But having come face to face with fact stranger than fiction, 38 of A P J Abdul Kalam's family and friends, who arrived in New Delhi early on Wednesday morning to witness the new President's swearing-in ceremony in the Central Hall of Parliament on Thursday, said though the recent events in their lives are "like a dream," they would not ask any favours from Kalam as "the nation was more important than the family."
Alighting from the IIIrd A/C compartment of the G T Express, which he boarded at Chennai almost 37 hours ago, Kalam's frail 85-year-old brother A P J M Maraicayar said in a feeble voice, "I am happy. But I don't expect him to serve us. The nation is obviously more important than the family."
"I will not be staying at Rashtrapati Bhavan even if the President asks me to and will be leaving on 26th itself," Maraicayar, dressed in a simple white kurta, dhoti and a maroon headgear, said before he was taken in a wheel chair to a waiting Toyota Qualis.
"I have got prasad for Kalam from the (Ramanathaswami) temple. But I doubt if he will get enough time to even talk to me. After he won the election, I did special pooja for him," said 70-year-old P V S Shastri, a priest and the President-elect's childhood friend.
Radhakrishna Panda, one of the trustees of the Rameshwaram Ramanathaswami temple and a family friend,
said, "Kalam is not just the pride of Rameshwaram, but of the whole nation. A lot of people like his simplicity, secular credentials and leadership qualities."
Pointing out the secular nature of Rameshwaram, Panda said, "We see everyone as human beings and not as someone belonging to a particular community. Hindus, Muslims and Christians go to each other's houses whenever there is any function. Not only Kalam, but everyone there has friends from different communities."
Most members of the group were on their first visit to the national capital and have seen only pictures of the
grand and imposing Rashtrapati Bhavan.
"There is a lot of excitement. I find it very difficult to comprehend how a building can be so big. It will be surely
a wonderful feeling to see it and Parliament," Shastri said.
Overwhelmed by the reception, Jalaluddin, Kalam's nephew, said "at every station from Chennai to Delhi,
many people came to wish us a happy journey and asked us to convey their regards and congratulations to Kalam."
Recalling Kalam's journey from Rameshwaram to Raisina Hill, Panda said, "the hardwork he puts in coupled with his ability to connect with people from all walks of life makes him the right person to hold the country's highest office."
The 38 members, all natives of the temple town of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, were later driven to the Defence Research Development Organisation Guest House, Development Enclave near the Indira Gandhi Airport.
The 11th President of India: Complete Coverage
The Presidency: A Special Series
Back to top
Tell us what you think of this report