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APJ Abdul Kalam

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Former President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, was one of India's most distinguished scientists and respected citizen. Responsible for the development of India's first satellite launch vehicle, the SLV-3, he guided a number of technology missions and projects and propelled India into the 2ist century. He had the unique honour of receiving honourary doctorates from thirty universities and the country's three highest civilian honours - Padma Bhushan (1981), Padma Vibhushan (1990) and Bharat Ratna (1997).

His consent to visit Lucknow Public College was a big honour for the school and within the very first few moments of this confirmation, life in all the branches of the school experienced a drastic change. The President's visit to a school is an unheard of phenomenon and many rolled their eyes in disbelief, thinking it to be a rumour. Nevertheless, Dr Kalam was visiting to witness National Children Science Festival and hectic preparations soon got underway. There was so much to be accomplished and time was too little. Invitations, pamphlets, brochures, models, projects - and to top it all - meetings with the city's top brass, press and media, all were to be organised. Everybody lost track of time as seconds rolled into minutes and minutes into hours.

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In the next two or three days, shamianas were put up, banners and hoardings were erected, and final touches were given. As entries from other schools kept getting confirmed, it finally seemed that a grand event was going to take shape. The aim of Science Festival was to awaken a keen sense in children towards science. Modern life is the direct outcome of scientific and technological advancement. If students are exposed to the practical aspects of science at a young age, chances of nurturing an Einstein or Newton are high.

The Science Galaxy 2003, was the arena where 15 schools and institutes of Lucknow and neighbouring districts displayed their projects and models. August 11 dawned with the final countdown to Dr Kalam's arrival. Everything was spruced up and the venue - LPS Sahara States, looked bedecked like a bride, while the colourful Indian flag fluttered outside the pandal. At sharp 11:45 am, a cordon of cars came to a halt outside the school gate and Dr Kalam alighted. His short stature and diminutive form was in complete contrast to the magnitude of aura he carried, as also his post and achievements.

He was greeted with bouquets by the LPS principals. On the occasion, the founder manager, SP Singh also welcomed Vishnu Kant Shastri, the then Governor of UP and Mayawati, the then chief minister of UP. Dr Kalam headed straight to the science exhibition and after cutting the ceremonial ribbon he visited every stall, interacting with students in each pavillion. He evinced a keen interest in their projects and exhibits. What was scheduled to be a brief visit took much longer as he went from stall to stall. He then proceeded to the main stage where a gathering of nearly 3,000 students waited with baited breath for their much loved President. He was welcomed by the founder manager and presented mementoes. Then, for a moment the security and the district administration were left aghast, as the President, who had been called upon to address the audience, asked all the children to come and sit in what had been scaled off as a no entry zone (sterile zone)!

In their childish exuberance and excitement, the children at once dashed forward to sit as close to the stage as possible. Then began a question-answer session with the students, to which the President replied without delay and with perfect ease. However, as all good things must come toan end, so did his visit. Every person present that day was very fortunate to have got a chance to listen to such a learned person. This memorable day will surely be etched deeply in the memory of all those who were there that day and Kalam's image, his words, his achievements and his gentle aura, will surely ignite the minds of many youngsters, who had the good fortune of being present at LPS on August 11, 2003.

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