[FOUNTAIN]Learn from India’s leader

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[FOUNTAIN]Learn from India’s leader

The President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who has just ended his four-day visit to Korea, is a vegetarian. He is a Muslim and does not drink. At the age of 75, he is still single. Mr. Kalam grows herbs and raises peacocks and rabbits. He has published “Guiding Souls,” a book on unselfishness, internal maturity and humanitarian love. On a personal level, he is a gentle seeker of the truth.
However, as a public figure, his life has been quite dramatic. He started out as an aerospace engineer and developed India’s first indigenous satellite launch vehicle in 1980. In the 1990s, he developed guided missiles for nuclear warheads. Indian citizens call him “Missile Man.” He was in charge of the development of India’s first indigenous fighter planes and oversaw nuclear tests on five occasions.
Mr. Kalam is therefore considered the symbol of India’s emergence as a technological and scientific power and of self-reliance in national defense. In the country of Hinduism, where Muslims are a minority group and make up about 10 percent of the population, this Muslim became a hero.
Aside from attending a six-month training program at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, he received all his education and conducted all his research projects in India. His lifetime goal was to save his homeland from poverty through the power of science and technology. In his autobiography, “Wings of Fire,” published in January 1999, he introduced himself as an “indigenous scientist dedicated to the citizens.”
Mr. Kalam showed his respect for both Islam and Hinduism in his autobiography and emerged as a man of skill with a sense of balance in a country that has long been troubled by religious conflicts.
However, when he turned 70 five years ago, he suddenly retired to the countryside and became a professor at an engineering university in his hometown, lecturing on scientific technology and social transformation. He also traveled across the country and gave lectures to high school students to encourage them to pursue careers as scientists.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, a right-wing party, kept an eye on Mr. Kalam. In 2002, he ran for president as a BJP candidate and was elected president for a five-year term, winning 86.9 percent of the electoral votes.
In “Guiding Souls,” he emphasized that being free from avarice was the way to fulfill one’s public duty with creativity. He wrote that if one wants something extra, or tries to seek glory or power, he becomes selfish and cannot think of any new ideas. I hope that the minister designates at the National Assembly confirmation hearings listen to Mr. Kalam.


by Chae In-taek

The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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