Kalam set the bar higher than highest, say HT readers | india | Hindustan Times
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Kalam set the bar higher than highest, say HT readers

It is not without reason that APJ Abdul Kalam is known as the people's president and touched everyone from the heads of states to that young girl in pigtails alike. In the HT poll, out of the 10, 533 readers who responded till 1:40pm on Wednesday, an overwhelming 98.23% respondents said Kalam was the best president India ever had.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2015 17:00 IST
HT Correspondent
School-children-form-a-missile-during-a-condolence-ceremony-for-former-Indian-president-APJ-Abdul-Kalam-in-Agartala-AFP-Photo
School-children-form-a-missile-during-a-condolence-ceremony-for-former-Indian-president-APJ-Abdul-Kalam-in-Agartala-AFP-Photo

It is not without reason that APJ Abdul Kalam is known as the people's president and touched everyone from the heads of states to that young girl in pigtails alike.

Their testimony about the Missile Man of India speak volumes about the man who was born in a poor Tamil Muslim family in Rameswaram and overcame all odds to study physics and aerospace engineering.

K Kasturirangan, the former chief of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), says when he visited Kalam at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, he was awestruck by the fact that even as the president of India, he led a frugal and spartan life.

"Then he showed me the room where he slept. It had a simple cot, a lungi, a veena and a few other essential items. There was no show or flamboyance. His behaviour was as informal as earlier with no distinction that he had been elevated as the first citizen of the country," recalled Kasturirangan in a piece in the Hindustan Times.

Hindustan Times conducted an online poll asking its readers to give their opinion on whether APJ Abdul Kalam set the gold standard for how a president should be. It was no surprise that almost all the readers who responded said he was the best of them all.

Kalam had succeeded KR Narayanan and served a full five-year term from 2002 until 2007 after he won the presidential election which was a highly one-sided contest with Lakshmi Sahgal, a revolutionary of the Indian Independence movement, as his rival. He secured the backing of all both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress.

After his term, he returned to a life of education, writing, and public service. He received several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor.

In the HT poll, out of the 10, 533 readers who responded till 1:40pm on Wednesday, an overwhelming 98.23% respondents said Kalam was the best president India ever had.

Only 0.88% respondents thought otherwise or said they cannot comment on the issue.

A vegetarian bachelor, Kalam was quoted as saying that like most of the technology he spearheaded, he himself was "Made in India", having never been trained abroad. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam graduated from the Madras Institute of Technology (MIT-Chennai) in 1960, and joined DRDO as a scientist. He started his career by designing a small helicopter for the Indian Army.

Kalam was closely involved in the country's civilian space programme and military missile development efforts, earning him the sobriquet 'India's Missile Man'. He worked as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Isro before he became the president.

He also played a pivotal technical and political role in India's Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, shortly after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government came to power.

A role model for students and young people Kalam was always happy to be among them and educational institutions. Kalam used to regularly meet school and college students and talk to them about science, technology and life. He often shared with them his vision on where India should be by 2020. Anecdotes about Kalam replying to random letters written to him by children are plenty.

He breathed his last in the premises of an educational institution. Kalam, who would have turned 84 in October, died after suffering a massive cardiac arrest while speaking with students at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong.