The Rameswaram BOY who became president | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 31, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:45 AM, July 31, 2015

The Rameswaram BOY who became president

Stories of extreme hardship, braving impossible odds and innumerable sacrifices, abound in the lives of nearly 90 percent of the students in India. But among them, some perform exceptionally well. Their academic laurels are so brilliant, that at times their CV looks intimidating. And each one acknowledges that it's the right education that made them what they are today. 

APJ Abdul Kalam, dubbed by many the greatest student Indian ever had, is one of them.

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“Perseverance, hard work and patience.”

This, he once said , was alone the path to progress. And those were the very words he's lived by all through his life. His father Jainulabdeen, a humble boat owner, wasn't educated, but he wanted Kalam to study. Kalam would get up at 4:00am, bathe, and then go for his mathematics class.  After his morning class, Kalam along with his cousin Samsuddin went around town distributing the newspaper. As the town had no electricity, kerosene lamps were lit at his home between 7:00pm and 9:00pm. But because Kalam studied until 11:00pm, his mother would save some for him for later use.


Kalam always had the support of his schoolteachers. The flight of birds had fascinated him since he was a boy, but it was years later he realised that he wanted to fly aircraft. After finishing school, he took up physics at St Joseph's College, Trichi, but towards the end he was dissatisfied. When he discovered aeronautical engineering, he regretted having lost three precious years.

At Madras Institute of Technology, where Kalam studied aeronautics, he learnt an important lesson: the value of time. He was leading a project on system design, when one day the principal walked into the class to see his work. He appeared dissatisfied and told Kalam that he wanted the project finished in the next two days; else his scholarship aid would be withdrawn. That unsettled Kalam; years of his father's hardships would come to naught. Kalam worked without food and sleep. On the last day, his professor came to check on his progress. He was impressed and said:  "I was putting you under stress and asking you to meet a difficult deadline," recounted Dr Kalam.


Although Kalam has led several projects in his professional life, he's treated each like his last. Such was his passion.

When Dr Kalam's first major project SLV 3-failed the first time he was almost shattered.  But he never thought of quitting after SLV-3. And so, SLV-3 was launched again, this time with success.

Success followed Kalam. Prithvi, Agni, Akash, Trishul and Nag missiles were huge successes. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan and Bharat Ratna, and then he became the President. Because he also came from a poor background, he knew the power of education in changing one's future.


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