When Dr APJ Abdul Kalam spoke to students at St Stanislaus School in Bandra a couple of years ago, he left an indelible impression on Kris Corriea, who was 10 years old at the time.
Kalam’s speech inspired the boy to start making little changes in his life: he helped at home, studied regularly and dared to dream big. “I can still hear his voice echoing in the school ground. He told us if we want to make a difference in the world, we should start by helping our mothers,” said Corriea, who is currently studying in Class 8.
The former President APJ Abdul Kalam — who passed away on Monday — touched the lives of hundreds of students at the schools and colleges he visited.
In the spirit of this legacy that he left behind, Vinod Tawde, school education minister has announced his birthday, October 15, will be celebrated as ‘Reading Day’ in schools and colleges. This will be done to inculcate a love for reading among students. “Kalam’s writing was inspirational, what better way for students to pay tribute to him than to take up reading,” said Tawde, after paying tribute to the late president.
“We would love to mark Kalam’s birthday, he has a special place in the students hearts,” said Father Francis Swamy, manager, St Mary’s School, ICSE, Mazagaon and joint secretary of the Archdiocesan Board of Education.
Principals of schools and colleges said they will miss his concern for students. “During his visit to St Stanislaus, he was piqued by the fact that children were sitting in the mid-day sun, while guests were in a shaded podium,” said Father Jude Fernandes, the former principal of the school. “He kept telling me he wished the children were sitting in the shade,” Fr Fernandes said. “He began his speech by apologising to the students and later went and sat among them.”
Indu Shahani, the principal of HR College, Churchgate said, “When we invited Dr Kalam for the golden jubilee celebration, he wrote back agreeing to come only if, instead of taking part in a formal event, he got to meet the students,” said Shahani. Shahani said even today, the students read out a pledge that Kalam taught them.
“He would listen to children attentively, chat as if he was speaking to a group of friends,” said Anita Rane Kothari, the head of the Ancient Indian Culture and Archaeology department at St Xaviers College, Fort.
Ancy Jose, the principal at Nagindas Khandwala College in Malad said, “He told us our real challenge was to win the backbenchers over,” she said. KC College, Churchgate, has a tree he planted in their quadrangle.
Schools and colleges paid tribute to Kalam. His documentary, ‘A little dream’ was screened at HVB Global Academy, Marine Drive. “He was very down-to-earth. We invited him for our golden jubilee celebration and were surprised that he did,” said Chandrakanta Pathak, the principal.