India’s Former President APJ Abdul Kalam Dies At 84: The Country Lost Its ‘Missile Man’ [Update]

India’s 11th President, APJ Abdul Kalam, died today of cardiac arrest. He was 84.

Fondly referred as the “Missile Man” of India for his contribution towards the development of multiple types of missiles as well as space exploration vehicles, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam died today. He was delivering a speech at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), when he collapsed on the podium, reported the Economic Times. He was rushed to the nearby hospital, but was declared dead shortly afterwards.

Preliminary reports indicate Kalam suffered a massive cardiac arrest. Speaking about the incident, the director of Bethany Hospital, John Sailo Ryntathiang, had initially said as follows.

“The former president was brought almost dead to our hospital. He is in a critical condition. We are trying to revive the patient. He is in the Intensive Care Unit. We are examining him. We suspect that it could be cardiac arrest.”

However, the hospital failed to resuscitate Kalam and he was declared dead a little while later. The Indian government has declared a seven day national mourning period, and the national flag will be hoisted at half-mast, paying tribute to the “people’s president,” reported NDTV. Incidentally, Kalam was quite fit and had even tweeted about his day.

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Speaking about the sudden death of the former president, current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said as follows.

APJ Abdul Kalam was President of India for a single term from 2002 to 2007. However, his stint as the President was enough to make him a household name. He was one of the most active members of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) as well as Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). While DRDO can be likened to America’s DARPA, ISRO is more along the lines of NASA.

During his tenure at the DRDO, APJ Abdul Kalam helped initiate programs for the development of multiple types of missiles like Surface-to-Surface (Prithvi), Surface-To-Air (Trishul and Akash), Air-To-Air, intercontinental ballistic missile (Agni), and fire-and-forget anti-tank missile (Nag). While in ISRO, Kalam helped set the foundations for the hugely-successful PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) and initiated many space programs that allowed India to eventually send an unmanned mission to Mars at a cost that was less than what it took to produce the Hollywood movie, Gravity.

Rising from the humblest of origins, APJ Abdul Kalam proved that no hurdle is too big for human resilience and determination. Post his presidency, Kalam chose to visit educational institutes, helping children ignite their curiosity and marvel at their ingenuity.

Decorated with multiple honors, including the highest civilian award, India’s “Missile Man” has surely left a deep void that would be impossible to fill.

[Update] According to India Today, July 28, has been declared a holiday.

[Image Credit: Twitter]