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Abdul Kalam's former driver is a lecturer at a college now

Sunday, 16 August 2009 - 12:01pm IST | Place: Attur (TN) | Agency: PTI

Over two decades ago he was a driver to APJ Abdul Kalam. Now he is a lecturer in a college, thanks to the inspirational pep-talks he used to get from the former president.

Over two decades ago he was a driver to APJ Abdul Kalam. Now he is a lecturer in a college here, thanks to the inspirational pep-talks he used to get from the former president.

Kathiresan, 47, joined as lecturer in Arignar Anna Government Arts College on August 6 after completing his PhD in History from Manonmaniam Sundaranar University,Tirunelveli.

After the inspirational words from Kalam, Kathiresan wrote his 10th board exams which he had given up due to family problems.

Kalam motivated Kathiresan to continue his studies when he was his driver at the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) in Hyderabad in the late 1980s.

But, even after Kalam left Hyderabad for Delhi, Kathiresan continued on the path shown by his mentor.

"I worked as driver for ayya (Sir) for five-and-a-half years. He is a very nice person, who is primarily responsible for the position where I am in today," Kathiresan said in an interview.

Kalam used to give pep-talks to all the employees at the DRDL asking them to go extra mile to achieve their dreams.

"I always had the urge to resume my studies which I was forced to discontinue after my father's death. But ayya's words gave wings to my dreams. Then I continued with my studies," the history lecturer said. 

Kathiresan, who was forced to join the Army in 1979 after the death of his father Vellaisamy Thevar, was trained as an electrical mechanic in Bhopal before he was posted as Kalam's driver at DRDL.

After finishing his tenth board exams, Kathiresan went on to finish his higher secondary, BA (History) and MA (History) from Madurai Kamaraj University.

He left the job in 1996 to pursue higher studies after which he joined the Chief Education Officer's Office in Tirunelveli as a supervisor. He also did his MA (Political Science) and PhD in History from Tirunelveli.

Heaping praise on his former boss, Kathiresan said Kalam replied to his letter after assuming office as president.

"I was touched when I got a reply from ayya to my letter. I sent the letter to inform him that I have quit DRDL and joined the CEO's office," he said.

"By then he had become the president of India. I still have the letter with me," Kathiresan, whose son studies in 11th standard, said.

Reminiscing about the days when he studied during the night after finishing his duty, Kathiresan said his wife took care of the family when he resumed his studies.

"Since my father owned some land, my wife was able to run the family without expecting money from me. I spent all the money I got as a salary on my studies," he recalled.

"As my working hours as a driver was from 10 am to 5 pm, I studied in the evening... I was inspired by everyone in the DRDL," Kathiresan said.

"The support I got from ayya played a major role in my transformation. He was interested in the welfare of his workers," he said.

Kathiresan worked as a supervisor in the CEO's office before joining the Arts College in Attur.

Asked whether he had spoken to Kalam after joining the college, Kathiresan said he would soon write to the former president to inform him about his job.

"I will write to him. I did not call him because I don't want to disturb him... he is a very busy person who deals with thousands of people everyday," he said.

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