Unforgettable are the moments I got to spend with one of the most respected, loved and followed legends of our times, Late Dr.A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India. What a privilege! I was honoured by him at the NIPM Annual Conference in Kochi on 6th September, 2012 for my contributions to society. The fact was, it was I who felt honoured just to meet him. I met him on the following day at another function held at Thrissur. At the function others introduced me and my activities to him.
On the following day I was shockingly surprised and elated to see a Facebook post by Dr. Kalam mentioning me, which read:
“Yesterday, I inaugurated the 31st NIPM National Conference at Kochi where a number of HR managers, industrialists, academicians and students were present. There I met a special person who was given a special recognition amidst the gathering. His name is Shri Kochouseph Chittilappilly (in pic) and he is a well-known industrialist in the field of electrical equipment, construction and services in the nation and the state. He has been amongst the highest taxpayers in the state and is also very active in the social service domain.”
I consider those words as the most precious award that I ever received in my lifetime. To me the words only meant how humble, thoughtful and such a fine human being Dr. Kalam was! There have been 13 presidents of India to date, but I think he is the one who is so much loved and admired by millions beyond the boundaries of politics, religion or region; truly making him the worthy contender of the attribution “People’s President”.
For his admirers across the world he was not just the President of India, who held the office from 2002 until 2007, or a scientist who pioneered the space and nuclear programmes of India, but an epitome of perseverance, hard work, commitment, humility and above all a good human being. He is an inspiring example who proved that you need not be born into a rich family to become a good leader.
Of all the roles he has donned, be it as a scientist or as the President of India, to me the best role befitting him was that of a motivator. I believe the best contribution he has given to India and the rest of the world is not the scientific accomplishments, but the motivation he has rendered to the young generation. A true global citizen he was, the magnanimity of his persona is revealed in the words: “Where there is righteousness in the heart. There is beauty in the character. When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation.” Words that he spoke at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, to a select audience, but inspired the whole world.
What keeps Kalam apart from the majority leaders of today is that he walked his talk. Hardly ever we see a political leader put into practice the following suggestion of Kalam: “When failure occurs, a leader should humbly own it and acknowledge it. When success comes, the leader should again have the humility to give credit to all the people who worked for it.” What we see in today’s leaders is celebrity-mongering; reaping fruits from where they haven’t even sown.
A movement that he initiated which captured my attention in particular was the self-governed ‘What Can I Give Movement’ to spread the message of ‘giving’ among the youth. The movement strived to replace the attitude of greed and corruption that comes from the thought, “what can I take” with the attitude of ‘what can I give.
Dr. Kalam is no more with us. But his teachings continue to ‘ignite’ millions across the world; and the loving memories of him shall never fade!