“Dr Kalam loved his hairstyle and was quite possessive about it,” remembers Srijan Pal Singh, a close aid of former-President APJ Abdul Kalam, on Kalam’s first death anniversary (observed on July 27).
Pal has worked closely with India’s beloved Missile Man, whose signature hairstyle was often discussed by many. “He’d read about people discussing his hairstyle and their suggestions about a new one that he could try. He’d just say, ‘Funny, people want to change my hairstyle’. He loved his hair as is,” says Pal, the social entrepreneur who worked with Kalam to promote quality education.
His Vanity Kit
“In fact, he carried a round comb with him at all times to ensure his hair was always intact. Coconut oil was a constant companion during all his travels. As far as I remember, he never considered changing his hairstyle,” says the IIM-graduate, who has authored several books, the latest being What Can I Give? Lessons from My Teacher, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam from Penguin Random House.
Lessons in Humility
“There is a lot I learned from him. I remember the day I met him at IIM, and I had not met a more humble man than him. When he got to know that the Dean was coming to meet him, he left to meet the Dean in his office. And he said, ‘Outside the campus, I may be the President, but inside, you are the boss’. And he would never act important,” says Singh, who has co-authored the books, Target 3 Billion, and Reignited: Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future.
A voice for Atal Bihari Vajpayee
We were at the Anne Rowling Clinic at the Edinburgh University, where this scholar was explaining that they were working on a project where they would record speech of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Once the patient lost their speech, the project would enable them to communicate in their voice which would be linked to a computer program linked to their eye movement. To make it simpler, imagine Stephen Hawking communicating in his own voice,” adds the 32-year-old, “so, he interrupted the person and asked if they could do the same with someone’s recorded speech. Later, I asked him why he asked that question, ‘I want to gift Atal (former-prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee) his voice on his birthday, fellow,’ he told me. Dr Kalam was a person who lived a humble life and always thought of others before himself.”
Books for all
“His vision was to use technology to make life of people better and easy. He was so passionate about science he’d equate years to the number of revolutions the Earth had made around sun or moon. So if you told him it was your birthday he’d say, ‘So how many revolutions has the Earth made around the sun since the time of your birth, fellow’… And he wanted to make books accessible to everyone. He’d say: ‘Fellow, we need to ask ourselves what we are giving to society.’ That’s why we are working on promoting his vision through Kalam library.”