realize his dream. He was very dejected after receiving the results and decided to go to Rishikesh in order to contemplate his future plans.

APJ Abdul Kalam
PC: dnaindia, Dr Kalam in the company of Vikram Sarabhai

He was full of sorrow when he reached Rishikesh. However, Dr Kalam’s chance encounter with Swami Shivananda helped him discover courage and resilience within him. Swami Shivananda told Dr Kalam that with each failure a person learns something new about life and himself. 

Then he received another call from DTDP that informed him that he was selected and had to join Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) as a scientist. After two years Dr Kalam shifted to Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) and worked with Vikram Sarabhai as a member of the Indian National Committee for Space Research(INCOSPAR).


Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s technological innovations have helped Indian space and defence organisations in achieving self-reliance and a technological edge over other nations. Out of his innumerable contributions, I have listed a few below- 


India’s first indigenous satellite launch vehicle was built under his guidance. He was appointed as the director of this project.

  • Prithvi, Trishul, Aakash, Nag and Agni
APJ Abdul Kalam
PC: indiatvnews

In 1983, Dr Abdul Kalam was asked to head the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) that helped India in developing several indegenous missiles such as Prithvi, Trishul and others. The outcomes of this project earned him the name, “Missile Man” of India. 

  • PSLV

On 20th September 1993, Dr. Kalam succeeded at developing the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle(PSLV). PSLV helped India launch its first Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) Satellite into the sun’s synchronous orbit. 

APJ Abdul Kalam
PC: Wikipedia
  • Pokhran-II

He played a crucial role in the country’s five nuclear weapon tests conducted in Pokhran, in 1998.

  • Scientific Adviser (1992-1997, 1999-2001)

It is a fact known to few that for seven years Dr APJ Abdul Kalam acted as the scientific adviser to Cabinet Ministers of India. 

  • Kalam-Raju Stent

Innovating upon the technology used in missiles, in 1998, Dr Kalam and Dr Soma Raju successfully developed a low cost coronary stent. This innovation has made low cost heart surgeries open to those living below the poverty line. 

  • Kalam-Raju Tablet

In 2012, Dr Kalam and Dr Soma Raju developed a low cost tablet computer to make health care facilities available in rural areas.

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s Idea of Developed India 

  • Road-map to Development 

In his book India 2020: A Vision for the New Millenium, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam writes that widened access to education and healthcare, increased agricultural productivity and use of technology as a tool for economic growth can help India in becoming a developed nation.

APJ Abdul Kalam
PC: livechennai
  • National Prosperity Index (NPI)

In his public interviews and speeches, Dr Kalam always said that GDP alone cannot be seen as the marker of India’s prosperity. Along with an improved GDP, he believed that India needs to work towards improving the lifestyle of those below the poverty line and strengthening the value system of our society. He combined these three factors and coined the term National Prosperity Index (NPI). 

  • Five Pillars of National Development
    • Agriculture and Food Processing
    • Education and Healthcare
    • ICT
    • Infrastructure 
    • Self-reliance in technology
  • Young and Educated leaders
APJ Abdul Kalam
PC: mid-day

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam often in his public addresses and speeches motivated youngsters to assume the leadership of the country. He believed that an increase in the number of young leaders was directly proportional to India becoming developed.He wanted an educated class of young politicians to lead this nation. 

Must Read and Buy Books by Dr Kalam

You can also buy these books at amazon. Please refer the above links to make the purchase.

शुक्रिया! Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

Nearly 3,50000 people attended the last rituals of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Dr Kalam lived by the principles of “perseverance, hardwork and patience”. Throughout his life, he worked towards his dream of building a developed and self-reliant India. He often said that”… the nation was bigger than any organisation or the political system”.

A scientist, an academician and an innovator, Dr Kalam had faith that the youth of this nation would earn India worldwide accolades for its achievements and innovations in various fields. Even in his last days he kept the youth motivated by telling them that “ unless one has tasted the bitter pill of failure, one cannot aspire enough for success”. 

APJ Abdul Kalam
PC: indiatimes

Dr Kalam always attributed his success to his father, mother, teachers and friends. The lessons taught by them helped Dr Kalam remain focussed even in the face of simultaneous losses and failures in life.

Dr Kalam’s life is an inspiration for us all. There are several important lessons to be learnt from Dr Kalam’s life. I would end this article by sharing a lesson that his life and work has taught me- 

 “And that there is not for man except for which he strives”

-Quran, 53:39

APJ Abdul Kalam
PC: mid-day

Before leaving, here’s a fun fact for you – Did you know that Dr Kalam’s birthday is also observed as World Student’s day? Do let me know your answer (also, reviews or suggestions) in the comment box below. 

Click on this link to read some interesting articles by Dr Kalam and by clicking here you can find a list of books that have been written by Dr Kalam. 

Click here to listen to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s biography by Gulzar.

Don’t forget to check our list of immunity boosters necessary to brave COVID-19.


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