Sharjah: Rich tributes were paid to former Indian president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam following the international release of his last book, Advantage India, at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Wednesday.
Dubbed as the “People’s President”, Abdul Kalam died in July after collapsing in the middle of a speech at the Indian Institute of Management in Meghalaya state in India. He was 83.
A scientist and an author, Abdul Kalam served as the president of India from 2002 to 2007.
In November 2013, he delivered a motivational speech to thousands of UAE students during the book fair’s 32nd edition. Kalam had urged them to make it a habit of reading daily and establish a library at home, even if it was small, so future generations would also have access to knowledge.
On Wednesday at SIBF, his admirers and people close to him paid tributes during a discussion on Advantage India, the final work of Kalam published earlier this month in India. The book, co-authored by best-selling Indian writer Srijan Pal Singh, was virtually complete before Kalam died.
Published by HarperCollins, the book is now also available at SIBF for Dh33.
Singh discussed the book after tributes were paid by Harry Sheridon, Kalam’s personal secretary for 24 years. Also praising Kalam at the event was Muraleedharan K, deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in Dubai.
“I can understand the love for the great soul who departed us. He was really a people’s president. Whatever he preached, he practised throughout his life. I’m really happy I could be part of the international launch of his book. Advantage India exemplifies how his heart ticked for the nation until his last breath,” Muraleedharan K said.
Sheridon described how revisiting SIBF without Abdul Kalam was a difficult experience for him, but also a nostalgic one because of the warm reception he had received.
“Dr Kalam always said ‘books are my favourite friends and my library is my greatest treasure’. Books, according to him, require the grand attention such as this book fair gives. The power of the written word is recognised by great minds,” Sheridon added.
In Advantage India, Kalam tackles, besides other issues, what he regarded as “India’s greatest enemies — poverty and poor education”, explained Singh.
“His idea was to have an Indian Teachers Service, like we have for the Indian Administrative Service, to create a dynamic education policy manned by the best brains and dedicated and respectful of what teachers are doing,” Singh added.
The book explores how India’s growing digital literacy, entrepreneurship, space programmes, national programmes, youth-led movements and other advantages can turn India into an economic power by 2020.