Adieu Dr. Kalam
India has had role models before Independence rather than after it. Since Independence, the Indian political scenario has mostly been a story of a great single leader who led the nation. From Gandhi and Nehru to Shastri, Indira Gandhi to Narashimha Rao, from Vajpayee to Modi, the nation put halos around them. They were the new lords who ruled over their subjects. They were seen as the messiahs, who took the reins of the nation, and were looked upon as guardian angels. Many of these leaders took India to greater heights, but most of them did not allow any new leaders to come forward and take the nation to newer heights. They had hereditist tendency to promote their family members and close faithful.
India did not have role models after Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru until one common simple man came along. He was Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam. The appointment of Dr. Kalam as the President was a moment of real pride for the nation. Here was a man who rose from a pitiably low background to become the first citizen of the world’s largest democratic republic. A commoner made it to the helm of affairs. Few countries could boast of a scientist president. By his appointment, India restored the lustre of the office of the President, which had increasingly started to feel like a geriatric home for the old faithful party loyalists. With his appointment, Kalam became the first scientist and first ever bachelor to occupy the Rastrapati Bhawan. His stint was such a huge success that he deserved a second term, but the Indian political class was afraid of his increasing stature and his popularity among the common people. He soon came to be known as the people’s President.
This simple looking and a shy man changed the nation’s perception about the role of the President. According to him, India needed good leaders very badly, and he saw leaders in the youth. He believed in the legacy of making news leaders who would carry forward the nation to new heights. His words always touched the strings of young hearts, which he saw as new-age revolutionaries. He was a rare President, whose high office actually brought him closer to ordinary people than shutting him off from them.
He was a man who didn’t hide his faith, rather he chose to represent and interpret his faith to the people around by his own conduct and character. His idea of religion was to make Indian owe allegiance to the motherland. For him, the nation came first before anything else. He certainly was the most humble President India ever had. Dr. Kalam travelled through the length and breadth of the country and reached out to millions of school and college children.
He reclaimed national pride, breaking barriers of religious radicalism and political dominance. Dr. Kalam was a true igniter of minds; he was a hero who proved that patriotism was still alive and kicking within the hearts of the common Indians. His simple and heart-touching qualities made him shine above our rusting political class. His scientific mind was always more than just missiles; he personally met scientists, urging them to plunge into the breakthrough pathways, from stem cells and proteomics to nano-technology. He urged them to use innovation and research to improve public health. His words had a lot of value among the scientific community as they came from a man who had used his knowledge of missile-technology to help develop an artificial leg that was way lighter than the ones people then used and had also developed a cheap medical stent. Kalam the President embodied high sciences as well as one who knew about third class train travel and long queues for water. He was the President who designed missile programmes and also flew Sukhois. His messages were primarily for students and youths, who were the true inheritors of the nation, not for the grand panjandrums of Indian politics. His death has spurred discussion of his qualities and attributes. Paens are being sung about his work and achievements. In the heat and dust, many little known aspects of his contribution to contemporary Indian politics are going unnoticed. It was he who discouraged Sonia Gandhi from becoming the Prime Minister in 2004. In his entire working lifetime, he took only two holidays, during the deaths of his father and mother. He opened the doors of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to the common man.
Dr. Abdul Kalam has left behind a great legacy of true patriotism. He will be remembered as the president who inspired the nation. The fire he has ignited in our minds will be burning through eternity. He left behind a legacy that will inspire future generations.