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The Rediff Special/ Dr Y S Rajan
'Kalam is the greatest human being I have met'
October 14, 2006
I am proud to say that I am one of the closest friends of President A P J Abdul Kalam.
We talk over the telephone almost every day. We meet often. I go to Rashtrapati Bhavan and meet him there.
We then discuss and debate ideas that can create a new, young, vibrant India.
President Kalam is like an elder brother to me. I am 12 years younger to him. We are the best of friends.
I first met him in 1965. I was then working as a scientist at the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad. Kalam was working at the Thumba Rocket Launch Station in Thiruvananthapuram and his job was to coordinate with scientists working on various payloads to be placed in rockets.
I was working under Dr Vikram Sarabhai, then chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.
In our first meeting itself, we became good friends and colleagues. We talked in Tamil; we were passionate about technology and science.
Even in those days, we talked about how India needs to create indigenous technology rather than import technology from foreign countries.
Since 1965, we worked on many projects together; in Indian Space Research Organisation, and especially for the SLV3 project.
Kalam was in full charge of the project in 1974. Working under him was a great learning experience.
He always spoke to me about the different aspects of a rocket. And then he would ask me: "Can't we do something better in India?"
I was always attracted by his passion for developing something better and new for India. I have never seen anyone who loves his country as much as Kalam. Indeed, it is a great honour that Kalam is our President.
In 1980, I left ISRO and set up the Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council. It is now an autonomous organisation under the Department of Science and Technology.
TIFAC has carved out a unique identity of its own with several achievements in the field of technology development in the Indian context.
TIFAC is known to industry, institutions and administrators as a store house of advanced information in almost all areas of technology -- global and Indian.
In the various stages of TIFAC's development, Kalam was there to guide me and the other governing council members.
I was then fortunate to write along with him his famous book India 2020. We always worked on various ideas. One of them was Project Reach.
We have IITs in India, and we always felt that other engineering colleges are ignored in the country. Under Project Reach, Dr Kalam and I devised strategies for non-IIT institutes to cooperate with industries. As part of this project, TIFAC set up core centres in several engineering colleges.
One of my most fond memories of Kalam is that when he got the Bharat Ratna, he invited my entire family for the award function at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Then Kalam's elder brother and my father met and embraced. But because of security restrictions, we could not take any photographs of the meeting of our two families. Dr Kalam regretted that we did not have any photographs.
But the photo opportunity came when he became the President of India. Then again, my entire family was invited for the function. And the President's elder brother and family too came. And my father and Kalam's elder brother sat together, and we had a great photo.
Kalam loves my grandson. It is great fun to see the President playing with my grandson.
Kalam is celebrating his 75th birthday on October 15. I wish him all the best. I pray for him. He is simply the greatest human being I have met.
Dr Y S Rajan, principal adviser to the Confederation of Indian Industry, has been a close friend of President A P J Abdul Kalam for over 40 years. He spoke to rediff.com Managing Editor George Iype.
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