Bharat Ratna APJ Abdul Kalam (1931-2015) passed away yesterday, July 27, at Shillong. I write this to pay my humble tribute to one of the great sons of India. Keeping with his thinking on tireless work, he fell down while delivering a lecture at IIM Shillong and died of cardiac arrest later in a hospital. He was a real Karamyogi. From a humble origin, he rose to be the President of India by his own right and was hailed as the ‘People’s President. He was an acclaimed scientist and occupied the coveted position of Scientific Adviser to the Defense Minister of India. He was rightly called the ‘Missile Man’ in recognition of his contribution to the space programme of India. APJ Abdul Kalam’s great contribution and masterly direction in the development of nuclear energy programme is well known. He was not only a Karamyogi but also a visionary nationalist, a worthy son India. President Kalam’s death has left a huge vacuum which would be difficult to fill.
Apart from my chance casual encounters with him in the late 1990s in the staircase or lift of the back gate of the South Block where our offices were located, I have had two occasions to meet President APJ Abdul Kalam. One was in person when he, as Scientific Adviser, came to meet a delegation of scientists from Kyrgyzstan sometime in 1999 at a hotel in old Delhi. I was the Director of Central Asia Division in the Ministry of External Affairs. I could see how simple he was and how much respect he commanded in his scientific fraternity. When I was the Ambassador of India to Belarus, I called on the Co-Chairman of the India-Belarus Joint Committee on Defense Cooperation. The Belarusian dignitary was a great friend of India and was a scientist by education and training. After the meeting, he invited me to his personal office chamber saying that he wanted to show me something special. With great visible pride on his face, he showed me his photograph with President Kalam kept on the side table of his office desk. He said that President APJ Abdul Kalam was one of his great friends which he valued the most. It was my second meeting with President Kalam though in absentia.
Later after my retirement, my daughter Vaishali gifted to me an autographed copy of ‘Wings of Fire – An Autobiography of APJ Abdul Kalam” which I read with interest and enjoyed. I was impressed by the life of President Kalam that later I purchased and read yet another autobiographical book of his ‘My Journey – Transforming Dreams into Actions’ which contained inspirational stories from the life of India’s most respected thinker and visionary. President Kalam loved and respected the youth of India and rightly dedicated his book My Journey “To the sixteen million youth who I have met and interacted with in the last two decades.”
As a mark of respect to Bharat Ratna APJ Abdul Kalam, Government of India has declared a seven day state mourning in terms of protocol on such occasions. But like a true Karamyogi President Kalam had desired that there should not be any public holiday on his death. I bow my head in reverence and a tribute to President APJ Abdul Kalam.
जिस धज से कोई मक़्तल में गया;
वह शान सलामत रहती है,
यह जान तो आनी जानी है;
इश जान की कोई बात नहीं !