Skip to content Skip to navigation

Son of Rameswaram ends in Shillong

He did not have money to continue his schooling. His well-off best friend went and told his father, who is a priest in a temple in the southernmost island of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, to help his friend because he is extremely talented and that should not go waste. The priest realized his son’s urge and helped his friend. After completing his schooling he went to Madras (now Chennai) to pursue further studies. He worked as a vendor dropping newspapers in people’s doorsteps to support his livelihood. To save time he would roll the dailies like rockets and throw them into the balconies of high rise buildings. From this technique of perfectly targeting dailies into balconies he got the inspiration into the world of rocket science and technology. He is none other than the 11th president of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam who breathed his last in Shillong on Monday evening while doing what he loved most – teaching. He believed, “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.

Dr Kalam had a humble beginning with high ambition. His tale from the school at Rameswaram up to the highest office of the land – President of India – is a tale of ‘rags to riches’. ‘Riches’ not in the sense of the millionaires and billionaires but his vision of India to be a developed nation, his undying concern for the youths, his erudition on the Vedas and the ancient Indian treasures, his unparallel contribution to science and technology and most importantly his approachability makes him truly a ‘People’s President’. He never lost his humbleness even after achieving the most that one can in this land besides the highest civilian award – The Bharat Ratna. Having led a humble beginning early in his life he knew what it means and his concern for the poor and the commoners were overtly indicative during his interactions. Even during his speeches at any venues he would give the example from the lives of the minutest of the commoners in the country he has come across. He showed that India is a ‘Commoners’ Nation’ and he cared for them till the last breathe of his life. His loss is irreparable, indeed, to the nation.

On Monday evening the people of Shillong were shocked with the rest of the country. Meghalaya, which hardly finds space in the national media, was the centre stage where for some time all channels were glued to. The last time when Meghalaya received so much of attention was during the ILP (Inner Line Permit) conundrum when innocent lives were lost at the hurling of petrol bombs. This time it is our great president whom all countrymen adored. The Meghalaya Chief Minister who is put on a media vacuum by the local media houses here for his unparliamentarily comment against it in the state assembly was seen expressing his reflections on the president to a national media house. One channel flawed in pronouncing ‘Nongrim’ Hills where the Bethany Hospital is located. It went as ‘Nongram’ Hills. The hospital was the final part of Dr Kalam’s journey to this abode of clouds. His departure indicates the deep-seated respect and regard that he held for this region that he always reverted whenever he was called here.

There is so much to learn from the president’s life. The institutions, particularly the centres of excellence put up by the union government for the people of this region, are suffering for want of manpower because of communication hurdles and interior geographies. Despite the plethora of allowances and benefits provided by the union government to employees serving in the northeastern region there is still real dearth of manpower. This has taken toll on the functioning of these institutions. But Dr Kalam has never bothered himself with such obstacles rather he made himself available for the greater good of the student community whenever there was a call. On this occasion, he traveled the entire 100km Guwahati – Shillong National Highway in a car. He never looked like an octogenarian, ever agile, alert and with a rise smile on his face. There was no sign of any exhaustion even prior to the lecture that he delivered at RGIIM (Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management) here on Monday evening in the course of which he collapsed. He was taken away by the almighty for he has served his purpose on earth.

Being a Muslim himself, he mastered Bhagwad Gita, Upanishads among others more eloquently than perhaps many Hindus. He was a vegetarian all his life. An avid reader, his books ‘Wings of Fire’, ‘Ignited Minds’, ‘Target 3 Billion’, ‘Turning Points’ and others will continue to encourage the vast masses of youths in the country. In another book, ‘India 2020’ he envisioned India as a superpower economy by 2020. He got inspiration to write this book from a young girl whom he met and asked “what is your dream” to which the girl replied “I want to live in a developed India”. Dr Kalam dedicated this book to the young girl. He outlined the weaknesses and strengths of India in the book and strongly advocated action plans to make India a superpower. His vision of India being a knowledge superpower and developed nation and how rightly he said, “You have to dream before your dreams can come true. Dream, Dream, Dream. Dream transforms into thoughts. And thoughts result in action.”

