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Abdul Kalam was born in a middle class Muslim family in Rameshwaram. He had three brothers and one sister. His father was a generous and wise man. His mother was a hospitable lady. They lived in an ancestral house on Mosque Street. His father lived a simple life but provided all necessities to children. His parents were neither much educated nor rich. Yet were generous and kind. Many outsiders ate with the family every day. Kalam inherited the qualities of honesty and self – discipline from his parents.
• Kalam was only 8 years old when the Second World War broke out in 1939. Then there was great demand for tamarind seeds. Abdul used to collect those seeds and sell them in the market. His cousin Shamsuddin distributed newspapers and employed him as a helping hand. This way he earned his first wages. He inherited faith in goodness and kindness from his parents.
• Kalam’s family respected all religions. They took part in the Hindu festivals. His mother and grandmother told stories |rom the Ramayana and the life of the Prophet to the children at bed time. Kalam had three friends- Ramanandha Sastry, the son of a high priest of the Rameshwaram temple, Aravindam and Sivaprakasan. They had different religious backgrounds and upbringing. They never felt any difference among themselves. They adopted different professions when they grew up.
• One day when Abdul was in 5th standard at the Rameshwaram Elementary School, a new teacher came to their class. He used to wear a cap, it set him apart as a Muslim. Kalam always sat in the front row* next to Ramanandha Sastry, but the teacher could not tolerate a Hindu Priest’s son sitting with a Muslim boy. Kalam was asked to sit on the back bench. Both the friends felt very sad and told their parents about the incident after school. Ramanandha’s father called the teacher and told him not to spread the poison of communal hatred and social inequality in the minds of innocent children. He told the teacher to either apologize or leave the school and city. The teacher apologized and reformed himself.
• Once Abdul’s science teacher invited him to dinner at his home. His wife refused to serve Kalam dinner in her kitchen as she believed in religious segregation. The teacher himself served him food and sat beside him to eat his own meal. His wife observed from behind the door and did not find any change in Abdul’s behaviour. After dinner, the teacher again invited him to join them next weekend. This time the wife served food inside the kitchen with her own hands.
• The second world war ended, Kalam asked his father to permit him to go to Ramanthapuram to study. His father knew that Kalam would have to go away to grow up and so he permitted him. He told his hesitant wife that they should give their children their love but not force their thoughts on them.