Abdul Pakir Jainulabudeen Abdul Kalam, this was the name of India’s 11th President; who is known as APJ Abdul Kalam, in short. He was born to Mr. Jainulabdeen and Mrs. Ashiamma. Abdul Kalam’s father was a boat owner who ferried Hindu pilgrims from the famous Rameswaram temple in Tamil Nadu to Dhanushkodi. Mr. Jainulabdeen was also an imam in the local mosque, this is how he earned his living for his family. Mrs. Ashiamma was a housewife. Dr. Abdul Kalam came from a modest family. He has even worked as a paperboy to support his father. Abdul Kalam has four brothers and one sister. He was born on 15th October 1931 in the temple city of Rameswaram. He was a devout Muslim. He offered prayers five times a day and fasted during the holy month of Ramadan.
In his autobiography, he has mentioned that while he was young his father who was the imam, the temple priest and the priest from the nearby church used to sit together and discuss the common issues of the village. This is how the feeling of secularism and equality was inculcated in him. Dr. Abdul Kalam’s teachers remember him as being not a very studious student, but very hardworking. He graduated from Madras University with physics as his main subject, he wanted to be a fighter pilot. He studied aerospace engineering, later on he completed his PhD and became a scientist. He was involved in India’s civilian space and military missile development programmes and hence he is known as, “The Missile Man of India.” Kalam was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the then Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh (1992-1999). He received the Bharat Ratna or the highest civilian award in 1997, the Padma Bhushan which is the third highest civilian award in 1981 and the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award in 1990. Once he was asked whether he would like to be known as a poet, a teacher, a missile man, a scientist, a President or a statesman. Dr. Kalam replied that he would like to be known as a teacher! On 27th July 2015, it was as if God blessed him, he breathed his last while giving a lecture in Shillong to the IIM students . Not only India, but the whole world was saddened by the death of this great man. We can rightly say that Mr. Abdul Kalam is an epitome of simplicity and humility.