He was noticed and elevated to the post of president by former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vaypayee. His holding of this high office was impeccable as he remained India’s first apolitical president. He once said, “One thing that I could not do all my life is politics.” But politics did not leave him as his second term in office was defied by the brazed INC (Indian National Congress). Or else he would have the distinction of serving two straight terms only after Rajendra Prasad, the first president of independent India. His origin from the southernmost island of Rameswaram to his departure to the northeastern-most town of Shillong was a journey that will remain ever exceptional.

Some of his all-time great quotes are for the youths of the nation. “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.” Addressing students he once said, “One of the very important characteristics of a students is to question. Let the students ask questions.”

His take on religion and science is a message of its kind. Commenting on religion he said, “For great men, religion is a way of making friends; small people make religion a fighting tool,” whereas on science he said, “Science is global. Einstein’s equation E=mc2 has to reach everywhere. Science is a beautiful gift to humanity. We should not distort it. Science does not discriminate between multiple races.” Further commenting on scientific development on another occasion he stressed on the importance of English as a language. “English is necessary as at present original works of science are in English. I believe that in two decades times original works of science will start coming out in our languages. Then we can move over like the Japanese,” he said.

Dr Kalam was an admirer of poetry too, “Poetry comes from the highest happiness or the deepest sorrow.” One of his most difficult tasks being a president was to decide on death penalties awarded by courts. “One of the more difficult tasks for me as President was to decide on the issue of confirming capital punishment awarded by courts… to my surprise… almost all cases which were pending had a social and economic bias. This gave me an impression that we were punishing the person who was least involved in the enmity and who did not have a direct motive for committing the crime.” And he had a great sense of humour, too. “I'm not a handsome guy, but I can give my hand to someone who needs help. Beauty is in the heart, not in the face.” 

Author info

Rajiv Roy's picture

Shillong

Add new comment

Random Stories

Mithinga freed from jail

25 Feb 2010 - 11:18pm | editor
ULFA publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary was freed on Thursday 48 hours after he procured bail from a local TADA court. The jailed ULFA top gun who has been languishing in Guwahati after he was...

Security guards killed in Kopili project

14 Jan 2008 - 10:09am | editor
Assam’s law and order situation still remains volatile with militants killing two security guards at the Umrangsu based Kopili Hydroelectric Project on Monday morning. There are reports that...

2 poachers arrested

6 May 2017 - 8:47pm | AT Kokrajhar Bureau
Two poachers were apprehended by police and army at Turibari village near Manash National Park in Baksa district on Saturday. They were identified as Arjun Boro and Gangar Basumatary. Two country...

Cong vote to Opp!

1 Feb 2014 - 12:26pm | AT News
AIUDF president on Saturday claimed that the Opposition consensus candidate in the Rajya Sabha poll Haidor Hussain is likely to get vote even from a section of Congress legislators.Addressing a joint...

