He Schwartz Higher Secondary School in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu has the characteristic old-world charm you would expect from a two-century-old institution.

There is not much that is remarkable about the place. The large grounds, the big trees, the high roofs and columns are part of an essentially simple design. The desks and benches are battered by the years.

It is one pupil who has drawn all the attention to this Tamil-medium school. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam studied here from 1946 to 1950.

Teachers from the day saw young Dr Kalam as an average student, the headmaster, Paul Maran, tells NDTV. The scientist's rocket-like rise to fame and admiration came much later in life.

Dr Kalam visited his school twice - once when he was a presidential candidate. "He spoke to the children of his vision for India. They were so inspired," said Mr Maran.