Even as the nation mourned the loss of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who passed away on Monday evening while delivering a lecture at IIM Shillong, his ties to Gujarat and many of its institutions endeared him to the state, which he visited frequently over the years.
Speaking about Kalam’s penchant for Gujarat, IIM-A gold medalist and adviser to Kalam for six years, Srijan Pal Singh, says, “Few people know that Kalam’s tryst with Gujarat began with his fascination with state’s agricultural growth at 8.9 %. In fact, during my MBA at IIM-A, I had made a presentation to him on the ‘Gujarat model of agriculture’. The book Target 3 billion that I co-authored with him has 14 pages on Gujarat’s agri-growth model as well. Kalam, while speaking to the industry at Bharuch almost six months back, said he wanted Gujarat to take lead in becoming the green energy corridor for the nation. He had also spoken of a huge plan for solar power (generation) at Kutch during the Chintan Shibir headed by then CM and now PM Narendra Modi back in 2009.”
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Singh, a mechanical engineer and an IIM-A alumnus did a two-month-long internship with Kalam after graduating from IIM-A, before joining him full time as an adviser. Singh, who graduated from IIM-A in 2009 and was with Kalam in his final hours, recalls, “I happened to briefly meet him during my MBA course in 2008 when he asked me to use my education to transform the lives of the needy. His words inspired a lot of us to get into this area as Kalam had this quality to inspire in you, things greater than yourself. Many of us will continue to work in missions started by him like ‘India 2020’ and Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA). He was like the sun and we were all planets orbiting around him. Now that the sun is gone, we will all have to find our own paths within our own orbits. Although he is gone from us in body, his thoughts and ideas shall be there with us.”
Many Ahmedabad-based institutions also found a willing mentor in Kalam. The Blind People’s Association (BPA, India) called the missile man “a great friend of persons with disabilities”. A release from BPA says, “He was the first and the only President of India so far who invited more than 100 blind students during his swearing-in ceremony at Ashoka Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He invited all the 1,300 persons with disabilities who were participating in the 6th International Abilympics event held in Delhi during 23-29 November, 2003, to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He also inaugurated the first-ever Legal Aid services for Persons with Disabilities in Ahmedabad.”
Ahmedabad-based National Innovation Foundation (NIF), that promotes grassroots-level innovators in the country, will name the IGNITE awards – that fetes original innovations of school children in India annually — after Kalam from this year. A constant visitor to the city to give out the awards to the young innovators, Kalam had also been teaching a course to IIM-A students with senior IIM-A faculty Anil Gupta, who is also the vice-chair of NIF.
“NIF announces winners of the IGNITE awards for school children who come up with path-breaking innovations on Kalam’s birthday every year on October 15. It will be named after him from this year. He was supposed to give away the awards this year and had given us the date for November 24 when I last met him in June here. He used to teach a course with me called ‘Globalization and Resurgent India through Innovative Transformations’ for three years. He would come for the last class and hear the presentations of students and make his responses and grade them like a true teacher.”
Kalam’s recent June visit to the city saw him launch his book Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji that documents his experience with Pramukh Swami, the spiritual leader of BAPS sect, and later inaugurate a techno-social business incubator at Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) in Gandhinagar. Gupta adds, “He was the first Indian President to write an editorial for our newsletter on grassroots level innovators at the Honey Bee Network. Kalam would perhaps be the only former President to have met the maximum number of children. I am sure his wisdom and thoughts will inspire generations to come. It is a great loss to the innovators from across the world.”