Other Contents by Author

Away from the seemingly causes that led to the pandemic called Novel Coronavirus aka CoViD-19 it cannot be denied that it can well be attributed to the bitter spat between USA and China over trade. The CoViD-19 could well be a creation out of vengeance after what we have witnessed in terms of sanctions on imports by both nations. The arrest of Dr. Charles Lieber - the Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University for making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the US Defense Department about China's Thousand Talents Plan (a Chinese government program to recruit foreign scientists and researchers) and his affiliation with Wuhan University of...
Can anyone advice Rahul Gandhi (RaGa) that what he and the other nincompoops of the Indian National Congress (INC) are doing in the name of electioneering campaign by targeting the defence forces of the country is only going to decimate their prospect – even if there is any, left? What does it take really to win elections in this country? The defence personnel who are keeping their territory safer from external aggression are being targeted by the INC, insanely. Can RaGa and his inept sister, Priyanka – and her equally inept hunk, Robert Vadra, breath freely if the soldiers in the country aren’t keeping it safe. Can anyone, and for that matter of fact the president of one of the country’s...
An employment advertisement that caused more inconvenience to applicants than providing them with jobs has resulted in the advertiser to issue a statement regretting the inconvenience and correct the blunder being committed, after the matter was reported in the local media, while the affected ones are questioning if the media can really wash off its hands and whether it should not be held responsible, at the same time. Abhinandan Vartaman, the Indian Air Force (IAF) combat pilot has earned immeasurable appreciation, for his valour and courage, from the countrymen after the heroics shown by the force and especially him – who shot down an F-16 jet of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) – that...
Well Mr. Donald Trump, the outlandish and outspoken US President, with his usual signature facial expression said recently that “walls work” with regard to his decision to construct a border wall, along the border of US-Mexico and even declare a national emergency after the US Congress (the lawmaking branch of the national government) declined to his demands for billions of dollars to fund the proposed wall at the southern border. The president has earned a slew of lawsuits over his emergency move and one may well wander whether such a wall is required in India’s northeast which faces a serious threat to its demography. Arguably, the US President’s idea on a border wall may well be correct...
There are opinions among the tribesmen of Meghalaya that the sweeper lane issue in Shillong town has gone colder since May 31 when mayhem broke over this place near Iewduh, one of the largest traditional markets in the region. That such opinions being held by the native citizenries in a society where matriliny has hit such a low that the fairer sexes are facing insecurities in their own hearth and homes, is in itself, morbid. An incident over an alleged eve-teasing went out of proportion when the local tribesmen clashed with the residents of Sweeper’s Lane, inviting global attention to the issue. The stalemate that exists in this lane dates back to time immemorial and history is replete...
We need to use the social media wisely. But this call is getting lost in a world where anything that is talked about online are caricatured by opportunistic and outrage-mongers. This medium, which is creating more upheavals than connections in societies around the world, should be understood that we choose to assimilate these services into our daily lives because they allow us to deepen social connections and enable us to exercise ourselves in a manner that was unthinkable before their coming.  Many would agree to the fact that after “nature” comes only “social media” in terms of gross misuse. We are witnessing the phenomenon of changing patterns in climate and irrational nature...
If we are to assess one thing clearly about the 2018 Assembly Election to the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly at this point in time then it is the focus and charisma that is awaited coming January. Except that, the assurances, claims, slamming of one party by another will continue to rule the roost and this is not something new in the Indian political diaspora. Nonetheless, this is going to be the most sought after elections given the emerging complex political equations. There is much at stake in this election when the sixty seats to the state assembly goes up for grabbing no sooner the Election Commission of India releases the dates. There is much expectation from the BJP which has since...
Award winning Shillong based author, Kalpana Roy’s ‘Sei Somoy Perie’ (Beyond that period) covers a period of Indian independent movement in the then Bengal, which very soon spread over the entire Indian sub-continent. The book received the prestigious Narsingdas Bengali Prize for the best book in Bengali in Arts / Science subject from the University of Delhi in 2014. The central character of the book – published in April, 2012 – is the renowned independent movement activist from this part of the country, Bipin Chandra Pal, who was born in a small village in Sylhet (now in Bangladesh) district of undivided Bengal. The book is primarily a biographical novel on the life of this great freedom...
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a successful second visit to United States of America (USA). The major thrust of this visit was centered on his ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ dream as his meeting with numerous business czars and CEOs of top techies in USA is a big diplomatic push in that direction. While a purring Indian National Congress (INC) is seen crediting itself for this Digital India drive saying that it was the vision of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and all subsequent governments took forward that dream. This version of the INC has only earned laughing stock from one and all whosoever has come in terms with this baseless self-glory statement. Modi on the other hand is a...
“The northeastern states of India should cooperate with each other in terms of their tourism potentialities, culture and tradition, food habits and create a depot in Japan to invite inbound tourism. The geographical condition, cuisine and taste, good atmosphere here are similar to that of Japan. This will not only transform the economy of this region but also open it up to the larger Asia – which is one,” said the Chairman, Japan India Tourism Promotion Committee, Tsutomu Sato on his second visit to Shillong. His first visit was two years ago when he represented Japan on an invitation by the Meghalaya Government which called tour operators from all over the world.Acknowledging candidly that...