What Abdul Kalam taught us about life: Speakers at Edexlive's Mission Kalam event

The event brought together people who had lived, worked and admired the former President on his 90th birth anniversary
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam | Pic: Express
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam | Pic: Express

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was arguably one the most beloved Presidents the country has ever had, having left an impression on millions of young students — and that is his legacy. Keeping this in mind, EdexLive along with KingMakers IAS Academy in Chennai held an event in memory of the late Dr Kalam as the country celebrated his 90th birth anniversary. The speakers included Dr Kalam's grandnephew APJMJ Sheik Dawood, former ISRO scientist Mylswamy Annadurai who currently works as the Vice President of the Tamil Nadu State Council for Science and Technology, decorated police officer and public speaker A Kaliyamurthy.

Dawood, who runs the foundation dedicated to Dr Kalam, shared a personal memory of his granduncle. He said, "One evening, Dr Kalam called my parents and asked to speak with me and then all of a sudden he asked me what I wanted to do in life." Dawood recalls how at that moment he was perplexed. He said, "When a person of such high stature asks what you want to do, it is difficult to answer." Dawood then told Dr Kalam that he was interested in software engineering and then he shared with students what Dr Kalam said next, "I said software. But then he simply asked me to do what I want in life and told me to do it with my whole heart." 

A similar anecdote was shared by former ISRO Satellite Centre Director Mylswamy Annadurai, who worked in close proximity with Dr Kalam. Speaking to the students present via a pre-recorded message, Annadurai said, "Dr Kalam exemplifies to us how to have a meaningful life. I have become a better person after being in his presence." He added that Dr Kalam taught everyone to dream and have a meaningful life. "That is what Dr Kalam's life teaches us."

Kaliyamurthy, who is now a prolific public speaker, was awarded by Dr Kalam in 2008 for his meritorious service. Answering a student's question, he reminisced about his childhood and the hardships that he faced. For instance, as an eighth-grader, he was scolded and beaten by a teacher for not wearing shoes. 

"But in reality, I had a pair of slippers, that had gotten damaged in the train, on the way to school. Hearing this, the Vice Principal had asked me to meet him in the evening. He had gotten me a pair of new shoes," he said. "Years later, I'd met him when I was the SP of Tiruchirapalli and he couldn't control his tears. I was in touch with him until he turned 100."

The former police officer spoke about the need to understand why Indians have a relationship with their parents like no other, "My wife and I were in an aircraft and suddenly we heard a thundering noise. The pilot had announced that the engine stopped working." At this point, Kaliyamurthy said that he and his wife were bracing for the inevitable. "We were prepared to die. But then, luckily, at 5,000 ft, the engine restarted and the flight landed at a nearby airstrip."  When the media asked the passengers about what their last thoughts were, they spoke of their partners and money, he added. "However, a group of people said that they feared that their children would be orphaned. They were all Indians."

Mental well-being of UPSC aspirants
Kalpesh Kumar Sharma, who had managed to scored the 73rd rank in UPSC 2020, reminded students that Dr Kalam was an interesting blend of science and spirituality. "It was a kind of balance he maintained. A similar balance is needed to do well in UPSC as it often takes several attempts to clear it. One needs to find something that gives them overall well-being for better results apart from just studying."

Sharma added that studying for UPSC had made him a better human. "Three years that I spent studying made me a better citizen and a human. Whether you remain in civil services or not, the knowledge you gain will lead you to a better life by itself."

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