Whom will our Youths turn to – Remembering – Wings of Fire – our late President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

By | Ramesh Ranjan | Founder & Editor

Our beloved late President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was populary known as the Missile Man and loved and revered by one and all from children to the old and across the world. He demystified the aura around the Presidents Office and made himself and his office & his palace accessible to the common man. He was one of the first President to vote. After relinquishing his office he went back and stayed in a One & a Half room house – in stark contrast to the earlier Presidents.

He was know for simplicity, kindness, cheerful smile, integrity and forthrightness. He loved to spend time with Children for he felt that if he could influence the minds of the youth of India, he could help shape the future of India.

I was fortunate to have shook hands with him and listen to his address at the NHRD National Conference in Hyderabad in Nov 2013. He spoke with great passion and urged all of us to Dream and to always work with an attitude to  Serve – People, Humanity & the Nation . He said HR is all about serving and not just to Corporate Honcho’s and to Corporate Employees but also to widen our horizon of serving the People at Large. He made a very sarcastic remark  Love your job – Dont love your Company, because you may not know when your Company will stop loving you . So very true in this Opportunistic  world.

He took a few questions and due to want of time, he said  dont worry, I will answer all your questions. Pl. write to me and I promise you, you will get a reply in 24 hours . Amazing human being and from a Ex-President of the Largest Democracy.

He has left a big void and I wonder whom will the youth of India write to in future and who will answer their inquisitive questions ?

He did not die while resting on his sofa. He did not die eating his favorite food at a posh restaurant. He did not die while signing his cheques. He did not die sick in his comforting bed.

He died while he was interacting with students which has always been his favorite thing in the world. Dying while doing our most loved thing. How many of us are going to do it?

Here is a replication of a Whatsup Message I received from a purported student (not verified however) – Sirjan Pal Singh , who was with Dr. Kalam during his visit to IIM Shillong and his last few hours. It reinforces the greatness , simplicity & concern for humanity, of Dr. Kalam and his love for spending time with the Youth of India . No wonder he died almost in the arms of the people he loved the most – STUDENTS :

Quote from Whats Up Message:


  What I will be remembered for.. my memory of the last day with the great Kalam sir…

It has been eight hours since we last talked – sleep eludes me and memories keep flushing down, sometimes as tears. Our day, 27th July, began at 12 noon, when we took our seats in the flight to Guhawati. Dr. Kalam was 1A and I was IC. He was wearing a dark colored  Kalam suit , and I started off complimenting,  Nice color!  Little did I know this was going to be the last color I will see on him.

Long, 2.5 hours of flying in the monsoon weather. I hate turbulence, and he had mastered over them. Whenever he would see me go cold in shaking plane, he would just pull down the window pane and saw,  Now you don’t see any fear! .

That was followed by another 2.5 hours of car drive to IIM Shillong. For these two legged trip of five hours we talked, discussed and debated. These were amongsthundreds of the long flights and longer drives we have been together over the last six years.

As each of them, this was as special too. Three incidents/discussions in particular will be  lasting memories of our last trip .

First, Dr. Kalam was absolutely worried about the attacks in Punjab. The loss of innocent lives left him filledwith sorrow. The topic of lecture at IIM Shillong was Creating a Livable Planet Earth. He related the incident to the topic and said,  it seems the man made forces are as big a threat to the livability of earth as pollution . We discussed on how, if this trend of violence, pollution and reckless human action continues we will forced to leave earth.  Thirty years, at this rate, maybe , he said.  You guys must do something about it… it is going to be your future world 

Our second discussion was more national. For the past two days, Dr. Kalam was worried that time and again Parliament, the supreme institution of democracy, was dysfunctional. He said,  I have seen two different governments in my tenure. I have seen more after that. This disruption just keeps happening. It is not right. I really need to find out a way to ensure that the parliament works on developmental politics.  He then asked me to prepare a surprise assignment question for the students at IIM Shillong, which he would give them only at the end of the lecture. He wanted to them to suggest three innovative ways to make the Parliament more productive and vibrant. Then, after a while he returned on it.  But how can ask them to give solutions if I don’t have any myself . For the next one hour, we thwarted options after options, who come up with his recommendation over the issue. We wanted to include this discussion in our upcoming book, Advantage India.

Third, was an experience from the beauty of his humility. We were in a convoy of 6-7 cars. Dr. Kalam and I were in the second car. Ahead us was an open gypsy with three soldiers in it. Two of them were sitting on either side and one lean guy was standing atop, holding his gun. One hour into the road journey, Dr. Kalam said,  Why is he standing? He will get tired. This is like punishment. Can you ask a wireless message to given that he may sit?  I had to convince him, he has been probably instructed to keep standing for better security. He did not relent. We tried radio messaging, that did not work. For the next 1.5 hours of the journey, he reminded me thrice to see if I can hand signal him to sit down. Finally, realizing there is little we can do – he told me,  I want to meet him and thank him . Later, when we landed in IIM Shillong, I went inquiring through security people and got hold of the standing guy. I took him inside and Dr. Kalam greeted him. He shook his hand, said thank you buddy.  Are you tired? Would you like something to eat? I am sorry you had to stand so long because of me . The young lean guard, draped in black cloth, was surprised at the treatment. He lost words, just said,  Sir, aapkeliye to 6 ghantebhikhaderahenge .

