The Inspiring Journey of Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam

By: Jagannath Pradhan

4.4/5 - (8 votes)

“Dreams are not what you see when you sleep, it is something that does not let you sleep”

This quote by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam beautifully depicts how he became the 11th president of India from a boatman and newspaper seller. In the year 1963 in Rameshwaram, he carried rocket parts from the cattle shed which was his laboratory to the launch pad created by him and his team members beside the sea coast of Rameshwaram. This provides us with a clear scenario of the hardships he faced during the launch of the first rocket in India. Although he lacked resources and could have made excuses, he tried his best to succeed, and finally, he succeeded. He was a down-to-earth man and never boasted about his achievements. He used his downtime wisely by earning money from selling newspapers and supporting his family at the mere age of 10 years. He read the local daily, ‘The Dinamani’, and studied his books diligently at night under the kerosene lamp(lantern). His parents also supported him even though they themselves were in darkness. He was a well-cultured boy of average looks, but because of his hard work and perseverance, he changed his destiny and became the President of India from 2002 to 2007. What drove him into aeronautical engineering is that his teacher, Mr. Siva SubramaniamIyer took him and his classmates to the beach and taught them about the mechanism used by birds for flying.

In numerous instances, he was humiliated and failed. But what astonishes us is that he never gave upinspite of numerous failures. One incident was when his teacher saw him (a muslim) sitting with a high temple priest`s son, RamanandShastri. He was made to sit at the back of the class. In one of his speeches, he told that the best minds of the nation can be found at the backbenchers of the class. Another incident was during the failure of SLV-3 in 1979. He was broke at that time and feared to reply to media after the whole world watched the failure of SLV-3. But his prof. Dhawan consoled him. They went to attend the media conference. Prof.Dhawan took all the responsibility of the failure on himself and assured the media that they would be successful within 1 year. Moreover, it was their first trial. By this way, prof.  Darwin handled the media elegantly. When the press conference ended, Kalam was deeply touched. He, from this incident, came to know how to handle failure.After 1 year, they were successful in launching the SLV-3 missile. However, prof. Dhawan handed the microphone to him on his success and asked him to address the audience.

From then onwards, If he won, he would give the credit to his team members. If he lost, he would take the credits himself. This is called selfless work.

Moving on to the early life of APJ Abdul Kalam.

Early Life Of APJ Abdul Kalam

He was born on 15 October, 1931 in Rameshwaram of Tamil Nadu and was a boy of average looks. With his sheer determination, hard work, patience, and learning nature, he survived those hectic days.

  • His father was a boatman and his mother, Ashiamma was a housewife. Their family had around 8 children. His mother fed to people more than the number of members in their family everyday.
  • His grandmother and mother told him stories of Mahabharata and Ramayana, and his father used to cut-off unnecessary expenses other than the basic things required in day-to-day life. In addition, he was also a keen learner of Darwin`s origin of species.
  • As a muslim, he also learnt about prophet and his stories. He was a vegetarian and an animal lover.
  • There was social discrimination as Indian society was based on the caste system.
  • Despite numerous hurdles, he did not give up. Electricity was unavailable in India at that time, and he studied under a lantern. His parents supported him and gave him the only lantern in the house.
  • After completing his education at the Schwartz Higher Secondary school, Ramanathapuram, Kalam went to St. Joseph college,Tiruchiravalli from where he graduated in Physics in 1954.
  • By utilizing his down time wisely by reading books, he became well-aware of the daily happenings worldwide.
  • His sister used her gold and jewellery and gave Kalam 1000 rupees.
  • In his college, the prof. did not like his project on aeroplanes. Kalam asked for a month`s time but was given only 3 days.
  • For 2 days, he did not eat or drink anything and work hard. Thereafter, he submitted his project and was appreciated by the professor.
  • There were numerous instances where teachers demotivated him. Once during his school days when he was made to sit at the back of the class because he was a muslim. Another incident when he felt low was when his prof. teaching at MIT(Madras Institute of Technology) did not like his project and asked him to make another.
  • He completed his graduation in 1957 from MIT. In 1958, he became a scientist.

Dr. Kalam`s Career As a Scientist

After his college, he got a scholarship by which he went to NASA

  • The people at NASA were impressed with his work and offered him permanent citizenship in America with a promising future and salary.
  • But he decided to come back to India and develop his country.
  • After returning from NASA, he joined a church with no investment and made his office there. He and his team members made their laboratory in cow shed . The Launchpad was made beside the seashore in Rameshwaram.
  • He worked for 20 years in ISRO.
  • An amazing fact here is that the rocket and its parts were brought in cycle and bullock cart  to the Launchpad for launching.
  • He received an invitation from Defence and Airforce institute.
  • He could not get the job and came back to Delhi and went to the math of a saint(Baba). The Baba gave him Gita and told him to read it.
  • He got a position as the director of DRDO in 1982. And from this book, he saw how Arjuna uses 3 arrows: 1 for protecting the ones, 1 for killing the enemies, and the last one for finishing the game.
  • On this principle, he started designing the Integrated Guided missile model.
  • Despite his 10 years of hard work, Agni missile launch failed many times. But at last, he finally launched it.
  • In 1963, India launched its first sounding rocket because of him.

Achievements and Contribution

In his life, APJ Kalam made a remarkable achievement was becoming the president of India. He is the missile man of India. He was conferred with numerous awards

Missiles Launched

Trishul Missile(1985)
Prithvi Missile(1989)
Aakash missile
Nag missile


The major achievements of APJ Abdul Kalam include:

He was the 11th Indian President(2002-2007)
He is ‘the missile man of India’
1997- Bharat Ratna awarded
2017- India launched 104 satellites at a time
At the age of 70, he was conferred the young icon award
Padma Bhushan
Padma Vibhushan

During his last days, he gave lectures to students in Tamil Nadu. When he was asked about how to become successful by a student, he gave the success mantra:

  • Great Aim- Great aim motivates us to work hard. It also                     enables us to ignore small failures
  • Acquire knowledge- By acquiring knowledge, we can maintain a good standard of living and help others grow.
  • Hard work- It is hard work that will help us in achieving what we want
  • Perseverance- By perseverance, we can get huge benefits in the long run.

What we can learn from him is that we should never give up on our dreams. Failures are inevitable, and they should not deter us from achieving our desired goals. Through perseverance, determination and hard work, we can create wonders. Dr. APJ Kalam is a source of inspiration for all. From 1931 to 2014, this hero of our country made drastic progress in our country, India. Welcome to India today. We have made a lot of progress since independence. Havent`t we? We should try to contribute to our country like that made by Dr.Kalam. He started his journey from a normal child who sold newspapers and turmeric seeds to becoming the 11th President of India from 2002-2007. The nation wants more progress in various fields. We should strive to achieve progress in various fields with his success mantra. The nation is yelling, yes! We Indians would remember this hero of ours forever.

By: Jagannath Pradhan

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