Iam deeply saddened by Dr Kalam’s unexpected demise. He would have completed 84 years in October. There is only a four year difference between us. He was born
in October 1931 and I was born in December 1935.
My first interaction with Dr Kalam was when he was
scientific advisor to raksha mantra (defense minister
George Fernandes). After the Pokhran blasts, (the
then) Prime Minister Vajpayee invited leaders of the
Congress party for a briefing. Dr Manmohan Singh, Mrs
Sonia Gandhi and a couple of others and I were present. The technical aspects of the tests at Pokhran II were
explained by Dr Kalam through an impressive presentation. Vajpayeeji, the ministers and other political leaders
analyzed it from the political angle.
I congratulated him when he received the Bharat Ratna
in November 1997 and when his name came up for presidency. But, we had formal interactions only after 2004.
I was the defense minister in the UPA-I government
when he was President and supreme commander of the
armed forces. He asked me to support the Brahmos missile project. His direct encouragement resulted in the
Brahmos being used by all the three services.
Initially, it was a surface-to-surface missile. But now we
have adapted it and there are surface-to-air, air-to-air,
Dr Kalam used to often write poetry. Sometimes, while
paying respects to departed soldiers at Amar Jawan Jyoti,
he would compose a poem and quietly pass it on to me. I
received two to three poems.
Our friendship developed because we had a
common passion — books. He loved books and
lived among them. His world revolved around
books. Many years ago, I had read in college a
poem ‘My days among the dead are passed’.’
Dead here means authors who are no more. I
am always surrounded by books. He too was
always surrounded by books. Moreover, he was a
prolific writer. This passion brought us together.
When we met and the few times he came to
see me, we would discuss books. What each one
was reading or what he was writing. He chided
me why do you not write? You read but your
production is poor compared to your reading.
Why don’t you write?
After I became President, he visited me several times and we discussed many things. On his
last visit, he presented me his book ‘Beyond
I was shocked when I heard the unexpected
news of his demise. A sense of tremendous loss
overwhelmed me. Dr Kalam was always jovial,
but carried his years lightly. His mind was ever
agile. He was humble but had a mighty mind.
He was the People’s President and will continue
to remain so in the hearts of people after his
No President was ever loved so much.
Jawaharlal Nehru received a great deal of love and
My friend Dr Kalam
affection from children and the people. After that, it has
been Dr Kalam. Watching Dr Kalam enjoy the company
of children and students, it seemed as if he was Nehru in
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee pays an emotional tribute.
BHARAT has lost a Ratna, but the light from this jewel will guide us towards APJ Abdul Kalam’s dream
destination: India as a knowledge superpower, in the first rank of nations.
Our scientist-President — and one who
was genuinely loved and admired across
the masses — never measured success by
material possessions. For him, the coun-
terpoint to poverty was the wealth of
knowledge, in both its scientific
and spiritual manifestations. As a
hero of our defense program, he
shifted horizons; and as a seer of
the spirit, he sought to liberate
doctrine from the narrow confines
of partisan tension to the tran-
scendental space of harmony…
His profound idealism was
secure because it rested on a foun-
dation of realism. Every child of
deprivation is a realist. Poverty
does not encourage
illusions. Poverty is a terrible
inheritance; a child can be defeat-
ed even before he or she has begun
to dream. But Kalamji refused to be
defeated by circumstances.
As a boy, he had to support his studies
by earning money as a newspaper vendor;
today, page after page of the same newspapers are filled with his obituary notices.
He said that he would not be presumptu-
ous enough to say that his life could be a
role model for anybody; but if some poor
child living in an obscure and underprivi-
leged social setting found some solace in
the way his destiny had been shaped, it
could perhaps help such children liberate
themselves from the bondage of illusory
backwardness and helplessness. He is my
marg darshak, as well as that of every
His character, commitment and inspirational vision shine through his life. He
was unencumbered by ego; flattery left
him cold. He was equally at ease before
an audience of suave, globe-trotting ministers and a class of young students.
The first thing that struck one about
him was that, uniquely, he combined the
honesty of a child with the energy of a
teenager and the maturity of an
adult. He took little from the world,
and gave all he could to society…
His vision for the nation was
anchored in freedom, development
and strength. Given our history,
freedom had a political context of
course; but it also included free-
dom of the mind and expansion of
intellectual space. He wanted India
to leap out of the under-developed
trough, and eliminate the curse of
poverty through inclusive econom-
His memory is best honored by
the creation of new institutions
that nurture science and technolo-
gy, and enable us to find a beneficial
equation with the awesome power of
Too often, greed makes us predators of
our environment. Kalamji saw poetry in a
tree, and energy that could be harnessed
in water, wind and sun. We should learn
to look at our world through his eyes, and
with the same missionary zeal.
Human beings can shape their lives
through will, persistence, ability and sheer
courage. But we have not been given the
right to script where we are born, or how
and when we die. However, if Kalamji
had been offered an option, this is how he
would perhaps have chosen to say goodbye: On his feet, and in front of a classroom of his beloved students.
As a bachelor, he was childless. But that
An excerpt from Indian Prime Minister Narendra
is wrong. He was a father to every Indian
child, teaching, cajoling, urging, exciting,
As I entered the room where his body
lay in state, I noticed the painting at the
entrance that depicted a few lines from an
inspirational book he wrote for children,
Ignited Minds. The good that he did will
not be interred with his bones, because
his children will preserve his memory
through their lives and work, and gift it to
Bharat has lost a ratna
The final salute by President Mukherjee to president Kalam.
Indian Prime Minister narendra Modi pens a tribute to Kalam in new Delhi, July 28.
Then President a P J abdul Kalam, left, swore in Pranab Mukherjee to the Indian cabinet in May , 2004. Though they had known each other before this, their real interactions started from here. C o