Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931. His birth anniversary is observed as World Students’ Day. He was the President of India from 2002 to 2007. He was honoured with several prestigious awards including India’s highest civilian honour “Bharat Ratna” in 1997. He was born in Dhanushkodi, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, and studied physics and aerospace engineering.
By 1920s, his family had lost most of his fortune; their businesses failed and by the time Abdul Kalam was born are in the stage of the poverty-stricken. To help the family, Kalam started selling newspapers at an early age.
- The Man who didn’t accept gifts or favor
Once Dr Kalam went to Erode to attend a function sponsored by Sowbhagya wet grinders . On that occasion, they gave him a grinder as a gift. He refused to accept it but since he needed it he insisted on paying for it . He then sent a person to the shop with a cheque for Rs 4,850 dated August 25, 2014.
The Managing Director of the company was reluctant to receive money from Kalam and did not encash the cheque for over a month. A month later , they received a call from Kalam’s office asking why the cheque has not been deposited. Further, Kalam directed them to deposit the cheque to avoid returning the grinder. The company agreed to deposit it. But they did not want to let go of the treasure and decided to keep a copy of the cheque. They got it scanned and have framed it. The very next day they deposited the cheque and received a message from Kalam’s office thanking them for doing so.
- Once, the missile man rejected the suggestion to put broken glass on the wall of a building that needed protection because broken glass could be harmful to birds!
This happened when Dr Kalam was with the Defence Research and Development organization (DRDO) and his team was discussing options to secure the perimeter of a building that needed protection. Dr Kalam reportedly said: “If we do that, birds will not be able to perch on the wall. Think of something else. ”
- He invited a cobbler and a small hotel owner as the “Presidential Guest
As the President, Dr. Kalam was entitled to invite any two people as the “Presidential Guests” to the Raj Bhavan of Kerala during his first visit to Trivandrum. He had spent a significant amount of time as a scientist in Trivandrum and guess who he called ? A roadside cobbler who was quite close to Dr. Kalam during his time in Kerala; and an owner of a very small hotel where Dr. Kalam used to have his meals.
This gesture was more than enough to show his level of simplicity!
- When a teammate of President Kalam at DRDO couldn’t take his children to an exhibition due to workload , Kalam surprised him and took the children instead!
During a significant project, the workload was high . One of the 70 scientists working on it asked him if he could leave at 5.30 pm that evening as he had promised to take his kids to an exhibition. Dr Kalam granted the permission. However, the scientist got busy with work only to realise that it was 8.30 pm. When he looked for his boss, he wasn’t there. Guilty for having disappointed his kids, he went back home only to find that his kids weren’t there. When he asked his wife where they were, she replied, “You don’t know? Your manager came here at 5.15 pm and took the children to the exhibition.”
Dr Kalam had been observing the scientist and he realized that he was too busy with the work and might forget to reach home at time. So, he decided to take the kids to the exhibition instead.
- President Kalam used to write his own thank you cards.
“It was the year 2005 and I was braving the onslaught of class 6’s academic pressure.
I happened to come across a book recommended by my elder brother. It was ‘Wings of Fire’ by the missile man. A short and inspiring book. After completing it, I picked up my sketching pad. That book had Kalam’s face sketched on it. And my immediate inspiration was this sketch. Within half an hour, I had sketched the exact image and was proudly showing it off to my family. My mother got super excited (even more than me!) and asked me to mail it to the President. I didn’t take her seriously. In my defence, I sarcastically said ‘ya right, he is your father and he would be happy to get a sketch from his grandchild’ and walked away. BOOM-BOOM-BAM. 30 min later, I was trotting along my mother to post the sketch to the best address in this country: Rashtrapati Bhawan, Delhi.
20 days later, a letter from The President of India with my name on the envelope was delivered. A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA WITH MY NAME ON THE ENVELOPE WAS DELIVERED! Being on ‘cloud infinity’ is how I would define the feeling. Jumping and shouting I ran to my mother. Tears of joy started trickling down her face. I opened the prized-envelope with utmost care and took out a small note.
It said ‘Dear Naman Narain, Thank you for your nice drawing. With best wishes from, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’. It was personally written and signed by him!”
These incidents prove why Dr Kalam is widely loved and respected by everyone..