“The best brains of the nation can be found in the last benches of the classroom” ~ Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
The first time I heard about Dr Kalam was from my father when Prithvi missile was first being tested. He was one of the people in charge of making the special aluminum alloys for Agni and surface Missile, Prithvi and Dr Kalam was one of his life’s inspirations. I had wondered how my father can be so inspired by a man he had never met, never spoke to. I was too young to know the details but what remained with me was how many nice things my father had to say about Dr Kalam. Years later, when Dr Kalam became our President, my father wasn't there to see it happen but I knew he'd have been happy. Being an engineer and a scientist himself, he always believed that India needs to be lead by a learned and sorted person, which Dr Kalam was no doubt!
I have not read Wings of Fire, and adamantly so. I really don't know why, but I still haven't. What I have read is My Journey, a couple of years ago. I was reading another book when this one came by mail. I put that one aside and started reading this, on instinct. And in the last two years, I have read it close to ten times. It has become my go-to book for inspiration. When the world seems to slow down, nothing seems to happen my way, or when things are moving too fast for me, when I feel I am not being humble enough or when I need inspiration - it really doesn't matter what the reasons is, this thin book has a permanent place on my bedside table. Yes, I read it that frequently. Truly a teacher, Dr Kalam was an educator even through his books.
When he was just eight years of age, he was observant enough to notice that money was tight and his mother wasn't eating enough just so that the rest of the family did. Not only did he notice that, he took upon himself to should some of the responsibilities; he became a newspaper delivery boy. Not just him, when you read about the rest of his family, you realise how great they had all been in their own ways which had contributed in shaping Dr Kalam's personality the way it was.
Last year I read his book, Governance for Growth in India. And guess when I read it? In the week which follows the change of government in India. Ironic, I know.
Earlier this year when Dr Kalam died, the nation almost came to a standstill. I doubt it had much to do with his position as the ex-President of the nation and more to do with the educator that he was. Even in his last moments, he was interacting with students. His travels, his meetings and his speeches were mostly centered on education, inspiration and growth. He taught an entire generation to dream big, work hard and aim for the stars even if the stars are far from being visible when you start to dream.
Recently, a collection of memoirs on Abdul Kalam entitled 'Pupils' President' edited by Satyam Roychowdhury was launched in Kolkata by Sourav Ganguly. You can order the book here.