About The Author
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was an Indian scientist who played a leading role in the development of India’s missile and nuclear weapons programs. He served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. He was born on October 15, 1931 in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu and studied physics and aerospace engineering at Madras Institute of Technology. Kalam wrote several books and received numerous awards. He was awarded the country’s highest honours —the Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and the Bharat Ratna in 1997. He died on July 27, 2015, in Shillong, Meghalaya.
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam talks about his childhood days in this autobiographical account. He talks about his parents, his childhood friends and his experiences at school. He grew up in a traditional society. People of different religions lived in that society. But in spite of different religions, people lived in peace and harmony. He was greatly influenced by his father who taught him honesty and self-discipline. Written in a very humble and a modest manner, the extract is very inspirational.
The theme of “My Childhood” is that our life is shaped by our experiences and the people around us. Kalam’s secure childhood, inspiring parents, supportive friends and honest teachers instilled great values in him that gave him ‘wings of fire’.
Prof. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam tells us about his childhood. He was born in the town of Rameswaram. His father’s name was Jainulabdeen and his mother’s name was Ashiamma. Kalam’s father was neither educated nor rich. Yet he was wise and generous. His mother was also very kind. A number of outsiders daily ate with their family. Abdul Kalam had three brothers and one sister. They lived in their ancestral house in the Mosque Street in Rameswaram. It was a large pucca house. His father avoided all luxuries. However, the house had all things of daily necessities.
Abdul Kalam was eight years old when the Second World War broke out. Suddenly, there was a great demand for tamarind seeds. He would collect those seeds and sell them in the market. He got one anna (about six paise) for a day’s collection. It was a good amount in those days. His cousin, Samsuddin distributed papers in Rameswaram. He needed a helping hand and employed Abdul Kalam. Kalam still remembers the pride that he felt on earning his own money for the first time.
Abdul Kalam was greatly influenced by his parents. He learnt honesty and self-discipline from his father. He inherited goodness and kindness from his mother. He had three close friends in his childhood. They were Ramanadha Sastry, Aravindan and Sivaprakasan. All these boys belonged to orthodox Hindu Brahmin families. As children, they never felt any religious differences among themselves. During the annul Shri Sita Rama Kalyanam ceremony. Kalam’s family arranged boats for carrying idols of the Lord. At bed time, his father and grandmother told the children stories from the Ramayana and the life of the Prophet.
Once when Abdul Kalam was in the fifth standard, a new teacher came. Abdul Kalam was sitting with his close friend Ramanadha Sastry in the first row. The new teacher could not tolerate a Muslim boy sitting with a son of a Hindu priest. He asked Abdul Kalam to sit on the back bench. Both Abdul Kalam and Ramanadha Sastry became sad later. Sastry’s father rebuked the teacher and he realised his mistake.
Abdul Kalam’s science teacher Sivasubramania lyer was a high caste Brahmin. But he did not believe in social and religious barriers. One day, he invited Abdul Kalam to his home for a meal. lyer’s wife was very conservative. She refused to serve a Muslim boy in her kitchen. But lyer served Abdul Kalam with his own hands and sat down beside him to eat his meal. After meals, his teacher invited him again for dinner the next week. Noticing Kalam’s hesitation in accepting his invitation, lyer told the child to be prepared to face such situations if he wished to change any system. When Kalam visited lyer’s house again, his wife took him to her kitchen and served him food with her own hands.
When the Second World War was over and India’s freedom was imminent. The whole country was filled with a mood of joy. Abdul Kalam asked his father’s permission to go and study at Ramanathapuram. His father gladly allowed him to go because he wanted his son to grow. He even convinced Kalam’s mother by telling her that parents should not thrust their ideas upon their children as they have their own way of thinking.
This lesson gives the message that tolerance, acceptance, broadmindedness and brotherhood are essential for an all-round growth. In order to reform social systems that are infected by prejudices of caste and status, one must be ready to confront obstacles without losing one’s cool. Mutual trust and ease of communication help resolve all the hindrances.