A P J Abdul Kalam and a handful of Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) scientists were part of India's first rocket launch mission at Thumba in 1963.
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam, the ‘missile man’ who came to be known as ‘People’s President’ died on Monday after he collapsed during a lecture at the IIM in Shillong on Monday evening.
Abdul Kalam was born in 15 October 1931 in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu to humble parents. At one time he had to distribute newspapers to support his family and his education. Kalam graduated with physics from the Madras University, went on to study aerospace engineering. He wanted to become a fighter pilot but just missed that bus. But there was no stopping him. The DRDO, ISRO, chief scientific advisor to the prime minister in 1992, the Pokhran 2 nuclear tests… Abdul Kalam straddled them all, till he was elected India’s 11th President in 2002. He was one of India’s most eminent scientists, and had the unique honour of receiving honorary doctorates from 30 universities and institutions.
APJ Abdul Kalam spent more than two decades of his life in Trivandrum while he was working at the VSSC.
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam or APJ Abdul Kalam spent more than two decades of his life in Trivandrum while he was working at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thumba. A P J Abdul Kalam and a handful of Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) scientists were part of India’s first rocket launch mission at Thumba in 1963.
A Catholic church in the coastal village of Thumba in Trivandrum became the rocket assembly station and the rocket itself was transported to the Thumba launch site in a bullock cart. This was India’s first rocket launch -the Nike-Apache sounding rocket on November 21, 1963. Kalam was in the team that injected the rocket with a chemical-trimethyl aluminum (TMA) -which formed white clouds that allow those on the ground to “see” the winds in space and track them with cameras.
For many years, Abdul Kalam stayed at a lodge near Guruvayurappan hotel on the Gandhari Amman Coil Road.
For many years, Abdul Kalam stayed at a lodge near Guruvayurappan hotel on the Gandhari Amman Coil Road. The hotel owner, Parameswaran Nair says, Kalam patronised the hotel for over 20 years and during those years, he used to relish kanji or rice gruel for dinner. During one of his visits to Trivandrum after becoming the President, Kalam invited Parameswaran Nair and his family to Raj Bhavan and spend some time with them.
He also visited Gandhari Amman Coil road to refresh old memories. During that occasion the People’s President didn’t forget to visit the cobbler who used to wok near the hotel. “George eppidi irik-kae? Saukhyama?” He asked in Tamil while passing by his kiosk. The cobbler says Kalam used to sit on the bench near his kiosk and speak to him for almost 30 minutes while getting his shoes repaired.
This is why APJ Abdul Kalam without question the ‘People’s President’. In his life and his work, APJ Abdul Kalam embodied the best of what India can be. India has never had a more beloved president. Active till the end, he left the world in mid-speech, as if to remind us that he still had something more to say. India mourns his death, but will long celebrate his life.
Excerpts taken from Deccan Chronicle and BBC