"My National Flag flies in my heart and I will bring glory to my Nation." - Guru Kalam

Tributes to guru kalam

Remembering Guru Kalam as his memories enter 86th orbit around the sun

By Dr Anantha Krishnan M | OCT 2016

“I am entering my 86th orbit around Sun today. You see, I’ve completed 85 orbits successfully...,” former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam would have told in his inimitable style, if he were alive.

As India remembers the People’s President on his 85th birth anniversary today, for millions of his followers across the world, Guru Kalam (as we should ideally address him), lives in their hearts. And, there is no death to him. He is the pathfinder to their goals and probably a light that never fades.

As a hardcore disciple of Guru Kalam, I have had many priceless moments with him. Ours was a journalist-scientist relationship right from the word go and till the end. As a writer, he often wanted me to celebrate the success of men and women behind the machines and not just focus on technology alone.

He said as a reader, he also preferred reading about the driver who transported a missile to the launch pad as much as its capabilities. He often said the heart of India’s aerospace and defence might can be found in laboratories and shop floors, and not in air-conditioned cabins.

Guru Kalam wanted all of us to have big dreams. He wanted our dreams to be propelled by passion. When the powers of the world denied us technology and imposed sanctions on India after the Pokhran nuclear tests, he asked our scientists to take the challenges head on.

He inspired them and taught them the art of self-belief. He said a technology denied can be a technology derived. Sanctions gifted a great opportunity for Indian scientists to learn and innovate. To probe and discover. To believe in our capabilities and become a nation that stands on its feet.

For the people, always

I was witness to his relentless passion for people on several occasions and one such event was at the Government Guest House at Alappuzha in 2010. I reached the place around mid-night of October 14, from Mavelikara, carrying his birthday cake.

When I told him that the boy at the bakery couldn’t believe that the cake was meant for ex-President, Guru Kalam said: “You should have brought that fellow also. Tell him the cake was good.” He ensured everyone at the guest house had a piece of the cake, including the policemen, visitors, room boys, cooks and drivers.

On another birthday at Coimbatore Circuit Guest House, after his friends and guests left, around 1 am in the night, Guru Kalam decided to take a stroll. He came down from the first floor room and enjoyed the gentle breeze, the moon and was lost in his thoughts.

His eyes caught the attention of the sentry who was posted outside and asked him whether he was happy with the job. In fact, it was just a mere coincidence that I was the official ‘cake-boy’ on several of his birthdays, especially when he was on tour to South India.

He chose to stay away from Delhi on his birthdays deliberately, as he wanted to avoid bouquets and gifts.

Kerala was his karma bhoomi

Guru Kalam’s long-term private secretary R K Prasad, who hails from Palakkad, says that he had a special interest to visit Kerala.

The state was his karma bhoomi and he was always keen to be in Thiruvananthapuram, so that he could spend time with the students and faculty of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology. (He had spent nearly twenty years in Kerala during his stint with Indian Space Research Organization).

He always dreamt of Kerala embarking on an innovative inland waterways programme, connecting Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargod, thereby reducing the traffic and also promoting cheap travel.

Whenever he interacted with V S Achuthanandan and Oommen Chandy, whether it was on a flight from Delhi or during any function, the progress of the inland waterways topped his thoughts.

He loved to speak at length about Ayurveda, its magical benefits and the contributions of Dr P K Warrier, whenever an opportunity came. Prasad says he visited Kottakkal many times, but never agreed to take up any treatment, as suggested by many.

He always feared media highlighting about ‘Kalam getting hospitalised’ or ‘Kalam taking Ayurveda treatment.’ He managed to keep his medical history ‘very private’ till his demise.

I am not sure how much of Guru Kalam’s ‘Vision for Kerala 2010,’ presented before the Kerala Assembly in 2005, has taken shape. May be Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan could take a look at it again so that God’s Own Country can be put on an inspiring flightpath.

Time for a reality check

While we can keep talking about Guru Kalam’s selfless life and mission, the need of the hour probably is a reality check. The simple question is: How many Indians are following what Guru Kalam said? How many governments have implemented his ideas? By not putting what he said into practice in our daily lives, have we reduced Guru Kalam just as a man of quotations alone? Did he live amidst us for sharing his photos, thoughts and missions on WhatsApp and Facebook only? India might take a longer time than 2020, the target he set to become a developed nation.

For that to happen even by 2030, we have to first become the change agents. Instead of blaming the governments, be it at the state or Centre, for not doing their job and abusing them on social media and other forums, we are just wasting our precious time, hurting the nation. Exactly what Guru Kalam opposed.

Let’s start taking ownership in everything what we do. Remember, we are the government. We are the nation. Let’s walk the talk to take India forward.

Guru Devo Bhava!

(Reproduced with permission from Mathrubhumi English.)

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