The home of A P J Abdul Kalam, who will be sworn in later this morning as India's new President, on Muslim Street is locked. Everyone living there is in Delhi for the swearing in ceremony. The house may be locked but the street is alive. A young boy is putting up posters along with his friends. The posters thank the people who elected Kalam President.
On Wednesday night the huge Shiva temple in this temple town in Tamil Nadu is almost empty. Outside the temple autorickshaw drivers are helping to decorate the street -- to mark the anointment of one of Rameswaram's residents as the nation's First Citizen.
A public rally is scheduled for 1700 IST this evening in Kalam's honour. India's new President belongs to Rameswaram and pride is clearly in the air.
Near the Pamban railway station a young boy points out Kalam's late brother's home. Ahmad Siddique welcomes this reporter into the house. His son is married to Kalam's niece. It is a large household and its residents are simple and friendly. There is no electricity, and an emergency light lights up the hall.
Assia Begum is Kalam's brother Mustafa Kamal's daughter. She brings out her marriage album, another album of the function held to celebrate Kalam getting the Bharat Ratna and a third album of his July 9 visit to Rameswaram when he was the Presidential candidate. Ahmed Siddique is worried the electricity will play hookey just when the swearing in ceremony begins.
Assia Begum's husband has travelled with 37 others -- family and friends -- to Delhi for the event. He had called her that afternoon to tell her that the President-elect had had lunch with them. "He has given me a mobile number that belongs to my uncle," she says. She is pleased she can call the President whenever she wants.
The phone rings. It is a call from Delhi. This was Kalam's other brother Kasim Mohammad's son-in-law calling. His wife races through the hall to the phone. Sabitha Begum said her husband had called to say the entourage were shopping in the capital.
At 5 pm a special pooja will be conducted at the Shiva temple in the President's honour. An archana will be performed for Karthik, the second son of Shiva. This will be followed by a distribution of prasad to 120 children at the temple orphanage. Kesari will be distributed in the temple old age home where 80 people reside. Then the rally will commence, with the town's leaders celebrating an event they will not forget for the rest of their lives.
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