A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
|Indian Statesman||October 15, 1931 – July 27, 2015|
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born on October 15, 1931, in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, India, to Muslim parents. He was the youngest of five children. His father, Jainulabudeen, owned a ferry business and was also the imam of a local mosque, but the family was poor. His mother, Ashiamma, managed the household.
As a young boy, Kalam watched his father rebuild his boat after a cyclone destroyed it. From this experience, Kalam learned lessons about optimism and persistence.
Even at the age of eight, Kalam was disciplined – he kept an impressive schedule. Starting at 4:00 A.M., he attended math tutoring and Arabic class, then he worked a paper route. Before he distributed the papers, he studied the front page for images of fighter planes and news about World War II. After this early-morning routine, he joined his classmates for a full day of school.
Kalam’s father, a Muslim, regularly held discussions at home with a Brahmin friend and a Christian priest. Kalam learned what he would call “true secularism” by listening to these discussions. When Kalam’s teacher at school asked him to sit in the back of the class, because he was Muslim, his father visited the school with his Hindu and Christian friends, to put an end to such segregation.
Kalam attended the Schwartz Higher Secondary School, Ramanathapuram, then in 1954, he graduated with a degree in physics from Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli.
Starting in 1955, Kalam studied aeronautical engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology on a scholarship. Once, when he fell behind on a project, the dean threatened to take away his scholarship unless Kalam could finish the project in three days. Kalam succeeded, and the dean later explained that he was trying to teach a lesson about managing stress and deadlines. Kalam graduated from the institute in 1960.
Kalam planned to be a pilot in the Indian Air Force. He later said, “Over the years, I had nurtured the hope to be able to fly; to handle a machine as it rose higher and higher in the stratosphere was my dearest dream.” Unfortunately, when he applied for pilot’s training he was ranked in ninth place and only eight recruits were needed.
From Science to Politics
To become ‘unique,’ the challenge is to fight the hardest battle which anyone can imagine until you reach your destination.
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam