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Tribute to ‘People’s President’ A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Former President Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, 83, suffered a fatal heart attack while lecturing students

at IIM Shillong on July 27. The death of former President APJ Abdul Kalam was mourned

by the entire nation, led by the prime minister and leaders of various political parties.





















One of India's most accomplished scientists, Kalam - widely known as India's "Missile Man" -- was awarded

the Padma Bhushan in 1981, Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and Bharat Ratna - the highest civilian honour in


The Bharat Ratna came just a year before Kalam played a key role in India's nuclear test at Pokhran in

Rajasthan in May 1998, soon after Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the prime minister.

Born on October 15, 1931 in the Hindu pilgrim town of Rameshwaram in coastal Tamil Nadu, Kalam went

on to become one of the most celebrated aerospace and defence scientists in the country.

Kalam's early years were, however, steeped in poverty when, as a mere eight-year-old, he hawked newspapers

to supplement the income of a large family. His father, Jainulabudeen, was a boat owner and his mother,

Ashiamma, a housewife. Born in a poor family, he had to support the family by doing odd jobs right from a

young age.

There were times when food was scarce in the family and his hard-pressed mother stretched every resource to

the utmost to keep her five sons and daughters as well as her boat owner husband and his brother's families

fed, clothed and in good health.

By his own admission, Kalam would wake up much before dawn to distribute newspapers in the town after

collecting newspaper bundles at the Rameshwaram railway station. The tough routine lasted a year.

His sister pawned jewellery with a moneylender so that the studious Kalam could have Rs.600 to join the

Madras Institute of Technology. He passed out in 1957 with Aeronatuics as his specialisation.

Kalam contributed to the development of India's first satellite launch vehicle and was the architect of the

country's guided missile development programme. He became the head of the Defence Research and

Development Organisation in 1992. He became the principal scientific advisor to the Indian government

in 1999 with the rank of a cabinet minister. He held the post till 2001. He was a distinguished scientist.

He was India’s President from 2002 to 2007. Kalam was a serious scholar and had degrees in physics and

aerospace engineering. Called the Missile Man of India, when he served at the Indian Space Research

Organistaion and the Defence Research and Development Organisation for close to 40 years.

Kalam also played a major role in India’s nuclear tests in 1998 at Pokharan, Rajasthan. Elected as the nation’s

President in 2002, with the support of the then ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Congress,

he served till 2007. After his tenure was over, he returned to his life of education, writing books and articles

and delivering lectures.


(Dr Kalam with Mitians)