RIP, Sir

Now is a time when the entire nation will feel a sense of loss that is almost personal. Death, ironically has a way of awakening us, in bringing us to recollect and take note of things that we otherwise take for granted.
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam passed away on the evening of 27th of July, 2015, aged 83. His loss, many a citizen will agree, is irreplaceable for the country. Minutes after the news of his death came out, social media came alive with countless people recalling anecdotes regarding him, many of them personal. What is striking in each story is the way the scientist reached out to every person, common or elite, in a way that will stay with them forever.
What you do of the time between when you are born, and when you die, is what makes up your life, they say, and if that is anything to go by, Dr. Kalam’s life is a shining epitome of a life well lived.
I had previously mentioned meeting Dr. Kalam during his talk on ‘World Vision 2030 – empowering the 3 billion‘ in IIT-B. I consider myself fortunate enough to have been witness to hear him talk of his visionary ideas for the youth. What made his messages find an eager audience was that he spoke from his heart, and more importantly, he believed us to be capable of doing what we set out to do. It was more than most of us could ask for.
His ideas were simple. Nothing grandiose. Think good, think big, work hard to achieve your dreams.
“Great is a relative term. You must have a dream, continuously acquire knowledge, work hard, persevere, and be unafraid of problems. Then, you get success.”
“Repeat after me – I must have a dream. I will continuously acquire knowledge. Work hard. I will persevere, and be unafraid of problems”, were his concluding words that day during his talk.
A passion so genuine, it will be impossible not to miss your presence, sir. RIP.

By all means, he was a global scientist. Yet, he’ll always be known as ‘the boy from Rameswaram’ or ‘people’s president’ or the ‘Missile Man of India’. Dr. Kalam collapsed while delivering a lecture at Shillong. A teacher by heart, he died doing what he loved to. If this does not inspire us to live fully, nothing probably will.

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An evening with Dr. Kalam

On the last day of the recently held ‘Techfest’, an initiative of IIT-B (Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay), the guest of honour of the day was the former president of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. After having heard many references about the man since childhood, and having read his words of motivation for the youth, it piqued my interest to be finally seeing him, and attending a talk by him.

The talk was in the evening, one of the last talks of the day, and the following are some of my thoughts before the session, and a bit about the lecture itself.

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Notes from my diary –

(Sometime before the talk was scheduled)

Today might be the day to get an idea of the hype that surrounds Dr. Kalam. Abdul Kalam’s name brings feelings of warmth, honesty, the sense of the person’s humility, & greatness. What is it that draws these qualities in parallel with his persona? Time to find out.

Courtesy, Techfest – 2015, IIT-B.

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(Minutes before Dr. Kalam’s entry)

What spectacular entry would it be? What would herald the arrival of the ‘awaited one’?

Music? Drum beats? I think it’ll be the thumping hearts. Anxious to catch the first glimpse. Eager to absorb it all. The moment is exciting – like one is awaiting announcement of results; like the last ball of a cricket match that will decide it all…

Hundreds of people. An awesome place (with beautiful lighting, and good ventilation). Tight security arrangements. Countless mike – checks.

One name. APJ Abdul Kalam.

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He entered to a standing ovation. He finished, again receiving a standing ovation. Thunderous claps boomed across the hall from time to time….

‘My topic for today is ‘World Vision 2030 – empowering the 3 billion. Topic okay?’ he asked the audience.

And from there, he took us on a merry walkthrough with real earnestness, inspiring zest, and a passion so genuine that it was impossible to not be awed. Dr. Kalam spoke of various things. He explained his vision for the world, the dynamics of global manifestation, namely environment, people, economy, and ideas, the need of a borderless globe, his perception on what were the most significant scientific contributions in 2014, etc. He called on the youth to be the leaders of the future.

“Sir, how did you become so great?” asked an innocent little voice at the end of the session.

‘Great is a relative term,’ he said, amid fitful laughter. ‘You must have a dream, continuously acquire knowledge, work hard, persevere, and be unafraid of problems. Then, you get success.’

The people’s president had spoken.