Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, an Indian scientist and the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007, has faced insurmountable odds in his path to becoming the leader of a Nation. Dr. Abdul Kalam was born in a Tamil Muslim family; his father Jainulabdeen was a boat owner and his mother Ashiamma was a housewife. Dr. Abdul Kalam hails from a poor family and started working at an early age to supplement his family’s income by distributing newspapers after school to financially contribute to his father’s income.
In his school years, he had average grades, but was a hardworking student with interest in mathematics. Even during his senior class project while in college, the Dean was dissatisfied with the lack of progress and threatened revoking his scholarship unless the project was finished within the next three days. He then worked tirelessly on his project and met the deadline, impressing the Dean.
For former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, becoming a fighter pilot was a “dearest dream” but he failed to realise it by a whisker as he bagged the ninth position when only eight slots were available in the IAF.
Out of the two interview calls Mr. Kalam got, one was from the Indian Air Force in Dehradun and the other from the Directorate of Technical Development and Production (DTDP) at the Ministry of Defence in Delhi. While the interview at DTDP was “easy” he recounted that for the Air Force Selection Board, he realised that along with qualifications and engineering knowledge, they were also looking for a certain kind of “smartness” in the candidate.
“It is only when we are faced with failure do we realise that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives,” says Mr. Kalam who went on to put his “heart and soul” at his job as the senior scientific assistant at DTDP.
From there on, Dr. Kalam joined Aeronautical Development Establishment of Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) as a scientist and went on to head the organization. The rest is history.