Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen (APJ) Abdul Kalam is fondly remembered as the people's president and an extraordinary Indian. Born in a humble family in Rameswaram on October 15, 1931, Dr. Kalam as a young boy sold the newspaper to help his family make ends meet. It is hard to imagine that from a simple beginning to rising to the highest office in India, his achievements both on a personal and professional level is truly surreal and magical. His rise to the top was not through the conventional political route but through his dedication and commitment as a scientist in the government service.
With a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Madras Institute of Technology, he joined the Defence Research and Development Organisation in 1958. Later he joined Indian Space Research Organisation and was the project director of the SLV-III, which was India's first designed and produced satellite launch vehicle. In the year 1982, he once again joined DRDO and planned a program to produce several successful missiles, thereby earning a nickname of “Missile Man”, the name with which he was dubbed in the popular press.
A rocket scientist by profession he rose to prominence as head of the country's several spaces and missile defense programs. An improbable presidential candidate, he became an eminent occupant of the sublime post. Despite his ceremonial role he reached out to ordinary people, particularly the younger generation presenting his vision for India's future. He conducted 500,000 one-on-one meetings with the younger generation during his five years term as president. His motivational quotes along with his lectures and books on a wide range of topics, from solar energy to the significance of broadband connectivity for villages, were emphatic in igniting a million minds.
There was not even a slight decrease in his popularity by his relinquishment of office, and after retirement in 2007, he became a visiting professor at several universities. In 2011 he formed "What Can I Give Movement" to create a compassionate society, and in his effort to improve healthcare he released a tablet for medical professionals to use in remote areas. Besides all his other efforts he also contributed toward society through his several books, which he penned just for the betterment of posterity. He has written 17 books and some of his inspiring books include the autobiography Wings of Fire, Narasimha; Indian Academy of Sciences, Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India, The Luminous Sparks, Mission India, Inspiring Thoughts, You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond, and many other.
He was warmly welcomed at noted educational institutions to deliver motivational speeches to students. Due to his uncanny ability to connect with a variety of audiences, he was revered across the boundaries of age, class, religion, and region. Both in his personal and professional endeavors, he embodied the best of what India can be. India was blessed to have such a beloved president, who was active till the end. He passed away while delivering a speech, the work he enjoyed the most, guiding and motivating the younger generation. His sudden demise bereaved the nation, as every citizen mourned his death, but his life will be celebrated for a long.