Shahnawaz Ahmad Ansari
In this article, I commemorate the illustrious life of a paragon of diligence, determination, and dedication—Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. His legacy reverberates across the annals of time and space, celebrated as the People’s President, revered as the architect of India’s missile technology, and globally honoured as the ‘Missile Man.’ Dr. Kalam was a visionary and an embodiment of integrity, and his life serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of resilience, passion, and unyielding patriotism. Here, I honour his life and legacy, recognizing that he was more than just a president—he was a ‘Ratna of Bharat,’ a true gem of India.
Born into humble beginnings, Dr. Kalam charted a course that would inspire generations. He wore many hats, from scientist to educational reformer, advocate of humanity and communal harmony, writer, poet, and, above all, a visionary dedicated to a brighter future for India. He carved out a unique place for himself, leaving behind a lasting impression and a roadmap for those who aspire to change the world.
The United Nations marked the 15th of October, Dr. Kalam’s birthday, as World Students’ Day in 2010. This distinction was given to honour the former Indian President (2002-2007) and to acknowledge his enduring contributions towards education and students. Each year on World Students’ Day, the United Nations selects a theme to encapsulate the occasion. The theme chosen for 2023 is profoundly thought-provoking – “If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. implies ‘First Attempt In Learning’.”
A Unique Perspective on Life and a Strong Nation
Dr. Kalam’s life was a living embodiment of his philosophy, meticulously carved from life’s trials. He famously said, “Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident,” reflecting on his arduous journey from Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, to the esteemed Rashtrapati Bhavan. He persevered, steadfast in his belief that “man needs his difficulties because they are necessary to enjoy success.” His life was not built on borrowed wisdom or ideas. He lived and breathed his philosophy, which withstood the test of time. His actions spoke louder than his words, and his commitment to excellence was unwavering.
Always reaching for the stars, Dr. Kalam’s vision for India was as boundless as the universe. He once remarked, “Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only for those who dream and work.” His optimistic spirit and faith in the power of dreams made him a beacon of hope and inspiration for numerous.
Dr. Kalam viewed life through a unique lens. He asserted, “Life is a difficult game. You can win it only by retaining your birthright to be a person.” To him, being a person meant possessing character, quality, and courage. It meant charting new paths and surmounting obstacles. “Man needs his difficulties because they are necessary to enjoy success,” he wisely noted.
Promoting an integrative approach to nation-building, Dr. Kalam firmly believed that a corruption-free nation, blossoming into a hub of beautiful minds, could be achieved through collective efforts. His emphasis on the trinity—the father, the mother, and the teacher—conveyed a powerful message to society. The responsibility for the nation’s upliftment rested on the shoulders of these figures. This harmonious blend of societal individuals could sow the valuable seeds of proactive change, leading to a prosperous India, embodying Dr. Kalam’s dream.
Current Challenges: Erosion of Values in Education and Dr. Kalam’s Wisdom
Today, India faces economic and cultural challenges. The economy is in a precarious state, and there’s a rise in hate crimes targeting specific communities. Dr. Kalam’s words seem like a reflection of our current reality. “We will be remembered only if we give our younger generation a prosperous and safe India, resulting from economic prosperity and the preservation of our civilisational heritage,” he said. It’s a stark reminder of the work that lies ahead.
Dr. Kalam’s concerns about the fate of the educational system in India underline his relentless pursuit of nurturing a generation armed with knowledge and innovation. He voiced his concern about the commercialization of education, advocating a system that fosters the spirit of inquiry, creativity, and moral leadership. He desired an educational framework that produced not mere degree-holders but capable and virtuous citizens of the nation who could lead and inspire.
Honouring Motherhood and Vision for a Knowledge Society
In his journey, Dr. Kalam never forgot the importance of a mother’s love and sacrifice. His words add a unique dimension to the universal truth that a mother’s love is unparalleled. Beyond his scientific and intellectual achievements, he was a devoted son who penned a heartfelt poem in his book ‘Wings of Fire’ titled ‘Mother’. This poem takes readers on an emotional journey through his early experiences. Despite being a revered figure and a Bharat Ratna laureate, he remained a humble son, deeply rooted in his familial values and adoration for his mother’s fathomless affection.
In the literary world, his riveting books stand testimony to his profound insights and visions. Titles like ‘Wings of Fire’, ‘Ignited Minds’, and ‘India 2020’ weave more than just narratives; they are repositories of his dreams for India and serve as guideposts for those seeking inspiration.
A tribute to Dr. Kalam can be better offered by embracing his doctrine of making India a ‘Knowledge Society.’ The real homage lies not in remembrances but in carrying forward his dream of a prosperous and educated India. That’s the India he envisioned and strived for tirelessly, even on his last day while addressing the young minds at IIM Shillong.
Takeaways from Dr. Kalam’s Illustrative Journey from Womb to Tomb
Dr. Kalam seamlessly merged science with social responsibility. As the country’s 11th president, he exemplified servant leadership and focused on transforming India into a developed nation. His birthday is a moment to reflect on his message. “Greatness is a blend of sagacity and tenaciousness,” he reminded us. It doesn’t happen overnight but is the result of diligence, determination, and dedication. He started as a ‘MAN’ and ended as a ‘GREAT MAN’ through unwavering commitment.
“Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow,” he urged. This sacrifice points to the creation of a ‘Knowledge Society’, a society built on cooperation, love, solidarity, and universal brotherhood. Education, he believed, was the only weapon to defeat poverty and prejudice and build a better future.
We must remember the ‘Ratna of Bharat’ with each one of us striving to uphold and further his vision and legacy. We must pay homage to this man of great stature, whose life, work, and words left an indelible mark on India and the world beyond. Let us pledge to make Kalam’s dream of India as a ‘Knowledge Society’ a reality and strive to see a rebirth of his spirit in India’s progress. As we solemnly remember him, we say, “Dr. Kalam lives on in the sanctum of every Indian’s heart!”
Shahnawaz Ahmad Ansari is an accomplished author, journalist, and editor with over 16 years of diverse experience. He is also a published poet, and you can explore his reflective and philosophical poems at https://mypoeticside.com/show-poem-170364 and https://www.poemhunter.com/shahnawaz-ahmad-ansari/. His blogs and poems eloquently express his keen observations of socio-economic issues. You can find his engaging blogs at https://candidqalam.home.blog/.