The name doesn’t need any introduction. He was certainly the most inspirational person I’ve met in my life and thanks to my Alma Mater which gave me this opportunity to meet him when he was holding the highest office of the country. My Alma Mater Lal Bahadur Sharstri Institute of Management in Delhi hosts an annual National Award that is conferred to the industries top minds who have created the positive disruptive change in the Indian society by their vision, work ethics and contribution to the Indian industrial or cultural demographics.
This award is recited and conferred by the highest office of the President of India and given in person by the President to the awarded individual. I was lucky enough to attend this ceremony for 2 consecutive years 2001 & 2002 and see two contrasting personalities of the 10th President of India Sh. K. R. Narayanan and the enigmatic 11th President of the country Sh. APJ Abdul Kalam.
The energy and the aura of Mr. Kalam was so high, it blew us away. It was his first year in office and he was ever so reachable and open with students who wanted to talk to him about science, management and almost any topic under the sun.
The usual ceremony in 2001 was, the recital of the award, after which the awarded will stand and walk to the President of India, and will be given a medal, a shawl and a recital framed certificate by the President. After which the party will break, and all will head to a high tea, where political dignitaries will form small huddles and some obligatory greetings or trivial discussions will happen and then students will be told to fall in a line and president will walk towards the students and have a quick photograph with the students, the faculty and the awarded and away he’ll go.
I was expecting the same to happen in 2002, but what happened after the recital and high team announcement, was something that charmed me to a level that we all students followed the President like charmed mice behind the Pied Piper. He requested to talk to us instead of meeting the political heavy weights and spent full 45 Minutes talking to us about our ideas for Science, management subjects and future that the country holds as those days were looking very bright for young Indian IT and management professional.
I’ve never met any person who was so open to talk to students and that was my only meeting with him in person. I was turned into a fan that will always look up to him as an inspiration. His straight answers even to the touchy topics of religion or politics blew my mind, and gave a very different perspective to these subjects than what I use to hear from other personalities, I met.
Getting the news of his passing away from this world brings a huge sense of void, which I can’t explain, but I know his ideology will always be there to guide me and many others throughout our lives. He is indeed one of the pioneers of our country who should stand in the similar cradle as we hold Mahatma Gandhi, as Gandhi gave us the purpose to be free and Kalam gave us wings to realize the freedom.
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