We met him four years after he retired as the 11th President of India. In the Delhi Summer of 2011, he exuded greater warmth than the burning Sun. In his characteristic humility, he greeted the editor of this newspaper and asked in Tamil, “You could have brought your cold weather here.” We replied in good humour, “It is still early and we are storing our cool.”
Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was so fond of children that accepting our invitation to visit New Zealand to attend the Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards 2012, he said, “I will of course be delighted to be a part of the Ceremony, However, please arrange at least three meetings in as many schools. I would love to meet our children.”
That meeting did not eventuate; Dr Kalam was busy with an important defence project. All things going well, he was slated to attend our Awards Programme next year.
But all things have not gone well.
We have lost Dr Kalam to the Almighty, the helpless people we are. And yet, some of us go about moralising others as if we are the messiahs.
In his passing, not only did India lose one of its greatest sons, but also humanity has been deprived of one of the most literate leaders. The world has become poorer.
That he was a celebrity was manifest in the Awards and accolades that he won over the years. Among them were the certificates citing him as one of the most distinguished scientists of all times and in the honorary doctorates and citations bestowed on him – including that of ‘Bharat Ratna,’ the highest civil honour.