Born on 15th October 1931 at Rameswaram, in Tamil Nadu, Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, specialized in Aero Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology.
As a child, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam remembers being fascinated by the flight of seagulls. He grew up on the island of Rameshwaram in south India, where his father was a boat builder. Kalam’s interest in flight led to a degree in aeronautical engineering, and eventually to his supervising the development of India’s guided missiles. Along the way, he found time to write Tamil poetry and learned to play the veena, an instrument similar to the sitar. Today Kalam, 67, who is India’s best known scientist, heads the mammoth Department of Defense Research and Development. He played a key role in the nuclear tests at Pokharan in the Rajasthan desert on May 11 and 13. “I remember the earth shaking under our feet,” he recalls of that fateful experience.
Perhaps all frontiersmen are like that. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam has spent all his life near the three water frontiers of India. The newspaper boy of Rameswaram coast on the Indian Ocean spent 20 years dreaming of space frontiers at Thumba space centre on the Arabian Sea.
The dreams of the next 20 years were mostly conjured up on the shores of the Bay of Bengal at Chandipur where he test-launched missiles and checked on vehicles that re-enter the atmosphere from space.
The dreamer of these oceanic frontiers is also one of India’s frontiersmen in technology. A technology that not only fired Agnis, ignited Prithvis but also can green the barren lands, provide foods to the starving, and profit in world commerce. A First World dream for a third world nation.
It is a dream he shares with Yagnaswami Sundara Rajan, another technologist who had his stints in the Indian Space Research Organisation, the department of space contributing significantly to the communication satellite programme, the remote sensing programme and satellite metorology and mapping systems.
From the sea frontiers and space frontiers, the duo are now dreaming up frontiers of technology-driven prosperity for one billion people. In this they are inspired as much by the grain-rich fields of the green revolution as by the successes of remote-sensing satellites and re-entry vehicles. They see infinite energy that can be released not only from thermonuclear explosions but also from the human resource latent in the ordinary people of India.
Dr Kalam and Rajan believe that as a nation India should aim to reach at least the fourth position by 2020. And nobody is going to help us reach there, except ourselves. As the globe is shrinking into a village, there is also simultaneous denial of technologies.
But the same sense of purpose that made Pokharans and Prithvis possible can propel whole populations into prosperity. In the book India 2020, A Vision for the New Millennium, published by Viking-Penguin India, they identify exactly the bricks of technology that could build the dream. (Incidentally, Dr Kalam even otherwise seems to have the perfect 20-20 vision.
Things you didn’t know about APJ Abdul Kalam
That Dr. Abdul Kalam is a bachelor and a teetotaler?
That he recites the Holy Quran and the Bhagvad Gita daily and is equally at home with both Holy Scriptures?
That Dr. Abdul Kalam has gone abroad for studies only once in 1963-64 to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States?
That as a young boy, he sold newspapers to enhance his family’s income?
That he is so modest about his achievements that at every felicitation ceremony he gives full credit for India’s success to his colleagues?
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