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SALUTE THE MISSILE MAN

Dr. A. SAMPATH

While I was participating in a live T.V. discussion after 9’ clock night on July 27th, the sad news of the demise of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was breaking in. Again, my friends at the Malayalam T.V channel, “Reporter T.V” and myself were shocked as I was just quoting some lines from his book “Turning Point.” It was a discussion on the death penalty as the same day the Supreme Court has taken for hearing the curative petition of Yakub Memon “The CPI(M) has already declared its stand.” I said, “We are not in favour of capital punishment. It should be abolished.” Most of those sentenced to death were from poor backgrounds; socially as well as economically. It is also reported that instances of “judicial murder” have happened in our nation. If it is true, it is also a crime committed by our legal system which happened to be beyond any correction now. Punishment for the poor and ignorant; and justice for the rich, elite and affluent? As a practicing lawyer for the last quarter of a century, may I ask? In support of my argument, I quoted the former President of Indian Union. “One of the more difficult tasks for me as President was to decide on the issue of confirming capital punishment awarded by courts… to my surprise… almost all cases which were pending had a social and economic bias. This gave me an impression that we were punishing the person who was least involved in the enmity and who did not have a direct motive for committing the crime.”

 

A man with a mission and a mission as a passion- that was  APJ. Many call him “Missile Man of India” Some called him “smile man” some foreign media noted “his smile deadlier than his missiles.” He was a ‘brahmachari’ as he himself called and not a mere bachelor.’

 

From a poor family his “launch” towards the minds of the millions of people is indeed a story we are all proud of. We all have and share a “we- feeling when we speak of him. APJ put the wings of fire to the dreams of children and young. The ignited minds will always remember him as a guide and “guru.” It was on 28 July 2005, he delivered a thought provoking speech of 52 minutes in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, suggesting 10 dream projects which suit the peculiar geographical and socio- economic and demographic features of my State. Keralites feel Dr. Kalam as aKeralite, though he was born in Rameswaram of Tamil Nadu.

 

He was at Thiruvananthapuram from 1962 to 1982 in ISRO. Many remember their neighbour at the Room No. 5. In “Indira Lodge” near to Thampanoor KSRTC Bus Stand and Railway Station. Walking like an ordinary man, talking and joking with the cobbler George and head loadworker Sunny and the street vendors and “dabhawallahs” of my state’s capital. His dinner was two chappathis and some curry; he loved kerala’s delicacy, the cooked tapioca and coconut chutney. says Parameswaran Nair who still runs “Sree Guruvayoorappan Hotel”, a small restaurant in the Desabhimani Road, proudly exhibiting the photos of his family with the First Citizen of India. “He was one among us”- those who had an opportunity even to talk with him, not to say to work;- this is the feeling. I am not mentioning  about ISRO people for whom he was a family member.

 

“Commander to Coach, Manager to Mentor, Director to Dedicator…”          how beautifully he elaborated his visions! Like a painter depicting his clear vision and dreams he spoke. A true scientist till the last breath, a leader who reminded us the spirit of teamwork. A man who neither complained nor quarreled.

 

I got my first opportunity to talk with him during 1996-97, the tenure of the short lived XIth Lok Sabha. During some of the meetings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, (in which I served) he was also invited for expert opinion. He was the Chairman of DRDO as well as Security Advisor to the Prime Minister at that time. Once during lunch, he told me in a lighter moment! “You see, I was born as a Muslim, this country as well as your State Kerala, a Hindu majority and the proto type of the missiles you hear now were assembled by me inside the building which was once used as  a church! In Kerala you can always see the best examples of communal harmony and secular approach…. Kerala is like my home land” – I still remember his smile; the smile of innocence of a small boy. He always carried a small note pad and a pen. Noting down discussion points by himself. Then like an energetic youth he may give suggestions, which we all the MPs, department officials and top brass of our armed forces would eagerly and curiously hear, see and try to understand his points.

 

The eleventh Rashtrapathi was not from the political field. Never before a public servant nor a representative of people. But he lit the way like a star. After completing the tenure at Rashtrapathi Bhavan, what retirement he had? Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam could retire only from life and not from mission.

 

Ten years back my daughter Aswathy was one among to receive the President by offering flowers at Thiruvananthapuram in a public function. She at 6th standard from the Nirmala Bhavan School. She tells me with twinkling eyes “ He asked each of us name, class and what do we want ot become in future. His eyes were like stars….!” He advised us Dad, “you should have dreams and you should work hard to fulfil the dreams.” Yes of course, it was neither his flaunty English language nor western accent which attracted us, but the simplicity and sincere and honest words from heart.

 

Dr. Kalam, we owe you a last “Salaam.” A man who kindled our hearts to dream big, burn like sun and light like sun. He is a star- his place is among the stars in this universe.

 

Mahatma Gandhi said, “My life is my message.” Dr. APJ didn’t say, but repeated what the father of the Nation said.

 

(The writer is  MP, Lok Sabha, Attingal (Kerala), India.)

E-mail :  a.sampath@sansad.nic.in

 

 

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