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Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam 

15 Oct 1931 – 27 Jul 2015

When I was finishing my book – INSIGHT – A Passion for Compassion – Dr Kalam was approached for a Foreword. That was when I met him and interacted with him. 

At first, I gave him a few of the Chapters that I had finished. He read through it but would not give a Foreword until he had the whole book in his hand and then he had to read the 374 pages of the book. That put me in quandary as I could not dare think of giving a half-baked book. So, I had to work overtime and then gave him the whole book for him to read. Dr Kalam was a thorough man. I was apprehensive that he would summon me and seek clarifications. He called me. And alas I was relieved that it was for complementing me. That was on 5th March 2012. He gave a one-page Foreword that reflected his serious study of the book. The book was formally released in Mumbai on 20th March 2012 by Sri. Deepak Parekh, Chairman, HDFC Ltd.

Dr Kalam was indeed a humble soul. I had met him after his term as President of India when he was in his residence at 10, Rajaji Marg, New Delhi. Perhaps, my fluency in Tamil added to the chemistry of our interactions. Language always play that crucial role. He took me and my wife around the sprawling campus of his home at Rajaji Marg. Of particular interest was his affection to the 100+ years gigantic old tree “ARJUNA” botanically called Terminalia. He mentioned that his father lived 103 years and his mother 90 plus years. He revered the tree as much and took us beneath it. He mentioned about 300 kg of honey in a beehive on the tree guarded by working honeybees collecting nectar from a variety of flowers from his garden. 

Dr Kalam was a voracious reader. His scientific temper and focus did not interfere with his interest on world affairs, earthly matters, and humanity. His demeanour was envious. As we were departing his home, he walked us out and came up to my car. He approached my driver – Sagar - and spoke to him and patted on his back. Sagar was in Cloud nine and could not imagine that he came in physical contact with Dr Kalam, leave alone that he was touched by the People’s President of India and Bharat Ratna who once sold newspapers to make both ends meet. 

Dr Kalam’s end was indeed dramatic. A true Karma Yogi, he collapsed on the stage of an event at IIT Shillong on 27th July 2015, while preparing to deliver a lecture. He once said – “If you want to shine like a Sun, first burn like a Sun”  

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