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Tuesday, Sep 24, 2019

PM Modi said Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s message is relevant for all times: Author SM Khan

Former Press Secretary to President of India, SM Khan, shares anecdotes from the life of former President of India, late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s life, and his own experience of working with him.

books Updated: Oct 12, 2017 17:58 IST
Etti Bali
Etti Bali
Hindustan Times
Author SM Khan with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Author SM Khan with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

People who have worked with late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam can’t praise him enough for being the motivational figure that he was. Having served as a Press Secretary to Kalam — the President of India from 2002 to 2007 — SM Khan worked more closely with him than many others. He shared what Kalam was like, in a biography on India’s Missile Man, last year. Did you know who gave him the idea? Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Khan finally presented the biography to Modi, earlier last month.

“The first thing he [PM Modi] asked me was how the book was doing. I shared some excerpts from the book with him. He said that Dr Kalam’s message is relevant for all times and should be popularised as much as possible. He also encouraged me to inculcate a habit of writing,” says Khan, former DG, Ministry of I&B, Government of India.

Taking help from recorded material and his own memory, it took the author 10 months to complete the book. Sharing an anecdote, he recalls, “Working with Dr Kalam was a continuous learning experience. He was a humanist and would take care of his staff members. He lived alone in the family wing of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The timings [of his routine] were irregular. But he would never disturb anybody. He ate his dinner very late, but would ask his staff to keep his food on the dining table and go home. This is just one example of his humility.”

Khan wanted to highlight different aspects of Kalam’s personality. Revealing another lesser-known facet, he tells us, “Dr Kalam would prepare very thoroughly for his schedule and appointments for the coming day. So a night earlier, he would try and find out everything about the people he was meeting. He used to engage people in conversation after knowing about them.”

Former President Kalam visiting Sarkhej Roza, Mausoleam of Sufi Saint Sheikh Ahmed Khattu Ganjbaksh in Ahmedabad  with the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, and SM Khan.
Former President Kalam visiting Sarkhej Roza, Mausoleam of Sufi Saint Sheikh Ahmed Khattu Ganjbaksh in Ahmedabad with the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, and SM Khan.

Khan wrote the book in English. So, in an attempt to widen its reach [as Modi also encouraged], he’s getting it translated into regional languages. “An Urdu version is ready, and a Hindi one will soon go for print. Gujarati and Tamil versions are getting translated,” he says.

What’s next on his mind? “I am planning to write a book on the Central Bureau of Investigation because I have worked with them for 13 years,” he signs off.

SM Khan’s book.
SM Khan’s book.

Excerpts from The People’s President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam

My Last Meeting with President on 24th July 2015 at 3pm at 10, Rajaji Marg

“I found him worried about the non functioning of the Parliament at that time. He said, “The nation would not progress if the parliamentarians would not debate and legislate. The issues have to be discussed and debated in a a democracy and there cannot be a better forum for this than the parliament... Dissent is a part of debate.” He expressed the view that “Prime Minister Modi is a performer, he should be allowed to perform.”

Dr Kalam’s early days at Rashtrapati Bhawan

To him, this office meant an unprecedented opportunity to make contact with citizens across the length and breadth of India. It also meant that Rashtrapati Bhavan should not merely a grand structure, but also a place where children, artists, thinkers and anyone else who had something important to say, could visit and have access to him.

Follow @htlifeandstyle for more

First Published: Oct 12, 2017 17:57 IST