After this, we went to the lecture hall. He did not want to be late for the lecture.  Students should never be made to wait , he always said. I quickly set up his mike, briefed on final lecture and took position on the computers. As I pinned his mike, he smiled and said,  Funny guy! Are you doing well?  ‘Funny guy’, when said by Kalam could mean a variety of things, depending on the tone and your own assessment. It could mean, you have done well, you have messed up something, you should listen to him or just that you have been plain naïve or he was just being jovial. Over six years I had learnt to interpret Funny Guy like the back of my palm. This time it was the last case.

Funny guy! Are you doing well?  he said. I smiled back,  Yes . Those were the last words he said. Two minutes into the speech, sitting behind him, I heard a long pause after completing one sentence. I looked at him, he fell down.

We picked him up. As the doctor rushed, we tried whatever we could. I will never forget the look in his three-quarter closed eyes and I held his head with one hand and tried reviving with whatever I could. His hands clenched, curled onto my finger. There was stillness on his face and those wise eyes were motionlessly radiating wisdom. He never said a word. He did not show pain, only purpose was visible.

In five minutes we were in the nearest hospital. In another few minutes the they indicated the missile man had flown away, forever. I touched his feet, one last time. Adieu old friend! Grand mentor! See you in my thoughts and meet in the next birth.

As turned back, a closet of thoughts opened.

Often he would ask me,  You are young, decide what will like to be remembered for?  I kept thinking of new impressive answers, till one day I gave up and resorted to tit-for-tat. I asked him back,  First you tell me, what will you like to be remembered for? President, Scientist, Writer, Missile man, India 2020, Target 3 billion…. What?  I thought I had made the question easier by giving options, but he sprang on me a surprise.  Teacher , he said.

Then something he said two weeks back when we were discussing about his missile time friends. He said,  Children need to take care of their parents. It is sad that sometimes this is not happening . He paused and said,  Two things. Elders must also do. Never leave wealth at your deathbed – that leaves a fighting family. Second, one is blessed is one can die working, standing tall without any long drawn ailing. Goodbyes should be short, really short .

Today, I look back – he took the final journey, teaching, what he always wanted to be remembered doing. And, till his final moment he was standing, working and lecturing. He left us, as a great teacher, standing tall. He leaves the world with nothing accumulated in his account but loads of wishes and love of people. He was a successful, even in his end.

Will miss all the lunches and dinners we had together, will miss all the times you surprised me with your humility and startled me with your curiosity, will miss the lessons of life you taught in action and words, will miss our struggles to race to make into flights, our trips, our long debates.

You gave me dreams, you showed me dreams need to be impossible, for anything else is a compromise to my own ability. The man is gone, the mission lives on. Long live Kalam. 

Your indebted student,

Srijan Pal Singh


Here are some great words of wisdom and Quotes from him :

Don’t take rest after your first victory because if you fail in second, more lips are waiting to say that your first victory was just luck.        

All Birds find shelter during a rain. But Eagle avoids rain by flying above the Clouds.             

Failure will never overtake me if my definition to succeed is strong enough .           

Man needs difficulties in life because they are necessary to enjoy the success.             

If you want to shine like a sun. First burn like a sun.              

It is very easy to defeat someone, but it is very hard to win someone             

All of us do not have equal talent. But , all of us have an equal opportunity to develop our talents.             

Be more dedicated to making solid achievements than in running after swift but synthetic happiness.            

Thinking should become your capital asset, no matter whatever ups and downs you come across in your life.              

Without your involvement you can’t succeed. With your involvement you can’t fail.              

You have to dream before your dreams can come true.

Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.

Life is a difficult game. You can win it only by retaining your birthright to be a person.

Man needs his difficulties because they are necessary to enjoy success.

We will be remembered only if we give to our younger generation a prosperous and safe India, resulting out of economic prosperity coupled with civilizational heritage.

Those who cannot work with their hearts achieve but a hollow, half-hearted success that breeds bitterness all around.

Educationists should build the capacities of the spirit of inquiry, creativity, entrepreneurial and moral leadership among students and become their role model.

Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work.

If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.

My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This is my message to the young people.

Story First Published: July 27, 2015 22:30 IST

We truly have lost an inspirational leader, a rare politician, a People’s President and above all a great Human Being. We may miss Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam but Heaven is lucky !

When you live, live like him. When you die, die like him.

His body may have left. His ‘Wings of Fire‘ has no death. They’ll always flutter in air. All around us.

A brief about Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam better known as A. P. J. Abdul Kalam -15 October 1931 – 27 July 2015), was the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. A career scientist turned statesman, Kalam was born and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, and studied physics and aerospace engineering. He spent the next four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) and was intimately involved in India’s civilian space programme and military missile development efforts. He thus came to be known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology.[2][3][4] He also played a pivotal organisational, technical, and political role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974.

Kalam was elected as the 11th President of India in 2002 with the support of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the then-opposition Indian National Congress. Widely referred to as the “People’s President,” he returned to his civilian life of education, writing and public service after a single term. He was a recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour.

While delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, Kalam collapsed and died from an apparent cardiac arrest on 27 July 2015, aged 83. Thousands including national-level dignitaries attended the funeral ceremony held in his hometown of Rameshwaram, where he was buried with full state honours.

Source : Wikipedia

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