Igniting young minds
The passing away of Dr. Abdul Kalam and the subsequent spontaneous outpouring of public grief, accolades, reminisces of poignant interactions with him and the feelings of irreparable loss, were but the recognition of the strength of character and calibre of the departed soul.
My family and I were fortunate to have had a brief personal interaction with him. It was an experience that revealed his passion and mission to ignite young minds, his down to earth sincerity of purpose, remarkable attention to detail and humility that touched us at the very core of our being.
It all began when my son published a book of his original Origami designs when he was just 16 years old.
We thought that presenting a copy of this book to a man of scientific thought and achievements, and a person committed to encouraging young Indians to dream and achieve scientific and technological excellence, would be a very encouraging and inspiring experience for a teenager. That the person also happened to be the President of our country was an added bonus.
A letter with a copy of the book was sent to the Rashtrapati Bhavan with a request for an appointment to meet and personally present the book to him. A prompt reply came that, as the First Citizen, he had a full schedule of various engagements in India and abroad and therefore an appointment for this young lad to meet the President could not be fixed at that point of time.
The matter rested there for a couple of months. To our surprise we received a call from the Rashtrapati Bhavan that the President would be visiting Goa shortly to address the Legislative Assembly and that the President would like to meet the young boy who had authored the book sent to him.
Thereafter, we got calls from the Secretariat on the procedure to get passes to meet the President and even a home visit from the Police department to check our antecedents and security risk.
The day of the meeting dawned. It was the 18th of October 2005. We went to the Assembly complex well in time and were ushered into the waiting area after a series of security checks.
Our names were called and we were escorted into the President’s chamber. He rose to greet us. A short dapper person with his trademark hair style.
He had with him the book we had sent to his office months ago. He had gone through every page of the book. He congratulated the young teenage author of the book and quizzed him about some aspects of the content. He graciously autographed two books and chatted very informally and put us at ease. Knowing he was an exponent of the veena, my wife asked him what his favourite raag and song were. He promptly replied “Shree raag” and his favourite song in that raag was an ode to Lord Ram. Such was the calibre of the man whose faith did not restrict his appreciation of all good things in this world.
The President then told his ADC, ” Call the Photo-man, call the Photo-man”. Getting photographed with the President was his prerogative. He quite obviously wanted the young boy to have a souvenir that would be a constant inspiration to strive for greater excellence.
Then, all too soon, our meeting came to an end. We were escorted out of his chamber. The aura and positivity of his character still lingered in our consciousness.
We were rudely shaken out of our reveries by a ruckus in the area just outside the Assembly hall. It transpired that one of the legislators on whom an arrest warrant had been issued and who was absconding and whom the police were apparently unable to trace the whereabouts, had made a very nonchalant entry into the Legislative Assembly to witness the President’s address.
Personna such as Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam are like the glittering diamonds in a dark vein of coal.
Like the scores of citizens of this country who expressed their nostalgic moments with this great man, we too will forever cherish this interaction.
It was an object lesson in sincerity and humility. His honesty of purpose in his mission to ignite the flame of creativity in the young minds of India will surely ride on Wings of Fire even if he is not with us on this earth anymore.
May his noble soul rest in eternal peace.