China’s elite Peking University (PKU) on Tuesday remembered former president APJ Abdul Kalam with the warmth and respect of a peer.
Professor Wang Bang Wei, a director in PKU, said it in a short sentence to HT: “He was not a politician. President Kalam was a scientist, scholar and poet."
Wang is the director of the Centre for Indian Studies, set up during former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s China visit in 2003 at a time when Kalam was president.
News of Kalam’a death while delivering a lecture at an academic institution in Shillong had reached the faculty and students early morning.
“I remember him as a friendly person, always smiling and answering questions,” Lue Jiangyi, a student of Sanskrit and Pali at PKU who attended his lecture last year said, adding that he patiently answered queries from the students.
For Wang, the association with Kalam began when the latter had proposed the reopening of the ancient Nalanda University in Bihar in 2006.
"I met him in New Delhi soon after, as part of the team working on the project. He already had the plans ready like a true scientist and technical person. I was very impressed,” Wang said.
Wang in fact received Kalam when he visited PKU last November.
“Everyone he met -- students and faculty -- were very impressed. He was a very clear thinker,” Wang said.
In 2012, according to a university statement, PKU invited Kalam to teach at the “Peking University of China and offered him the laboratory of his choice to work on with the students. The invitation came up during Kalam’s visit to the Beijing Forum by the chairperson Zhu Shanlu of PKU.”
Kalam delivered the keynote address that year on “Livable Planet Earth” at the university.
It was not just the students who reacted to Kalam’s death. Some users of Weibo -- China’s version of Twitter --commented as well.
“Former Indian president discussed with PKU students about creative leadership, based on integrity, transparent leadership style, having courage to make decisions, knowing how to deal with success and failure, daring to embrace the unknown. This was Dr Kalam's understanding about leadership," commented a user XiBingCourage.
The comment from a news magazine portal, China News Week was glowing: “Though he never had a family of his own, he paid tremendous attention to the growth of young adults. Kalam gave a lecture in Peking University in Nov of 2014. During his five-year presidency, Kalam had hundreds of interaction activities with Indian youths. After presidency, he paid more attention to the education of young Indian people, this is one of the important reasons that he returned to the university to teach. Kalam taught in nearly ten universities in different cities in India…”