Known as the ‘Missile Man’ for his key role in the India’s Guided Missile Development programme, the 11th President of the world’s largest democracy has also told them to continuously acquire knowledge by reading great books until achieving their dreams.
And those dreams he said must be “great” in nature.
“Small aim is a crime,” he said on Friday and made the students repeat with him in his unique style of interacting with youths.
The Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry has invited him as part of its 110th year celebrations.
On the first day of his arrival, this inspirational scientist who turned 83 on Wednesday interacted with students of private and public universities in a jam-packed hall room at a Dhaka hotel for an hour.
He also told them his personal stories in his “journey of life” and responded to the queries of the students, but every time he reminded them of having a great dream and pursue that until it was achieved.
He recited a 13th century-poem ‘wings to fly’ that he said he rearranged for Bangladesh students and made them to repeat with him.
“I am born with potentials. I am born with goodness and trust. I am born with ideas and dreams. I am born with greatness. I am not meant for crawling because I have wings. I’ll fly. I’ll fly. I’ll fly.”
“This poem has changed my life,” Kalam, who had to sell newspapers when he was 8-year old to win breads for his family, said amid loud cheers.
Born on Oct 15, 1931 in a small town of Tamil Nadu, he served as President from 2002 to 2007.
He was also awarded with the ‘Bharat Ratna’, the highest civilian award of India.
Before becoming President, he was an aerospace engineer with Defence Research and Development Organisation and Indian Space Research Organisation.
He studied aeronautical engineering and played a key role in the development of India’s first satellite launch vehicle, the SLV-3, which launched the Rohini satellite in 1980 to take India into the space club.
Abdul Kalam also played a key role in building India’s strategic missile systems and in the 1998 nuclear tests, though of late he became an advocate of nuclear-free world.
On Friday, he once again asked all to work for making the world free of nuclear arms.
“…it not only damages one area, you are damaging whole set of human development (by using nuclear weapons).”
Known as “People's President”, Dr Kalam is known for his motivational speeches and interaction with the youths in India as part of his advocacy plan to develop India into a developed nation by 2020 that he mentioned in his book ‘India 2020’.
His focus stays on that goal and to this end he continues to follow rigorous schedule travelling across India and teaching students at IITs and IIMs, to address conferences and to meet students and people from all walks of life.
In the last two decades, he said he had interacted with 18 million youths.
Kalam also authored 29 books, of them ‘Wings of Fire’ where he covered his life up to 1992 sold more than a million copies.
Inspired by that success, he wrote another book, ‘Turning Points’, where he mentioned seven turning points or challenges of his life.
One of his primary school teachers was his inspiration who made him to dream to fly, he told the students.
He asked them to write a page on their aim in life after going back home and email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When they will pursue this goal, he said some problems would be always there in the way.
The scientist told them to keep in mind: “I’ll be the captor of the problem, defeat the problem and succeed.”
He advised them to follow the footprints of great personalities and take inspirations from them.
“Dear friends, look up, what do you see, the light. Our thoughts go to the inventor Thomas Alva Edison, for his unique contribution towards the invention of electric bulb and his electrical lighting system.
“Whom does the telephone remind you of?...Alexander Graham Bell. What name comes to your mind about the birth of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“You have to ask yourself for what I’ll be remembering for?”
He told them to dream to achieve like “the visionary leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman”.
When a student asked him about his take on students joining politics, he told him to repeat with him “…politics we need where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character”.
Replying to another question, he said universities should make “job creators, not job seekers”, which is what they are now doing.
And for that he said he suggested that Indian universities have a one-year skills development programme within their degree programme so that after passing out students have a skills certificate.
He said poverty elimination could be possible if urban amenities like electricity, connectivity can be taken to the rural areas.
“You give them electricity, connectivity and other urban amenities, economic development will come,” he said.
As he did what he set out to do in his life, this nation-builder was asked what made him happy.
“Teaching and research” was his simple answer.