A.P.J. Sir, RIP. 1931-2015


Subject: An open letter from a teacher.

Dear A.P.J sir,

This is a letter from me, a teacher, to you, the quintessential teacher. And while you are Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Bharat Ratna, (ex)President of India… I also know you for being the student who never gave up education despite the meager means of family. I know you as a career scientist, as a reluctant politician, our 11th President and the one who always inspired the youth to dream.

I want to ask you some questions sir, and I want to think aloud. More than anything else, I want to reminisce in the era, that was you. You are the politician that one would aspire to be, the scientist that one should study to be, and the teacher that one can try to be. I want to learn from you to be the youth to rise above difficulty, the professional to be capable, the leader to acknowledge the team’s contribution, the genuine human being to connect with people around, to be humble and stay away from hubris. I also want to know some of what you felt at those cross roads that came along your way.

Was it warm and windy in Thumba’s cattle shed A.P.J sir? or was it “cool” to hang out there, the shed being the house for India’s first rocket launcher! Thumba Equatorial Rocket launcher – must have been a fine name plate for the cattle shed to boast of being the laboratory to work on sounding rockets. You must have been quite a creative scientist to have trained from NASA on sounding rockets and then see the potential in Thiruvananthpuram’s little coastal Thumba’s cattle shed. Kudos to Dr. Vikram Sarabhai to have seen that twinkle in your eyes. Or should I say he saw Rohini! India’s first satellite to travel to earth’s orbit on the SLV3 you designed, developed and built at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Research Center.

Sir, this summer you tweeted – “Today, I remember the hot day of 1998 at Pokhran: 53C. When most of the world was sleeping; India’s nuclear era emerged.” It took my memory to the time when the defining moment happened in the Thar dessert, 17 years ago. As the Chief of DRDO then, you supervised the 5 detonations – first a fusion bomb and the following 4 fission. How was it to camp for a fortnight with your team of 58 engineers and then on the bright night of Buddha Purnima, 11th May, 1998 conduct the explosions? Undetected by all intelligence agencies around the world… to be then recognized as a nuclear weapon state.

This Eid, when Iftaar parties were doing the rounds of the homes of people and politicians alike, where were you A.P. J sir? Which orphanage’s children were you sharing your ‘sevian’ with? While you were at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the country felt the sprit of a real ‘Iftar party’ with you as you donated the savings every year by skipping the party, to the orphanage. You knew and followed your traditions and scriptures in letter and spirit. The first occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to connect to the masses directly, particulary the children and youth. Reaching out in person and through technology.

A.P.J. sir, or shall I call you Dr. Kalam perhaps? What with some 40 universities bestowing honorary doctorates to you? Wondering how would that sit along side your award by MTV, twice over (2003 and 2006) for being the Youth Icon of the year J? … where ofcourse sit many other very important and otherwise diverse range of awards – Indian ones – the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration (1997)the Veer Savarkar Award by the Govt. of India (1998) and some of the international ones – Royal Society, U.K’s King Charles II Medal (2007), or for that matter, the International von Karman Wings Award by the California Institute of Technology, U.S.A (2009), besides the Hoovar Medal same year by ASME Foundation, U.S. A. Closer home, from Chennai, the Alwars Research Center recognized you with the Ramanujan Award (2000). While you were much recognized by the world wide community of Engineers as the IEEE made you their honorary member (2011), the teacher in me finds October 15th recognized as the world’s student’s day by the United Nations (on your 79th Birthday), very befitting. For I would love to be your student sir. I would like to learn from you how to teach my students the five lines you always taught to yours, to speak to them selves every morning:

  1. I am the best
  2. I can do it.
  3. God is always with me.
  4. I am a winner.
  5. Today is my day.

– A.P.J.

I want to be able to tell my students more often:

“All of us do not have equal talent. But, all of us have an equal opportunity to develop our talents.” A. P. J.

I want to learn how to convey:

“It is very easy to defeat someone, but it is very hard to win someone” A. P. J.

How do I embody as a teacher what you said :

“Be more dedicated to making solid achievements than in running after swift but synthetic happiness” A. P. J.

Teach me A.P. J. sir how I can implore my peers that:

“ Thinking should become your capital asset, no matter whatever ups and downs you come across in your life.”

And the hard truth:

“Without your involvement you can’t succeed. With your involvement you can’t fail.”

Thank you Jainulabdeen and Ashiamma, for your precious gift of Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam to the nation. The village of Dhanushkodi in Rameshwaram, Tamilnadu is a special place in the geography of the country. It gave us a teacher to inspire generations of students, teachers, scientists, politicians…

“Learning gives creativity, creativity leads to thinking. Thinking provides knowledge and knowledge makes you great” A.P.J.

Rest In Peace dear sir, or perhaps, Reply If Possible?




28th July



3 thoughts on “A.P.J. Sir, RIP. 1931-2015

  1. Nivedita! This is such a beautiful tribute. I totally agree with you about learning how yo teach our students those five precious lines. Thank you for sharing the link with me. Warm regards.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Nivedita ma’am,

    Having gotten familiarised with your chirpy and crisp way of writing, I could see how much you adore Sir APJ kalam. As usual you did not fail to inspire me to read more and more about Dr.Kalam.

    Your essay is the quintessence of what a passionate teacher need to learn from Dr.Kalam. I enjoyed reading this essay thoroughly.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Miss Nivedita,
    Thank you for sharing this piece of writing. Frankly you educated me on some of Dr. APJ ‘s achievements that i was not aware of. Very passionately written and expressed.
    Look forward to more,

    Liked by 1 person

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