APJ Abdul Kalam’s illustrious life journey has been shaped by several teachers who inculcated several important lessons in him at a young age. The Missile Man later recalled the crucial role played by some of his teachers in his life. On his 88th birth anniversary, we look back at some of the teachers who shaped the ‘Missile Man’ of India-
Muthu Iyer
When Kalam was 5 years old, he had a teacher Muthu Iyer. He took a special interest in Kalam because he performed well in class.
Iyer played a crucial role in nurturing good habits in Kalam. One of those habits was teaching the importance of good handwriting. Iyer noticed that Kalam’s handwriting was “very poor”. He gave a three-page writing exercise and told Kalam’s father that he should ensure that he does the exercise every day regularly.
Shri Siva Subramania Iyer
When Kalam was in the 5th standard, he had a teacher Shri Siva Subramania Iyer.
One day, Iyer gave a lesson on how birds fly. After the 25-minute-long lesson when none of the students, including Kalam, were unable to understand that concept, Iyer took the entire class to the beach to give a practical example. The lesson left an indelible impression on Kalam. On that day evening, he thought that his future study has to be with reference to something to do with flight.
Iyer later told Kalam to complete his basic education and then take up higher education in subjects related to flight science. Kalam took Physics in college and went on to study Aeronautical Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology.
“That one incident of my teacher encouraging me to ask questions, showing the visual examples proved to be a turning point in my life which eventually shaped my profession,” Kalam recalled later.
Professor Thothatri Iyengar
When Kalam was to St. Joseph’s College, he came in contact with his Mathematics teacher, professor Thothatri Iyengar.
“When he walked, knowledge radiated all around,” Kalam recalled.
He taught the students to take pride in India’s contribution to astronomy and mathematics and put the students ahead.
“Professor Thothatri Iyengar was an example of continuously building capacities among students and putting the students well ahead in mathematical sciences. He also injected great thoughts in the minds of students and promoted nobility in thinking and action,” Kalam later wrote.
Professor Srinivasan
At MIT, Kalam was assigned the project of designing a low-level aircraft along with six other colleagues. Design teacher professor Srinivasan, the then Director of MIT, was their guide.
When Kalam was unable to complete his project, he was given a deadline of three days or else he risked losing his scholarship.
Kalam and his colleagues worked non-stop for two days without break to complete the project. On seeing Kalam’s progress, Srinivasan patted and hugged Kalam. The professor injected the necessity of understanding the value of time by each team member and brought out the best from the team.
“The message is that young in the organization, whatever be their specialization, be trained to systems approach and projects, which will prepare them for new products, innovation and undertaking higher organizational responsibilities. A teacher has to be a coach like professor Srinivasan,” Kalam later wrote.

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