India continues to pay tribute to its former president APJ Abdul Kalam, popularly known as “Missile Man” for his work developing the missiles able to carry India’s nuclear warheads.
Kalam died on 28 July in Kolkata, aged 83. A seven-day period of official mourning ends today.
Also known as the “People’s President”, Kalam became a national folk hero after helping oversee nuclear tests in 1998. He went on to become the country’s 11th president from 2002 to 2007.
Kalam was a tireless campaigner for developing India’s technological muscle and discouraging expensive imports from the West, themes he explored in his book from 2002, Ignited Minds – Unleashing the Power Within India.
Born on 15 October 1931 in Tamil Nadu, Kalam graduated from the prestigious Madras Institute of Technology in aeronautical engineering. He used to describe himself as “made in India”, as he had never trained abroad.
Kalam spent nearly 40 years as a scientist and science administrator mainly at the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Indian Space Research Organisation and was scientific adviser to successive prime ministers.
After his presidency ended, Kalam spent much of his time travelling to remote schools and colleges, speaking to students urging them to embrace technology and to follow their dreams.
His poem, Song of Youth, reproduced below, was set to music in 2002 by musician Yuvan Shankar Raja.
Song of Youth
by APJ Abdul Kalam
As a young citizen of India, armed with technology, knowledge and love for my nation, I realise, small aim is a crime.
I will work and sweat for a great vision, the vision of transforming India into a developed nation, powered by economic strength with value system
I am one of the citizens of the billion; Only the vision will ignite the billion souls.
It has entered into me ; The ignited soul compared to any resource is the most powerful resource on the earth, above the earth and under the earth.
I will keep the lamp of knowledge burning to achieve the vision – Developed India
If we work and sweat for the great vision with ignited minds, the transformation leading to the birth of vibrant developed India will happen.
I pray the Almighty: “May the divine peace with beauty enter into our people; Happiness and good health blossom in our bodies, minds and souls”.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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