As we remember APJ Abdul Kalam on his death anniversary, here are 10 lesser known facts about the People’s President and his exemplary life:
1. When Kalam was mere 10-year-old, he started selling newspapers to help his father support the family. He would go to Rameswaram Road Railway station to collect the papers. It was a time of war, so the Madras Dhanushkodi Mail, which carried the papers, would pass through the station without stopping. The bundle was thrown from the running train to the platform from where Kalam would collect it.
2. Although he was born into a Muslim family, Kalam was well-versed in Hindu traditions. He was secular at heart and learnt Sanskrit, and was an avid reader of both, the Quran and Bhagvad Gita. He was also a strict vegetarian.
3. For APJ Abdul Kalam, becoming a fighter pilot for the Indian Air Force was the “dearest dream” which he failed to realise by a whisker. He was on the ninth spot on the list among 25 candidates and was not recruited as there were only eight openings.
4. APJ Abdul Kalam donated his entire salaries and savings to a charitable trust- PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas) – that he had founded. His argument – after becoming the President of India – was that the Government of India will take care of him till the end of his life, so why not use his salary for better things.
5. APJ Abdul Kalam never owned a television. His personal possessions included his books, a veena, some articles of clothing, a CD player and a laptop. He was an avid reader and used to read books on cosmology and celestial bodies.
6. Kalam was also a passionate writer and authored close to 18 books, 22 poems and four songs during his lifetime. His autobiography, Wings of Fire is one of the bestselling books in India which inspired millions of people all around the world.
7. After graduating in aeronautical engineering from Madras Institute of Technology, Kalam started working with DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization), where he designed helicopters for the Indian Army. He worked under country’s most renowned space scientist Vikram Sarabhai.
8. Kalam also visited NASA in 1963 after which he went on to develop Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and SLV-III projects, both of which proved to be successful. He was known as the ‘Missile Man’ of India due to his continued, successful work with ballistic missiles and launch vehicle technology.
9. He played an instrumental role in the Pokhran-II nuclear tests and emerged as the leading nuclear scientist of the nation.
10. Kalam was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister from 1992-1999. The Pokhran-II nuclear tests were conducted during this period wherein he played an intensive political and technological role.