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Remembering a tête-à-tête with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

Jul 28, 2015

OneWorld South Asia remembers the progressive words of Dr Kalam as the news of his sad demise grips the entire nation in grief.

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

New Delhi: As the news of the death of former Indian President and Bharat Ratna Dr APJ Abdul Kalam broke yesterday, the entire nation found itself shell shocked, and fondly remembered the encouraging and inspiring words for which India’s Missile Man was known for throughout his life.

The 83-year-old, known as People's President, died on 27th July after he collapsed following a cardiac arrest during a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Shillong on Monday evening.

The news of Dr Kalam's death led me on a trip down memory lane. Around eight years back, I got a chance to have a tête-à-tête with the former Indian President during an award ceremony in New Delhi when the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the United States' Smithsonian Institution conferred Woodrow Wilson Award for public service on Dr Kalam.

He only talked about power, energy, youth and development and how a country like India can progress with futuristic ideas. When I asked him how many more years would India take to join the league of the most progressive nations of the world, Kalam quipped, “By 2020 we will be a developed nation.”

Talking about the energy needs of India, Kalam advocated the use of nuclear energy for fulfilling the needs. “Nuclear energy is going to help our power sector. We need lots of power to keep the momentum of growth going to realize the dream of our more than one billion people,” he told me during the award ceremony.

Hinging his hopes on the participation of youth in the development, he said, “The participation of youth needs a lot of vision. Though, participation of youth is happening but it requires more intensity.”

The Indian government has declared a seven-day national mourning as a mark of respect for the departed leader known and loved across the country for his positive ideas. Leaders cutting across party lines have expressed their sorrow over the sudden demise of Dr Abdul Kalam.

Expressing deep sorrow at the sad demise of Dr Abdul Kalam, the Cabinet in a special resolution said, “In his passing away the country has lost a visionary scientist, a true nationalist and a great son”. The Cabinet met under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and extended its heart-felt condolences to the bereaved family on behalf of the Government and the entire nation.”

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) also expressed deep loss at the demise of Dr Kalam. “He was a great motivator, a constant inspiration, and a unique mentor for India and Indian industry,” said Sumit Mazumder, President, CII.

Dr Kalam's funeral will be held on Thursday in his birthplace of Rameswaram in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Ashok Kumar works as a Deputy Editor with OneWorld South Asia. Prior to this, he had worked for approximately about seven years with India's leading daily The Indian Express.

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