We all recall late former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam as “People’s President”. He has left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of Indians in a manner few other public figures have in recent memory.
Though Dr Kalam spent over five decades in public service, in material terms, he owned very little. He had 2,500 books, a wrist watch, six shirts, four trousers, three suits and a pair of shoes. Dr Kalam did not own any property; not even the basic ‘necessities’ such as fridge, TV, car, or air conditioner.
Unlike other politicians, he did not live a luxurious life. His source of income was the royalty he received from his books, and his pension. Dr Kalam, who lived in a government bungalow, was firm about not receiving any personal gifts and ensured that all personal gifts were sent back.
SM Khan, his former media advisor, told Mail Today:
“He would never accept a gift, save a book, and whenever somebody brought him a packed gift and tried to pass it off as a book, he insisted on examining what was inside. Anything other than the book was politely returned.”
Though he loved technology, he did not have a television in his house. Mr Khan said:
“He got his news either from radio or newspapers. The only TV set at his Rajaji Marg residence was used by his staff.”
While the countrymen held him in high esteem, Dr Kalam idolized his elder brother APJ Marakia and was full of plans to celebrate his brother’s 100th birthday next year. Mr Khan said:
“One of the things that gave him (Kalam) immense joy was when he helped his brother get access to 24-hour power supply by installing a solar panel at their ancestral home. He would always call him (his brother) before leaving or returning from an important lecture assignment. He had called him the day before leaving for Shillong.”