New Delhi: APJ Abdul Kalam was a 'rashtra-ratna' (nation's gem) and the best tribute to him would be to realise his dreams for the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said as the nation mourned the demise of the former President.
Speaking at a condolence meeting of the BJP parliamentary party, Modi described Kalam as an "ordinary man with an extraordinary personality" who gave the best to every position he held.
Kalam was a 'rashtra-ratna' (nation's gem) first and 'rashtrapati' (President) later, he said, and recalling the former President's humble origins, noted that his life was an example of what a person can achieve.
"A rare sparkling gem has disappeared.... He sold newspapers in childhood and today newspapers across the world are full of reports about him. He was a rare gem with diverse talents. The beloved son of Mother India is no longer among us. We have lost a lot," the PM said in his solemn address.
The best tribute to Kalam would be to work to realise the dreams he had for the country. Kalam believed in removing poverty and transforming religion into spirituality among solutions to solving the world's problems, he said.
Modi said Kalam always called himself a teacher irrespective of the high positions he held and began teaching immediately after he demitted the President's office and breathed his last in Shillong among students.
Talking about the former President's roots in Tamil Nadu, the Prime Minister said language at times works as a barrier but it was the speciality of Kalam's character that no one felt it when they were with him.
"It was because not his words but his personality that spoke. He was an ordinary man but had an extraordinary personality. It is a rare combination. He reached different destinations in life, gave them the best and moved on. It is very easy to say I am a teacher. (But) He said it when he became the President and said so when he was a top scientist and was awarded Bharat Ratna.
"He started teaching in a college in south India the day after he demitted the office of President. The very next day with the same smile on his face," Modi said at the meet, recalling Kalam's dedication to teaching and his death at IIM Shillong while giving a lecture.
"May his life continue to inspire us and the new generations," he said.
BJP chief Amit Shah spoke on how Kalam spent his time among people despite being the President and was a fine example of how to contribute while holding a constitutional post.
He also recalled that Kalam spent worked among the youth and scientists for the country's development after he was no longer the President.