There are very few leaders who touch your heart. If Gandhi and Chacha Nehru spearheaded our national movement and brought us freedom (not that any two people can do that, the entire nation united, but that in itself was a Herculean task), Dr. Kalam is the only leader who really cared about us students. He never missed a chance to tell the youth that they were the most important section of the nation.
I think there was a time soon after Wings of Fire released that every student or student’s parents rushed to buy it. All the kids in my apartment, no matter the age would carry that book around, as though it were the BhagawadGita, or Quran, or The Holy Bible. I don’t know how many of them read It, but if I can point to singular moment in my life, when I thought my dreams were not just that, was when I read his autobiography.
From those little windy lanes of Rameswaram and daily cycling, to his talk at IIM, Shillong, his journey is inspiring to say the least. I don’t know Dr. Kalam up close and personal, but I feel as though I lost a family member. I still remember my bedroom (we have moved since), I was in my tenth. I had just read Wings of Fire, and I couldn’t stop thinking what India had done to deserve someone like him as the President. All anyone could talk about was how humble he was, and his most endearing habit of pushing his hair back from his face.
And so i read about his incredible journey that made an impression that will last for as long as I have a dream. Not just any dream, but a dream that would keep awake, a dream so all-consuming, it would drive my every action. My study table, walls, door were filled with quotes from his book. Everywhere I looked, I had a little bit of Dr. Kalam with me. The only President, I think, who went to any school or college that invited him. He valued students from anywhere and everywhere. He came to my college too and that is a day I am not going to want to forget, ever.
I remember the college auditorium was full, there was no place to sit, and we could hardly hear what he was saying, but that was only in beginning, once he began speaking, there was pin drop silence. The Q & A session was the best part because he answered every type of question. I was in my first year, I think, I only remember it was in 2008, I was very shy, but the standing and waiting and not getting a chance to ask him my question, was worth it when he shook hands with us while walking out.
IIM, Shillong, and students across the country should remember how he passed away. He was giving a lecture for our benefit. If we can but remember the passion he had for his research, and responsibility he felt towards us, we can perhaps, try to push ourselves harder to achieve his dream, of seeing India at the top (India at index number in innovation & research and inquiry).
You are the best President this country has seen. No one shall even begin to compare in the future. And we shall always cherish the talks you have given across the country.
Dare to imagine the impossible. Break the limits of imagination. Here’s to all of us following our dreams, dreams that have the strength and depth to keep us wide awake.
I end with a quote from Wings of Fire.
“This story will end with me for I have no belongings in the worldly sense. I have acquired nothing, built nothing, possessed nothing; no family, sons, daughters. I do not wish to set myself as an example for others. But I feel a fury may draw inspiration and come to experience that ultimate satisfaction which can only be found in the life of the spirit.”
You have us, sir, not a blood attachment but an attachment that transcends these worldly attachments. Your spirit is within us as we read you, and are inspired by you.