Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam is no more. When I heard about his sudden demise – he collapsed and succumbed to a massive heart attack while addressing the IIM students Shillong, an end so happened as he wished – I felt like having lost one of my close family members. I could feel a sudden vacuum enveloping the country. That way Dr. Kalam had been connecting himself with every Indian and had created a niche for him in every Indian home. For he was humane and his demeanor and deportment were such that a common man from a remote village was able to identify himself with Kalam. He abhorred ostentation. He was never putting on airs though he had held prestigious positions during his lifetime. A man among men, he proved the epithet true through the way he lived and the cause he espoused for India.
Always a humble being – simplicity and honesty were his hallmarks -- he stood tall amidst his contemporaries. This was not because of his being a missile man; not because he was once the President of the country; and not because of his being the recipient of the Bharat Ratna and other awards, but because he was a simple human being, a simple man with high and fabulous ideals, a simple man who dreamed of India becoming a giant among nations. He wanted India to be strong because, as he said, ‘only strength respects strength.’ He inspired the nation, mostly the youngsters, with his mind stirring speeches and writing. A great teacher, he had students always swarmed him as they cherished to get connected with him. His efforts to shape the young and make them redefine the course of the country by imparting to them worthy tenets placed him in high pedestal in the heart of the nation.
His striking frankness, outspokenness and flair for calling a spade a spade, though remarkable traits, didn’t bring him any plum job after he demitted the presidential position in 2007. A man of integrity, Kalam found the political arena an albatross and the politicians as Machiavellians. This was the reason why no political party sponsored him for the presidential election for 2nd time. Of course, Kalam accepted what destiny offered him as he refused to be a slab of a dirty political meat.
Post presidency, Kalam didn’t tie himself up to a homely tether. He didn’t relax or recuperate as his counterparts did. Stirred by the call of a new duty, a new responsibility, he thought, he owed to the country’s youth, he was always on his legs. He traveled the length and breadth of the country, met youngsters, interacted with them, with a flourish, and imparted to them the fine values of life. He said: ‘we will be remembered if we give to our younger generations a prosperous and safe India, resulting out of economic prosperity coupled with civilizational heritage.’ Younger generation of the country enamored of the new inspiration they got from Kalam saw in him their new messiah.
Kalam was not an individual but an institution; a one man army that tried to reform the youth, and, through them, make India more assertive and strong. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to him to channelize the new energy and power he created among the youth. I thought, many times, Kalam, using the potent youth power, will start a movement on the lines of Jeyaprakash Narayan’s ‘Total Revolution’ sans politics. Such a movement would have fortified the nation and healed off its ugliness. For reasons best known to him, Kalam didn’t go for such an evolution. Instead, he cherished being a teacher. India, thus lost a momentum and I don’t know how long it has to wait for the happening of another one.
While a silent and shocked nation witnessed with tears, Kalam was laid to rest in Rameswaram, his home town, and ‘a punya bhoomi’ [sacred earth] that – according to Hindu Mythology -- got the footprints of Lord Ram imprinted on its soil. A real tribute our grateful nation could pay to Kalam is to live up to his teachings, which he taught with fervor and hope.
May his noble soul RIP.