HYDERABAD: The country stood still for a few minutes, after people’s president APJ Abdul Kalam passed away in the late hours of Monday. Pullela Gopichand, former All England badminton champion and national coach and former director of DRDO, S V Rangarajan share their memories with the missile man
My first interaction with Kalam sir was during the Padmasri ceremony in 2005. The ambiance at the imposing Rashtrapathi Hall was electric. The aura of the occasion was all pervading. A galaxy of amazing personalities made the moment all the more exciting. But the centre of attraction was the dapper Abdul Kalam.
His ever-present smile radiated a positive energy all around. I was just touched by his warmth, affection and the almost child-like enthusiasm.
His positive spirit towards the youth was something very unique and different from the other leaders or any other person for that matter. I haven’t found anybody of that stature, so simple, so humble and so unassuming.
In fact, he was happy with our success in badminton and he just said, “Congratulations! You have done wonderful, you have inspired the whole country”. But it was the way he said it. You could feel the affection and sincerity of his blessings.
When I heard about his death, I spontaneously closed the academy but today I was going through his quotes -- “When I am dead, do not declare a holiday. Instead work an extra day.” Taking that as inspiration we decided to revoke our earlier decision, as a mark of respect and worked today as well.
I think he would have definitely wanted us to do that. To have had that kind of energy at his age and do such amazing selfless work is indeed very inspiring. Also for any person to dream so big and to think that it is possible to change the destiny of a country through his visionary thoughts is very admirable.
I think to inspire the youth to think for the nation and beyond themselves was his sole desire. His words are an inspiration and mean a lot to us sports persons. I think him not being there physically is definitely a huge loss for the nation but he is somebody who has left behind his thoughts in so many forms; through his work and interaction with so many people. His statements have an enormous influence on society.
One more aspect of his life was he always had a great sense of humor, which was indeed fantastic.
S V Rangarajan
Dr.Kalam’s favourite words were “Dream, Dream and Dream” and he practically demonstrated the tool to realise those dreams through his incessant practice to “Work, Work and Work” till his last breath.
He used to immerse in constructive work for more than 16 hours a day on an average and all the 365 days in the year for more than seven decades – at a stretch. I choose to pick up this trait as all the rest germinate from it.
As a scientist I used to be professionally envious of Missile Labs for getting his direct tutelage and guidance from the beginning of his DRDO innings. But, we the naval and other cluster labs had to wait till he became the Director General of DRDO. He had a variety of soft skills to assert himself as a hard task master.
Dr Kalam also had a large population of followers among scientists and technologists who never hesitated to burn the midnight oil to achieve targets he set. The greatness of Dr Kalam did not end there for he chiselled innumerable such masters to keep the spirit sustained.
His technical reviews ran up to early hours of the next day having passed through that day’s working lunch! The excitedly arranged evening receptions were getting cancelled with eatables brought to the conference halls.
Dr Kalam also was interested in diversified fields of science and technology. Paying homage generally has two styles – people with greater stature fondly narrate the contributions of the departed soul and other acquaintances proudly recall their own golden moments of interaction. All who know Dr. Kalam personally are of latter type only. However, that temptation of narrating self-experiences though irresistible has been avoided - as today, the entire nation owns him with an intimacy and pays homage with respect and admiration and love for their great common man President.
I like to be one among them.