Unseen Passage: A Man, His Vision and His Message

A man, his vision and his message

A.P. J. Abdul Kalam was a multifaceted personality, a statesman and visionary and above all a good human being. He was a brilliant scientist and modern thinker. When I joined him as Press Secretary after ten days of his becoming President, at his very first meeting he gave me his vision of a developed India. He spoke of how he wanted to make Rashtrapati Bhavan a people’s place where voice of the millions of downtrodden people of India would be heard and action taken. Indeed during his time Rashtrapati Bhavan became a people’s place and he became popular as People’s President. He wanted that institution of the President to be totally identified by ordinary people.

President Kalam took his Presidency seriously from day one. He was as comfortable with constitutional and legal issues as he was with school children. He was committed to nation-building and created a vision document to make India a developed nation by 2020. He made a powerpoint presentation to senior ministers and bureaucrats on this.

He used to make powerpoint presentations at conferences and seminars both in India and abroad to discuss that vision. On these, he used to work himself and he was very particular about every word and sentence.

He did it during his visits abroad and while meeting dignitaries such as US President George Bush and Pakistan President Pervez Musharaf. When he presented his vision of India’s nuclear energy requirements to Mr. Bush and his vision of a joint fight India and Pakistan could wage against poverty, the respective Presidents commented that they had to become scientists to understand the presentation. You can’t think of any other President of a country who would have done that.

His vision for the nation was based on equality, the dignity of the individual and justice, social, economic and political, to every Indian. Only then can India succeed and everybody sing the song of India, he used to say.

I met him last on July 22, five days before his demise. It was an one-on-one meeting that lasted a good 40 minutes. He was full of ideas as always, very active and discussed different subjects. He used to tell me, “Whatever you do, do differently. Wherever you work, leave a mark and be remembered.”

During his presidency he was always comfortable, except on two occasions, when his unease was visible. When he had to give his consent to the Office of Profit Bill, 2006 after it was sent for the second time by the Parliament, and when he had to approve the ordinance on Disqualification of Elected Representatives in 2004 as it was sent to him by the Cabinet for a second time.

He was an icon for the youth. He used to say “Aiming small is a crime. Youth should have the courage to think differently and explore unexplored paths. Difficulties would come but don’t be afraid of them—overcome them with your intellect and hard work.”

The man who pioneered India’s missile programme was always proud of his work at the Indian Space Research Organisation and other scientific institutions. He used to believe that a scientific approach could find a solution to every problem.

He was an ardent secularist, and also a religious man. He believed that all religions are like beautiful islands; but there is no connectivity between them. We should strive to achieve this connectivity and transform religion into spirituality. For him religion and morality were the same.

A man of vision, he always worked in mission mode. He had a mission to meet 10 lakh students and interact with them. He completed this when he left Rashtrapati Bhavan. He continued with this till his last breath. His child-like simplicity was an instant hit.

He got the sobriquet of being the People’s President because of his humility and accessibility. President Kalam always worked towards building consensus rather than ramming down decisions.

He came from a modest background, but educated himself and worked hard to rise to the top. He was simply the missile man whose books were prime-sellers, whose lectures were always house full. He was adored by children as he would give them easy-to-digest messages.

Q. On the basis of your understanding of the passage answer the following questions by choosing the most appropriate option.

  1. Which of the following traits explain in a single word the many qualities of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam?
    1. brilliant scientist
    2. visionary
    3. statesman
    4. multifaceted
  2. What was so special about A.P.J. Abdul Kalam that no other president could do?
    1. His vision document
    2. Equally comfortable with legal issues and school children
    3. His skill of power point presentation on nuclear energy
    4. His commitment to nation building
  3. Which of the following qualities made him loved by children?
    1. Advised them to start aiming small
    2. Encouraged them to think differently
    3. Advised them with easy to digest messages
    4. Exhorted them to overcome difficulties
  4. The bills were not passed by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam initially because
    1. they were profit bills
    2. they were not sent by the cabinet
    3. parliament sent for the second time
    4. he was not convinced with them
  5. ‘Sobriquet of being People’s President’ (para 12) is an?
    1. title
    2. nickname
    3. award
    4. honour
  6. The antonym of ‘modest’ (para 13) is?
    1. flamboyant
    2. immodest
    3. ordinary
    4. poor


  1. multifaceted
  2. Equally comfortable with legal issues and school children.
  3. Advised them with easy to digest messages.
  4. he was not convinced with them.
  5. honour
  6. flamboyant

Q. Answer the following questions as briefly as possible:

  1. He wanted that the institution of the President to be totally identified by __________.
  2. He made a power point presentation to senior ministers and __________ on this.
  3. Presidents commented that they had to become __________ to understand the presentation.
  4. He was an __________ for the youth.
  5. Pick out the word from the passage which are similar in meaning to
    1. ‘person of high position’. (para 4)
    2. ‘written material with evidentiary value’. (para 2)


  1. ordinary people
  2. bureaucrats
  3. scientists
  4. icon
  5. dignitaries
  6. powerpoint presentation

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