BOUDH: Lalit Sahu of Bilaspur village in Kantamal block of Boudh district considers himself a fortunate driver. For, he drove the vehicle of former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam for a period of four years during his stint as a defence personnel.
Retired and now settled in his village, Sahu drove Dr Kalam’s vehicle from June 1984 to December 1987 when the latter headed the Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL) in Hyderabad.
Walking down the memory lane, Sahu said it was during his stint under Dr Kalam that five missiles - Trishul, Prithvi, Akash, Agni and Nag - had been tested in the DRDL. Terming Dr Kalam as a workaholic and a visionary who always had development of the country high on his agenda, Sahu said whenever the ‘Missile Man’ visited Chandipur in Balasore, he called for him. “He used to ask me to drive the vehicle that he used in Chandipur,” he said.
Sahu had once asked him why he did not marry. Smiling, the former President replied that he never had the time.
Recalling the riot of 1985 in Hyderabad, Sahu said he was driving Dr Kalam from airport when their vehicle was attacked. “But I managed to take him to DRDL safely. He congratulated me and later, I was awarded with `1000 during the annual function of DRDL,” he said.
After Dr Kalam became the President of India in 2002, Sahu had sought an audience with him in 2005 to submit a memorandum demanding separate Kosal state and Dr Kalam was quick to give him an appointment.
“The humble President also enquired about my well-being then,” said Sahu adding that he is yet to come across a man of such stature yet so simple and honest.