“Children have hard-wired ability to be creative, imaginative and innovative that often diminishes along the way. These inherent capabilities have to be identified and encouraged to have a new breed of innovative thinkers who are prepared to solve future challenges of our world.” – Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
No other Indian president has possibly spent as much time interacting with children and youngsters as Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. He truly believed that the future of India and the future of the world depended on encouraging children to dream, think differently and change status quo.
He often mentioned how his father’s spirituality and simplicity, mother’s love and kindness and his teachers/mentors’ encouragement and belief in him were instrumental in his success despite the numerous obstacles dotting his path.
With our attempt to pay tribute to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam on August 8th; let’s read out these short snippets to your children so that they understand why everyone is talking about this legend today.
Thirst for Knowledge
Kalam was born in Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. His father was a boatman whose earnings were hardly enough to take care of the entire family. This meant that in addition to going to school, Kalam often took up odd jobs in his spare time to supplement the family’s income. Despite all the difficulties, what set Kalam apart was his love for studies. He was an average student in school but had a strong desire to learn more about the world.
This enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge stayed with him his entire life and was one of the fundamental factors for his success as a scientist.
Even as a child, Kalam would begin his day at 4 am – with a mathematics class taught by a teacher who would only accept 5 students in a session. Post the class, he and a cousin would distribute newspapers around town in order to supplement his family’s income. With Kalam’s town having no electricity, kerosene lamps would be used in the evening/night. This hardly deterred the young Kalam who would study till 11 pm, long after everyone else in his family had gone to bed.
It was this perseverance that made an average student first get a degree in Physics and then another in aerospace engineering (having gotten bored with Physics) from Madras Institute of Technology, join DRDO as a scientist, lead an advanced missile programme, serve as Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister, receive the Bharat Ratna – India’s highest civilian honour and finally become one of India’s most popular presidents!
With a strong belief in treating everyone as equal, APJ Abdul Kalam never cared too much about status or designations.
At a student’s convocation at IIT Varanasi recently, where APJ Abdul Kalam was invited as the chief guest, he refused to sit on the chair that was offered to him, since it was bigger in size than the rest of the chairs nearby. He offered it instead, to the Vice Chancellor.
Kalam was also known for his handwritten messages and thank you cards that he took out the time to write.
APJ Abdul Kalam has given all his life savings and earnings to a trust called PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas). In India, if someone is chosen as the country’s President, then the government takes care of their expenses even after their term as President ends. Knowing this, Dr Kalam decided to give away all his wealth for the betterment of rural India.
Nitin Wakankar, who was his Officer on Special Duty at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, called Sir Kalam a great person to be associated with. While appreciating him for being a simple man, Wakankar quoted, “He always encouraged all to be innovative, had no ego and was a simple man at heart. His connect with youth was something to see. A man young at heart.”
Once, a student presented a pen to APJ Abdul Kalam at a student’s event. To his surprise, he did not accept it and gave it back to him, reminding him that it’s the youngsters who can write and voice for a more progressive nation. Such was the man’s simple and positive approach.
At the age of 83, APJ Abdul Kalam never gave up on his dream of making a better India. In his last moments too, he was addressing students at IIM Shillong; telling them that chasing success is not important, but creating more paths to open new avenues of opportunities and aiming high to achieve one’s goals is what matters the most.
Vision & Leadership
The good man was one of the early scientists at ISRO when they didn’t have enough funds or infrastructure at their disposal. Did you know that the first rocket launchpad was set up at a nearby beach?!
Kalam dreamt of seeing India having sophisticated satellite programs, missiles and nuclear science prowess at a time when cycles and bullock carts were being used to ferry rocket parts and satellites! It was also Kalam who convinced the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, that India ought to have an advanced missile program – despite opposition from the Union Cabinet at the time.
His book “India 2020” which talks about his dream of seeing India being a super power by the year 2020 is truly inspiring and a must read for youngsters.
We leave you with some of Kalam’s beautiful quotes for children:
- “Make it a habit to smile.”
- “A clear aim, knowledge, hard work and perseverance spells success.”
- “Dream, dream, dream. Dreams transform into thoughts and thoughts result in action.”
- “If you fail, never give up because FAIL means “First Attempt In Learning”.
- “I am born with potential, goodness and trust, Ideas in dream, greatness and confidence and wings of vision, therefore ready to fly and take off.”