The Missile Man of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam was an epitome of kindness and humility. He redefined the Presidency, crafted a political idiom that bridged the gap between common public and the political class. No adjective would be enough to describe the exemplary contribution of people’s president to India’s space and defense programs. Apart from his immense contribution to India’s development, it was Abdul Kalam’s generosity and humility that made him rule the hearts of every Indian. Here are a few rare untold stories which will deepen your respect you have for the legend – Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
- Kalam once surprised his subordinate by taking his children to the exhibition as the subordinate was busy completing his work at the office.
Dr. Kalam was serving as a manager at DRDO and he and his team were working on a significant project. As the work pressure was high the team was working dedicatedly to finish the work in time. One day, one of his subordinates requested to grant leave early that day as he wanted to take his children to an exhibition nearby. Dr. Kalam readily agreed and the subordinate got back to work. The subordinate was so involved in his work that he lost the track of time and forgot to leave early.
He reached home, feeling bad that he could not keep up his promise and looked for his kids, but he could find only his wife. When he enquired about kids who were not to be seen anywhere around, to his surprise his wife told: “your manager arrived around 5:15 and he took the kids for the exhibition”.
Apparently, Dr. Kalam observed that his subordinate was involved in the work and was sure that his subordinate would not make it on time. Feeling that the kids would be hurt if they would not be taken to the exhibition, Dr. Kalam took it on himself to take the kids out to the exhibition. That’s so sweet of Kalam, isn’t it?
- When Dr. Kalam took to Yahoo! to ask people on their opinion on how to end terrorism.
When Dr. Kalam was the President of India, he posted a question on Yahoo! answers. His question was: “What should we do to free our planet from terrorism?”
His question attracted answers from every section of the society including from the likes of Sri Sri Ravishankar, Kiran Bedi, Leander Paes and many others.
- When he invited people from the lower class as esteemed ‘Presidential Guests’ to Kerala’s Raj Bhavan during his first visit to the state.
Yes, he invited people from the lower class of the society as the ‘Presidential Guests’ during his first visit to the state after he became the President of India. He invited a roadside cobbler and owner of a small hotel as the esteemed guests to Raj Bhavan during his maiden visit to Trivandrum. Dr. Kalam during his stint as a scientist had spent considerable time in Trivandrum and he used to visit a certain cobbler to get his unique hair style set and visit a certain restaurant to have meals.
Which other politician or celebrity have you seen remembering the people like a cobbler or owner of a small restaurant as their prestigious guests? That’s the reason why every Indian loved this human being more than anyone else.
- Kalam’s contribution to India’s space and defense programs:
Kalam was one of the few scientists who served at ISRO during its early years. A church in Kerala served as the place of work for the scientists who were working dedicatedly to make India a leader in Rocket Science – including Dr. Kalam, and a nearby beach became the place where the rockets were launched through launch pads.
Back in 70’s and 80’s cycles and bullock carts were used to transport rocket parts and entire satellites, and Dr. Kalam was one of the few pioneers who made a significant contribution to India’s space program. Dr. Kalam served as the Director of the project that helped India indigenously produce Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) III and also PSLV which is operational even today and was used in Chandrayan and Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). In 1980, ISRO successfully injected SLV – III into a near earth orbit and made India an exclusive member of the Space Club.
After his stint with ISRO, Dr. Kalam took up the responsibility of developing Indigenous Guide Missiles at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which paved way for development of AGNI and PRITHVI missiles. Dr. Kalam also spearheaded the Pokhran-II nuclear tests that made India a nuclear weapon state.
It is rumored that it was Dr. Abdul Kalam who convinced Indira Gandhi, for an advanced missile program and despite the disapproval of the Union Cabinet, PM had secretly funded Kalam’s aerospace and defense projects. And as we all know the rest is history.
- Kalam made sure Indian scientists received VIP treatment at the Paris Airport.
Once when Indian scientists were returning to India after overseeing the testing of INSAT – 4B communications satellite, they were in for a surprise as the airport officials continued to escort them even after checking their passports. Taken aback by this strange behavior one of them inquired as to why were the officials accompanying them?
The officials replied that they were doing so at the request of Dr. Kalam. The officials told the scientists that Abdul Kalam had informed the officials that Indian scientist would be visiting the airport and hence he requested the officials to take care of them.
Amused by the special treatment they received and happy that the most admired Dr. Kalam had remembered them even though he had a busy schedule and made an effort on his part to make sure that they were treated rightly by the officials.
- Kalam once asked an Indian student to have food from his plate.
During International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in California in 2013, the students who attended the conference went up to the dining table where Dr. Kalam was having food to talk to him.
As soon as one of the students reached out to him, Dr. Kalam extended his plate and asked the student to have food from his plate and the surprised but happy student took out a leaf of spinach from Dr. Kalam’s plate.
“Till this day I take it to be a leaf of inspiration from him and the best dinner I could ever imagine,” says the student.
- When a back bencher received an internship offer from Rashtrapati Bhavan
Students of IIM, Indore were provided with once in a lifetime opportunity to give a presentation to Dr. Abdul Kalam in groups. Since it was a lifetime opportunity to stand before Dr. Kalam and impress the president by sharing their ideas, everyone was trying very hard but there was a group of casual students – the back benchers who started to prepare just two days prior to D day.
One of the students in the back benchers group took up the responsibility of formatting the presentation. While the group took only half a day to get ready for the presentation, the student took 36 hours to format the presentation spending sleepless night to add color, formatting, and animation of the slides.
After the presentation, the President asked who did the formatting of the presentation. When the scared guy came front, Dr. Kalam presented him with a golden visiting card which read ‘President India’ printed on it. The ex-President asked the guy to call at the office after two days. When the guy actually called up two days later, he was told that he had been chosen for an internship at the office and the guy would be working with the President on various presentations that he would be making at UNO.
Even though the Missile Man fondly called as ‘People’s President’ is physically not with us anymore, Dr. Abdul Kalam still is with us through the fond memories that he has left behind which acts as a bundle of joy and a source of inspiration to each and every one of us. All we could say is, You continue to inspire us, sir!
Read more of his unheard stories here: