Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul KalamDr APJ Abdul Kalam is a famous name in the whole world. He is counted among the greatest scientists of the 21st century. He becomes the 11th president of India and served the country. He was the most valued person of the country as his contribution as a ‘Scientist’ and as a ‘President’ is beyond compare. Apart from that, his contribution to the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) is remarkable. He headed many projects that contributed to the society also he was the one who helped in the development of Agni and Prithvi missiles. For his involvement in the Nuclear power in India, he was known as “Missile Man of India”. And due to his contribution to the country, the government awarded him with the highest civilian award.Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 to a Tamil Muslim family in the pilgrimage centre of Rameswaram on Pamban Island, then in the Madras Presidency and now in the State of Tamil Nadu. His father Jainulabdeen was a boat owner and imam of a local mosque. His mother Ashiamma was a housewife. His father owned a ferry that took Hindu pilgrims back and forth between Rameswaram and the now uninhabited Dhanushkodi. Kalam was the youngest of four brothers and one sister in his family. His ancestors had been wealthy traders and landowners, with numerous properties and large tracts of land. Their business had involved trading groceries between the mainland and the island and to and from Sri Lanka, as well as ferrying pilgrims between the mainland and Pamban. As a result, the family acquired the title of “Mara Kalam Iyakkivar” (wooden boat steerers), which over the years became shortened to “Marakier.” With the opening of the Pamban-Bridge to the mainland in 1914, however, the businesses failed and the family fortune and properties were lost over time, apart from the ancestral home. By his early childhood, his family had become poor. So at an early age, he sold newspapers as a supplement to his family’s income.In his school days, Kalam had average grades but he was described as a bright and hardworking student who had a strong desire to learn and explore. He spent hours on his studies, especially mathematics. After completing his education at the Schwartz Higher Secondary School, Ramanathapuram, he went on to attend St Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, then affiliated with the University of Madras, from where he graduated in physics in 1954. He moved to Madras in 1955 to study aerospace engineering in Madras Institute of Technology. While he was working on a senior class project, the Dean was very dissatisfied with his lack of progress and threatened to revoke his scholarship unless the project was finished within the next three days. He met the deadline, impressing the Dean, who later said to him, “I was putting you under stress and asking you to meet a difficult deadline”. He narrowly missed achieving his dream of becoming a fighter pilot, as he placed ninth in qualifiers, and only eight positions were available in the IAF.After graduating from the Madras Institute of Technology in 1960, he joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (by Press Information Bureau, Government of India) as a scientist after becoming a member of the Defence Research & Development Service (DRDS). He started his career by designing a small hovercraft, but remained unconvinced by his choice of a job at DRDO. He was also part of the INCOSPAR committee working under Vikram Sarabhai, the renowned space scientist. In 1969, he was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) where he was the project director of India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in near-earth orbit in July 1980. He had even started working on an expandable rocket project independently at DRDO in the year 1965. And in the year 1969, Kalam received the government’s approval and expanded the programme to include more engineers.He served as the 11th President of India, succeeding K. R. Narayanan. He won the 2002 presidential election with an electoral vote of 922,884, surpassing the 107,366 votes won by Lakshmi Sahgal. His term lasted from 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007. On 10 June 2002, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which was in power at the time, expressed that they would nominate him for the post of President, and both the Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party backed his candidacy. After the Samajwadi Party announced its support for him, Narayanan chose not to seek a second term in office, leaving the field clear. He said as the announcement of his candidature:“I am really overwhelmed. Everywhere both on the Internet and in other media, I have been asked for a message. I was thinking about what message I can give to the people of the country at this juncture.”On 27 July 2015, he travelled to Shillong to deliver a lecture on “Creating a Livable Planet Earth” at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong. While climbing a flight of stairs, he experienced some discomfort, but he was able to enter the auditorium after a brief rest. At around 6:35 p.m. IST, only five minutes into his lecture, he collapsed. He was rushed to the nearby Bethany Hospital in a critical condition; upon arrival, he lacked a pulse or any other signs of life. Despite being placed in the intensive care unit, he was confirmed dead of a sudden cardiac arrest at 7:45 p.m. IST. His last words, to his aide Srijan Pal Singh, were reportedly: “Funny guy! Are you doing well?”We lost a precious “GEM” of India but he is still alive with his own inspirational thoughts for the youngsters.