7:50 am, Delhi.
"Aaj chhutti nahi hai, aaja!"
(The school's ON today. Come down!)
Shouted a little girl all dressed up for school. She was probably going to the municipality school, looking up at some other friend of her's, who would just have woken up.
This was a big piece of news. Dr. Kalam had passed away last night and the government had declared NATIONAL MOURNING ( Rashtriya shok) for seven days. Kids and people were tensed to find out whether it was working today or not.
As I walked further, thoughts poured in. I knew Dr. Kalam. Who was he?
He was India's famous scientist, who worked on India's major missile programs. He was associated closely with DRDO, the army and ISRO, and he got or rather earned the country's highest civilian honor,'BHARAT RATNA', in 1997. He was given the title, Missile man!
But what was special about him was the fact that he had dedicated his life for the work he loved the most. He never got married. He was made the country's PRESIDENT, and with me, most of the country was happy that the right person got the 'position'!
He was the most active President the country ever had, with travelling from little schools in the south to the north. He travelled and covered various 'Premier' educational institutions and addressed all the student queries in person. But still, what was so special?
I knew him really well, only through his famous autobiography, "Wings of Fire", which had motivated me the most. I was just a kid back then preparing for my pre-medical entrance exam. And I had failed them. I was sad, with my dreams going down. It is then that I came across this chapter in the book, when Kalam, a young man, appeared for a pilot's exam. The exam had just 8 seats and he came 9th and he was not given the seat! He was saddened by the scheme of events in his life.
This Rameshwaram-born young man, then moved forward and did Astro-physics and he fell in love with it and the rest as we all know is history. But as I walked, I thought about him. What was so special? And I got the answer...
As a 17-year old boy, and not clearing my pre-medical exams, and having just finished 'Wings of Fire', I thought I will write to the man. This was insane, but I wanted to share my thoughts with a man who had gone through a similar situation. It's just that the person I chose to write to was the President of the Republic of India.
I wrote my heart out, with my passport-sized image pasted on the top right of the letter, I also wrote this,
"Sir, expecting a reply from the President of the country, by a seventeen year old is too much. But as you always say that Small aim is a crime, I am writing this with no expectations of a reply. Thank you for reading this..."
I sent him the letter and forgot. But after a few weeks, I got a special letter-
From the President of Republic of India,
President's personal cell,
Rashtrapati Bhawan, Delhi.
Wish you all the love and do thank your teachers and parents, for the support.
APJ Abdul Kalam"
I was extremely happy to receive a signed-letter from the big man. I had a tear of happiness in my eyes.
Last night, I cried, with sadness. He was delivering a lecture at IIM, Shillong and while talking, he collapsed and died in a few minutes. A death of honor. We had lost a gem. I could not eat a morsel of food.
You will always my hero. I came back to the present with...
"Aaj Chutti nahi hai, aaja", the girl still calling her friend.
I smiled and moved ahead.
RIP Dr. Kalam.