The news of the death of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam came as a shock to every Indian today. I could not believe the news for a long time and prayed it to be a hoax. But my prayers were never answered and I realised, that great man was no more.
As I sat back and thought about Dr. Kalam, I recollected something that he said during one of his student interaction programmes. It was 2nd February, 2011 and he was at Gauhati University to deliver the ‘V. Venkata Rao Memorial Lecture’. Anyone who has attended his student interaction programmes knows about the ‘Questioning and Interactive Session’ that he holds after delivering his lecture, every time. Students were asked to put forward questions to Dr. Kalam, which he would answer after his lecture. I and my friends jotted down a few questions, which were answered very briefly and crisply, leaving no further doubt. It was during that session when someone from the crowd stood up and asked him something like “How to be the second Abdul Kalam?”.
He stood up, smiled, and gave a beautiful answer, which ended with the words, “By the way, why do you want to be the second Kalam? Why not be the first yourself?”. These words, with his typical South Indian English accent, still echo in my ears today.
These words are probably the best and most inspiring words I have heard so far. As a student of Class 11, I was greatly mesmerised by these words so simple, but the enormous meaning they conveyed.
After the lecture, he gave us all his email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and asked us to mail him about “What do you want to be remembered for”, and said that he would personally reply to some of the best emails, provided that the emails were sent that day itself. Hearing that, like most of the other students out there, I too penned down what I wanted to be remembered for in life and sent him an email. I just sent the mail and then, I got this on 4th February 2011:
I was DUMBSTRUCK! I could not believe that Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had just replied to my email! My joys knew no bounds. I never expected such a great person to reply to the mail of a Class 11 student of Guwahati, along with a gift (His book “Spirit of India). He was true to his word, he did reply.
For me, that was Dr. Kalam – a man so simple, with a great presence of mind and an endless love for children, apart from being a technical genious and the Missile Man. Dr. Kalam constantly kept proving that “Only great minds can afford a simple lifestyle”.
May the great soul, rest in peace. I offer my sincerest condolences.
© Barnadhya Rwitam Sharma