NEW DELHI: India’s former president and top scientist APJ Abdul Kalam died on Monday. He was 83.
Kalam collapsed during a lecture at a management institute in the Indian city of Shillong, and was declared dead on arrival by doctors at the Bethany hospital. “We tried to revive him but couldn’t,” John Sailo, the medical superintendent told AFP, without giving further details about the cause of his death.
India has declared its standard seven-day national mourning for a national leader. Kalam served as India's 11th president between 2002 and 2007. His body will be flown to New Delhi on Tuesday, the Indian media reported.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to Kalam, saying he had "always marvelled at his intellect, learnt so much from him".
Islamabad also conveyed its condolence on the demise of the former president, saying Kalam would be remembered for his meritorious services for his country. “May Allah Almighty rest the departed soul in peace and give fortitude to the bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss,” read a statement issued by the Foreign Office spokesperson.
Read: The curious case of APJ Abdul Kalam
An acclaimed scientist and author, Kalam was known as the ‘people's president’ during his term and continued to reach out to young people with his scientific lectures after leaving office.
Born in a poor boatman family in Rameswaram, a coastal town in southern Tamil Nadu state on October 15, 1931, Kalam sold newspapers as a child to help his family financially.
But he died a satisfied man. He oversaw India test its nuclear bomb twice. He developed the missile system. He rose to become the czar of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Scientific Adviser to the Raksha Mantri.
After completing his school education at the Rameshwaram Elementary School, Kalam went on to attend Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, from where he graduated in physics in 1954. He then moved to Madras in 1955 to study aerospace engineering.
He was a great scientist. But much more than that, he was a superb administrator who knew when to yield ground and when to stick to it.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2015.
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