Even moments before he died in 2015, former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was on the stage delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong, inspiring the students sitting before him that day.

Kalam’s life will forever be etched as a celebration of the youth of our country and definitely of science.  

Born in the town of Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, Kalam was an Indian aerospace scientist for four decades at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Then in 2002, he went on to become the 11th President of India. His term ended in 2007, but even after all these years, Kalam is hailed as the ‘People’s President’ of India. 

Kalam’s greatness is far beyond his scientific contributions, his political stature and the hundreds of accolades.

Episodes from his life oozing humility, honesty and simplicity have made the ‘People’s President’ immortal. 

Kalam refused to sit on a chair
reserved for him because it was bigger than the chairs for other officials

At a convocation programme in IIT (BHU) Varanasi in 2006, Kalam, then the President of India, was the chief guest and there were five chairs on the stage, the centre one designated for him. The other four were for the top university officials.

However, noticing his chair was bigger in size than the others, Kalam refused to sit on it and offered the chair to the vice-chancellor to sit instead, according to reports.

Obviously, the VC couldn’t sit on it and another chair had to be immediately made available for the “Missile Man” of India.

Who did Kalam invite as his Presidential guest?

In 2002, right after being elected as the President, he attended an event at Kerala Raj Bhavan in
Trivandrum. He could invite any two people
as the Presidential guests.

And whom did he call?

Kalam invited a roadside cobbler — who was quite close to Kalam during his scientist days in Kerala; and the owner of the small hotel where he would often have his meals.

This gesture of Kalam reminds us to never forget where we started from. 

Kalam refused to put broken glass on the walls because it could
harm the birds

While he was working on a
construction project with DRDO, he asked the team what would they do to ensure
security around a certain building. The team lead suggested installing broken glass
on the walls.

However, the former President was quick to turn down
the suggestion and said, “If we do that, birds will not be able to perch on the wall.” 

Even with a power cut, Kalam delivered a lecture to over 400 students 

Soon after Kalam was declared to be the next President in 2002, he had to visit a school to deliver a speech to around 400 students.

However, during the event, the power went off. Yet, Kalam ensured the power cut didn’t cause any interruption.

He walked right in the middle of the crowd and asked the students to gather around him. He then spoke to them with his bare voice and delivered, like always, an inspiring keynote.

Once Kalam took his team worker’s kids to an exhibition

According to a published account, when a subordinate of Kalam at the DRDO couldn’t take his children to an exhibition due to work pressure, he surprised his subordinate and took the children to the exhibition instead.