Homage to a great human being:
Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, former President of India and Bharat Ratna was not just a President. He had earned enormous respect and social capital through his humility, support for humanitarian causes and commitment towards grassroots creativity and innovation. He shared this capital with everybody who came in contact with him. First time, when we went to him to invite him to give awards to grassroots innovators, without hesitation he agreed immediately. And thus, started a tradition, which subsequent presidents have continued and in fact have taken further forward. Dr. Kalam had an extraordinary ability to make most ordinary people at home in his company. He will not mind posing for a photograph with a worker, cooks, bearers, security guards, airport staff, anybody else who would come in his way. Not many people can overcome their ego so easily. There are many people who get respect from people, he commanded devotion. I remember that whenever I will share with him any insight gained from Shodhyatras, he will always encourage us to ensure that these creative people don’t remain unrecognized. When we invited him first time to IIMA for Vikram Sarabhai memorial lecture, he was at that time guiding a defense lab in Hyderabad. While describing his early experiences, he narrated how he learnt the art of devotion to young students from Dr. Sarabhai. He was working as a young scientist with Dr.Sarabhai in Mumbai. Whenever Dr.Sarabhai will take night train to Ahmedabad, he will give time to meet his students and young scientists on the way uptill morning. The scientists will go back by the next train. Dr. Kalam has always found time for meeting grassroots innovators and creative children. He taught GRIIT [Globalising and Resurgent India Through Innovative Transformation] for three years with me at IIMA. He worked so hard on the projects of the students and other submissions that inspired everybody. Once his flight got late and the class scheduled in the evening continued till 2 am in the morning. Disregarding his age, he was always keen to stretch himself for engaging with the youth. I don’t know how many journals and newsletters can claim to have an editorial written by the President. Honey Bee Network had the privilege of having an editorial written by him when he was still the President. Once he invited all the awardees for an at-home at Rashtrapati Bhawan. One of the presidential awardees was a very old farmer. He immediately got a chair for him and served the plate of snacks personally. Such a humility and such a warmth can never be erased from our memory.
Dr. Kalam came every year to IIMA to interact with the students and also give IGNITE awards to the innovative children through National Innovation Foundation [NIF]. We plan to name these awards in his memory so that children will continue to be inspired by his message embodied in the awards. He boosted the confidence of creative people and exhorted the scientists to serve the society by connecting the formal and informal sectors. We pay tribute to his memory and pray that his spirit of selfless service continues to inspire coming generations for contributing towards a secular, creative and compassionate society.