A born teacher

Former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam interacting with students. Photo: P. Goutham   | Photo Credit: P_GOUTHAM

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam obtained two degrees. The first one was in pure science in 1954 and the second was in aerospace engineering in 1960. He then joined the DRDO, became a technocrat and truly immersed himself in the myriad aspects of science and engineering till 1998, when India conducted Pokhran II nuclear tests. At that time, he was the chief project co-ordinator.

During the long 42-year period from 1960 to 2002, the year in which he became the President of India, he must have delivered hundreds of technical lectures in various seminars and conferences. But within his heart of hearts, he probably had a deeper yearning for teaching and moulding the youngsters of the country. However, he had to wait till he entered the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The famous book Ignited Minds was published in 2003, and from then on his love for teaching and moulding the students remained unabated right till the end.

By this time, he had gathered a vast experience as a technocrat and also had a vision which he could share with millions of students spread across the length and breadth of India.

Meticulous nature

A born teacher is always a humanist first, freely accessible, humble, meticulous and capable of putting everyone around him/her at ease. When I got an opportunity to meet him, I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting a person who was a true embodiment of a born teacher.

In the first week of April 2006, while I was organising a summer science camp for high school students, I wrote to him proposing a book to be jointly written on the lives of famous physicists. I received a reply on April 26, 2006. This short letter was a testimony to his meticulous nature. He had made a correction to the typed letter using violet coloured ink and signed the letter with the same ink! The letter also contained concrete instructions about the way in which the project was to be initiated.

On the June 10, 2006, I was asked to be present at the Begumpet airport at 5.30 pm. After completing all formalities, one of my students and I were ushered into the room where the President was waiting to meet the visitors. Since I was unsure of the protocol, I greeted him with folded hands and could not believe my eyes when he extended his hand for a formal handshake! After about five minutes, an official signalled to us that our allotted time was over and we took his leave.

Although the book project could never be completed, a fact that I would continue to rue forever, I shall always remember those five mesmerising minutes.

I think all the readers would agree with me if I say that good teaching is more of an art than craft or science, and, in that sense, Dr. Kalam was an artist par excellence.

The writer is a retired professor of physics from Osmania University, Hyderabad.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 6:05:17 AM |

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