When Kalam Transformed a Class X Fail to Professor

A busy Kalam, after attending to his hectic daily schedule at DRDO, would teach Kathiresan the basics of English language and its grammar.

Published: 29th July 2015 04:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th July 2015 10:43 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: “What did you study?” the official in the backseat asked V Kathiresan, a driver in the rank of sepoy deputed to the Defence Research Development Organisation in Hyderabad, nearly quarter a century ago.

“I replied that I failed in English in my SSLC exams. To that, he replied, ‘You must pass 10th standard’,” Kathiresan, who now holds an MA, MEd and PhD, working as a lecturer at Tirunelveli Government College, recalled the journey with former president APJ Abdul Kalam that transformed his life from a sepoy to Dr Kathiresan.

>>Related: When Kalam Offered Iftaar Money Went to 28 Orphanages

Driving.jpgA native of Sankarapandiyapuram village in Sattur Taluk of Virudhunagar district, then 19-year-old Kathiresan had joined DRDO as a sepoy. After Kalam, then a director at the organisation, took an active interest in his studies, it all began to change.

A busy Kalam, after attending to his hectic daily schedule at DRDO, would teach Kathiresan the basics of English language and its grammar. With a tutor like him, it was not before long Kathiresan passed his 10th standard. But that was only the beginning.

>>Related: Abdul Kalam Opposed Capital Punishment, Affirmed Death Sentence Only On One Case

While he was elated, Kalam was not done. The master now wanted his pupil to complete his Class XII. “He paid my fees and bought me books. He would also clear my doubts. But, we had a competition. When he retires to read his books, I will start studying the books prescribed for XII. I would compete to study more than him,” recalled Kathiresan.

Though he had moved with him closely, Kathiresan was oblivious to how important Kalam was. “I found him very simple, without any airs despite being a director of the institute.” With help from his teacher, Kathiresan passed his XII exams with 51.4 per cent marks.

Kalam, who always insisted on dreaming bigger, was obviously not satisfied  though. He wanted Kathiresan to go further, perhaps learning computers. But, the latter preferred Humanities - much to his regret now - and joined BA History.

“He taught me World History, European History, and the two World Wars. That is how I completed my under-graduation.” He passed the exams by scoring above 50 per cent. By then Kalam had fixed the next target - post graduation.

Kathiresan admits candidly that he had grown irritated by this insistance to study more and further. “I was in a young age, getting angry when he asked me to study again and again. But I never showed my anger, it was inside,” said Kathiresan.  It was, however, never lost on him that the teacher was intensely pursuing it out of sincerity — after all, he even bought him an air ticket to ensure that his pupil did not miss his post graduate exams in Chennai.

In those 10 years from 1982 when he was deputed as Kalam’s driver, Kathiresan recalled, “I completed X, XII, BA, MA, B.Ed, M.Ed and also MA political science in one sitting.”

>>Related: Even In Death, Kalam Relied His Last Hopes on Students for Vision 2020

Kathiresan returned to his Company in Army in 1992 and later sought voluntary retirement in 1998. “I registered for PhD in English as he wanted,” he said.

In the following years, Kathiresan passed the Teachers Recruitment Board test and became a district education officer under Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan. He later went on to become a teacher in a Government college in Athur in Salem district in 2009, before joining the current job at the Government College in Tirunelveli.

P Krishnan, who was Kathiresan’s teacher at an orientation class when he was appointed lecturer, recalled how Kalam would seek for his driver-turned-friend whenever he tours the southern part of Tamil Nadu.

As he prepares to go to Rameswaram to pay final tributes to his master, Kathiresan has one regret - not having learnt computers.

Stay up to date on all the latest Chennai news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp