Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam was in Calcutta yesterday (26 July 2015), for a day. His programme in Calcutta was tightly scheduled more like a clockwork. I had the honour to spend some time with him.
My private moments with Dr. Kalam is memorable. I got an old tattered book of his, Ignited Minds, autographed by him. He turned the pages and smiled and said, this is the first time I am autographing a book which is 8 years old, marked with pencil and dog-eared, which means that it has been read. He was accompanied by his student from Anna University, Chennai, who was there to help him and he showed him the book. I told him that I shared the book with my son and he was most surprised. Another first, he said Father and Son never share the same books nowadays. He also appreciated the personal Book-Plate stuck at the right hand corner of the book with my name, saying that such style is rare.
Dr. Kalam is a frugal eater and had lunch of South Indian dish: rice, sambhar and coconut chutney and curd. Seeing him eat, I almost missed my lunch and to keep pace ateÂ very little, which I made up latter at the Bharat Chamber high tea.
When I asked him, What would he have been if he was not a scientist. He said laughing, I would probably be farming in a small piece of land in Rameshwaram. He said, he is the son of a little educated boat owner and maybe he would have joined his father or become a fisherman.
I asked him if he still has the time to play the Veena. I shared with him that I had learned to play the sitar but I have deserted it with the onslaught of time. He smiled and said that he had more time as a President and used to play the Rudra Veen. But now travels widely to exchange views and communicate. Mark, not teaches.
I shared with him my disappointment when I had read that he was not averse to the idea of becoming the President once more. I got the impression that he may even have been mildly willing. I clarified that when he relinquished his post as the President of India and there was talk to offer him a Second term he had politely refused saying that he would like to return to academics. Then, why this sudden change of decision? Â Dr. Kalam quietly explained that regretfully, he was drawn into the vortex of present-day politics. However, he has been cautious enough not to make himself vulnerable to political machinations. He was ambivalent over his candidature because he did not want to be thrust on the nation through a manipulative deal. A nuclear scientist is not expected to readily see through the games politicians play. Those who backed him had engaged in a game of banal inanities. He said he is happy as a scientist.
I told him that I do not want him to be the President or join politics ever. I want him to remain as he is. Teach in Universities. Attend all schools and homes to encourage. Lecture abroad for them to understand what a great country India is. And be on his mission to meet as many people as possible.
He told me that any question which I or anybody has can be forwarded at : firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ which will be answered by him within 24 hours.
Note: There would be no reply to the emails anymore.Â Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam died today (27 July 2015) evening after he collapsed during a lecture at Indian Institute of Management ,Shillong.