24 March 2017
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Inspiration – thy name is Kalam

abdul‘When our signature changes to autograph, this marks the success.’ This was one of the famous quotes of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam circulated on Whatsapp Tuesday morning. Motivating words indeed! Irrespective of whether one personally met him or not, most people got inspired by his way of life. Here are a few thoughts shared by people who experienced Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s wisdom and charm
 
Innovative genius
 
Among the many conferences and seminars I attended, the one I attended four years ago at Bhubaneswar truly remains a memorable one, for here I met Dr. Abdul Kalam and spent an entire afternoon soon after having lunch together. That he preferred to just eat the south Indian sambar rice for lunch reflected his leaning towards simple things in life. But his dream for the country was a lofty one. “Can this advanced research be transferred into cheapened technology,” was his concerned query when we were updating him on our work.
 
He showed tremendous interest when we mentioned about our project that we were developing to establish communication system with villages through internet. He requested us to update him on this subject. An innovative genius that he was he had predicted the falling of petrol prices four years ago. He wouldn’t relax during conversations, his mind would be constantly thinking and every sentence of his would carry a new idea. A down-to-earth man, he spoke from his heart and treated, from a doorman to a dignitary, with same respect. A disciplined person, he seldom sought medical help. Yes, he ignited minds and hearts of the people of our country.
 
Dr. D. Nageshwar Reddy, Chairman and Chief, Asian Institute of Gastroenterology
 
He cared for all
 
It was my first ever experience of walking side by side with a President of India, back in 2006. The occasion was the inauguration of Emergency Management Research Institute. He gave me a pleasant surprise as the ever-smiling President who seemed so interested in knowing about my work, and if I was comfortable coming to Bheemavaram, from Hyderabad, all by myself. I came across many celebrities who I least cared about, but this man was different. His smile, cheerfulness and grounded nature made him the man one can look up to.
 
Mahua Chatterji, Communication consultant
 
People’s man
 
It was an honour to meet the former president — APJ Abdul Kalam — at a one-to-one meeting. It was the most intellectually-stimulating 20 minutes of my life. He had an aura of graciousness, empathy, knowledge, inspiration and love that can attract anyone. The 20 minutes of the conversation made me feel I have known him for long, and as the meeting progressed I even interrupted him on several occasions; which later made me think of the meeting as an almost casual chat between two friends. The discussion was on anti corruption; he called his team and made them the part of the discussion. I was amazed his pro-activeness. When I discussed about my Foundation, Vaada, and the work we were doing to set up footpaths, he showed deep concern about people who sleep on the footpath, referring to them as ‘night sleepers’. He asked if Vaada Foundation could do something to keep them safe at night. I was astounded that a person of his stature could even care for people who sleep on the pavements.
 
Suresh Raju, Social worker
 
A homely man
 
My first meeting with APJ Abdul Kalam was in 2004 when he had come to inaugurate the Madras Management Convention. It was a brief association amongst a lot of people. After I joined Emergency Management Research Institute (EMRI), I got a call from his office, the president was online and he said “I heard something good is happening in AP. Can you come and share, I want to know about it.” He had given me 20 minutes. In my mind I was ready with a snazzy corporate slide to be presented inside his huge room at Rashtrapati Nilayam. But he wanted me to come to the point, so instead of slide 1, I reached slide no. 17. And then slide 25 and so on. The 20 minute meeting went on to become 50 minutes. Later he told me that when he retires from his president’s post on July 24, 2007, he would want to join us and work for EMRI. Soon after his retirement he called me and then joined EMRI as chairman emeritus.
 
This association and bond became strong and he kept in touch. His speeches inspired me. He couldn’t attend my son’s wedding so, he came to my house on a personal visit and had a simple meal which had Gongura and other speciality dishes of the region. He said, “I like this system of joint family where everyone lives together.” After I quit EMRI abruptly, he called me and said, “I will not ask for the reason, but I will ask you what you will do tomorrow. I want you to continue to teach and inspire and write a book to teach more.” So, I did and presented my first book to him.
 
Venkat Changavalli, Author, Management Consultant, Leadership Mentor and Director on the board of SBH
 
Polite yet candid
 
The day was February 4, 2013, when he was to speak in a seminar in the city on the role of women ensuring a cleaner society. Among the ones to coordinate his visit on behalf of my college, I saw him entering the Satya Sai Nigamagamam auditorium early. He was sitting among the crowd and was enquiring about a luxurious chair placed on the stage. Realising it was for him, he told that to be removed and be given the same chair as others. When he was to answer the last question in the seminar, an announcer had mistakenly told ‘one lady question’ instead of uttering it as one last question from a lady. He then humorously remarked, “So, even questions have gender?” Even before he left the place, he had asked my college principal, “So, can I leave?” with utmost humility. In an other incident where his frankness came to the fore, there was a newly floated media house that asked him his best wishes for their firm and he, not knowing them personally had simply asked, “I need to know you before I wish.”
 
C. Sudarshan, Retired Economics Lecturer
 
‘He walked the talk’
 
I was fortunate to attend an event in a school where Dr Kalam was invited to interact with the children. He kept his speech short and wanted children to ask him questions.
 
A boy of 7 asked him how old he was and the physics teacher in him answered, “82 orbits of earth around the sun” and went on explaining as the boy looked puzzled.
 
The most striking answer to a question from a parent as to how to deal with corruption in the country, his instant reply was “stop corruption in your house first and the country will change. Stop bribing your kids and teach them to earn their rewards and the country shall change.”
 
Dr. Kalam also shared various experiences about how the teachers in his life changed his perspective on everything. “If we only impart knowledge and not teach values then we are only training the mind and not the heart,” he added.
 
He freely shared his email id and promised a prompt reply to everyone within 48 hours. “Ask me anything, share your dreams and goals, about how you want to change your country.”
 
Myriam Siddham
Consultant Psychologist
 
His words spur us on
 
An eternal optimist with amazing energy, Dr. Kalam has been an inspiration to me like to billion others in many ways. I was fortunate to meet up with this legend personally to extend invite to our SKILLS2010 conference back in April 2010. Dr. Kalam’s inspirational address later at SKILLS2010 Conference that saw our exercise as “Human Empowerment through knowledge and Skills” cemented my commitment to the cause of skills development. Our agenda for rural development stems from this inspiration.
 
We aim to make his vision true soon as our sincere tributes to the inspiring rural development visionary dedicated until last breath. His saying “Dream is not that you see in sleep, dream is something that does not let you sleep,” always spurs us on to work harder to achieve our goals.
 
Ravi K Reddy
Chartered Accountant
 
 - The Hindu

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