Kalam, also known as 'missile man of India', is celebrating his 83rd birthday today. He assumed the office as India's 11th president in 2002. During his tenure, he made the highest office in India accessible to the common man in the country and was affectionately called 'people's president'. Kalam was a gentle, amiable, approachable president, known for his simplicity.
Before his term as the country's Rashtapati, Kalam worked as an aerospace engineer with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Kalam was born into a family of Tamil Muslims in Rameswaram, a small temple town located in the southern most edge of India in 1931. A brilliant student, Kalam graduated from Madras Institute of Technology and joined DRDO and later, ISRO.
"After observing my teacher teaching me how birds fly...I aimed something to fly...Then I pursued my studies in Physics and aerospace," he said recently at an event attended by students.
There are many missions to the credit of this 'missile man'. Kalam is well-known for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology and he played a pivotal role in India's Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974.
Kalam was the project director of India's first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in earth's orbit in July 1980.
In a poll conducted by news channel CNN-IBN, he was selected as India's Best President. The country has conferred on him the prestigious Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan. During his term as Rashtrapati, Kalam visited universities and schools across the country, interacted with children. No wonder, his 79th birthday was recognised as World Student's Day by United Nations.
Kalam has also received honorary doctoral degrees from 36 unversities and institutions worldwide. Kalam has penned a number of books including 'The Wings of Fire', his autobiography, which has been translated and published in 13 languages so far. His books are largely popular among the student community in the country.
"For the last one decade when I became President and after it, I had one dream and that was when can I in my lifetime see smile on a billion faces," he recently told a boy who asked him what kept him motivated all the time.
More power to this great visionary !