World Students' Day: Simple Food Habits Of APJ Abdul Kalam
Image Credit: Dr APJ Abdul Kalam with students, Image Source: wikimedia

Honouring the former Indian president Dr APJ Adbul Kalam's birth anniversary, World Students' Day is marked every year on October 15. It was first observed in 2010. Successful aeronautical scientist APB Abdul Kalam was the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. His enthusiasm for students was apparent throughout his professional career. He identified himself more as a teacher than anything else. Dr Kalam was born in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu, on October 15, 1931. This legendary man led a simple lifestyle and had no fancy for anything materialistic. Even his food habits vouch for it. 

On this day, let's learn what used to be his favourite dishes.

The former president eating with a student, Image Source: akshayapatra

Simple food habits

Lunch for Kalam typically consisted of rice, flavorful sambar, a variety of homemade pickles, and freshly cooked coconut chutney. Mahesh Dutt Sharma, Author of Pride of the Nation: Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, mentioned in his book that, the former President had a deep bond with his mother, Ashiamma. Rice and sambar with coconut chutney were his favourite dishes cooked by his mother. In Kalam's words: "I often used to eat food with my mother in the kitchen."

Dr Kalam comprehensively depicts his early eating habits in his autobiographical book "Strong Roots." Most of the time, he would eat meals with his mother, Ashiamma. He sat in the kitchen on the floor. His mother would place rice and flavorful sambar on a banana leaf. She would also provide a dab of fresh coconut chutney along with a choice of tangy homemade pickles.

Rice, sambar and curry served on banana leaf, Image:

Turning vegetarian

 "Economy forced me to become a vegetarian, but I finally started liking it. Today I am 100 per cent vegetarian," stated the great scientist in an interview with Telegraph. Embracing vegetarianism was out of the situation and a conscious choice. According to Telegraph India, when Dr Kalam enrolled at Saint Joseph's College in Tiruchirappalli in the 1950s, he became a vegetarian. He was receiving financial aid, and his meagre budget made it difficult for him to eat non-vegetarian food. He continued to be a vegetarian and valued healthy food and exercise. Iyengar cuisine staples like Vendhya Kozhambu and Puliyodare were his favourites. R. Aravamudan, a former director of ISRO's Satellite Centre in Bangalore, observed that egg masala with Kerala parottas was the only occasionally consumed non-vegetarian cuisine Kalam used to have.

Love for South Indian food

Idli with chutney, Image Source:  Shutterstock

Among all kinds of cuisines, he was fond of south Indian grubs. Notably, he had a liking for the healthy idlis. Aravamudan also mentioned that while he and Kalam were posted in Trivandrum to set up the Thumba Rocket Station, they would walk ten minutes daily to the train station. It was looking for a South Indian dish that wasn't Keralite.

Favourite eateries

Annalakshmi Restaurant was his most loved eatery in Anna Salai, Chennai. Before he started serving as the President of India, he frequented this little restaurant. The management claims that Vatha Kuzhambu and Papad were his favourite dishes. He also frequently ate at a small, neighbourhood vegetarian eatery in Trivandrum called Guruvayoorappa. His daily meals there consisted of appam and milk, and at night he had rasam with some rice.