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Why A P J Abdul Kalam deserves another term as President

May 02, 2012 21:43 IST

Instead of stooges of political parties occupying the highest office in the land, do we not deserve an impartial statesman as President, Shobha Warrier demands to know.

There is no one like A P J Abdul Kalam.

Is there anyone in India who is as loved, admired and revered by a whole generation? I don't know if these qualities are enough to qualify him to be President of India a second time.

I have not met him, but have seen him interact with school and college students and teachers. With his positive energy, sincerity and simple language, he wins over all those who listen to him. There is true magnetism in his personality.

After he served his term as President Kalam was to join Anna University as a visiting professor. He was to address the faculty and one could sense inexplicable excitement among the teachers who traveled from all over Tamil Nadu for the event.

When the vice-chancellor addressed him as President Kalam, he immediately corrected him: 'Not President, I am now Professor Kalam.'

Like a real teacher, he started his speech with a question to the teachers, saying, 'If you don't answer me, I will not start my speech!'

It was funny to hear the teachers shouting 'Yes Sir!', to his questions.

With palpable excitement, a PhD scholar from Salem told me then, "I can't tell you how excited I am to meet him. I will have a lot to tell my students in Salem. He is such an inspiring personality that he inspires not only students but teachers like me too. He is a role model for all of us. There can never be a man like him!"

That is Kalam's magic!

That afternoon, Kalam was to address the students, but three hours before the event, the hall was full and the security barred entry to any more attendees. I saw students pleading with the police to let them in.

With folded hands, they said, "We are here to see Dr Kalam and listen to him. We will stand in any corner, please let us."

When I asked them why they wanted to listen to Kalam, they said, "He is such an awe- inspiring personality. He is unique. There is no one like him."

Sharp at 3 am, Kalam entered the hall, smiling and waving to the students. As if on cue, all of them stood and began to appalud. The roar that erupted in the auditorium had to be heard to be believed. Kalam stood silently, smiling, waiting for the applause to die down. But the students went on and on, showing no signs of halting their loud welcome.

When he said, 'Thank you dear children!' the applause reached a new crescendo.

The way he smiled, and the way he stood there, it was like an old loving teacher coming to speak to his students.

Once he started speaking, there was total silence in the hall. He was like a teacher who asked the students questions and expected them to answer.

When he ended his speech, everyone stood up and started applauding endlessly.

I once watched him interact with schoolchildren. This time, he was more like a grandfather. He let the children surround him, ask him questions and shake hands with him.

He answered their questions as if he was telling them stories; it was interspersed with many questions to the children. As always, he expected them to answer all his questions.

I have not seen any public figure interact with children with so much affection and warmth. I have not seen children express so much love for a public figure.

Watching the interaction, a teacher commented, 'We should be celebrating Kalam's birthday as Children's Day. Ask any of these children who Chacha Nehru is, they will not know, but they all know and love someone named Abdul Kalam!"

When I first met Siddharth, he was a shy young man who had just got a job at a bank. Despite doing well in academics, he encountered countless hurdles as he suffered from cerebral palsy. But he fought each obstacle courageously.

My feature on Siddharth was forwarded to President A P J Abdul Kalam, and to Siddharth's surprise, he received an invitation from Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet the President.

After meeting Siddharth, Kalam made a presentation on him and spoke about his fighting spirit on World Disability Day.

Siddharth's life changed forever after Kalam's intervention. Today, he gives inspirational speeches to various audiences including at TED conferences.

"It is almost seven years since I got a call from Rastrapati Bhavan saying the President wanted to meet me. I have met Dr Kalam Sir five times so far and every time I meet him, I feel that I am meeting a very good close friend of mine who is extremely proud of me!" Siddharth tells me.

"The way he has treated me with love and warmth keeps driving me forward, full of energy and a positive attitude. Sir has had a deep influence on my thinking process and I always feel it whenever I speak at public functions," he adds.

"I have completed 40 talks in the last one-and-a-half years. From Sir, I have learnt to speak straight from my heart. I adore him as my friend and respect him a lot. He is a wonderful human being."

It is not just the young whom Kalam charms. Even senior citizens are not immune from his charm. Prime Point Srinivasan is one such individual.

After his stint as scientific advisor to the Government of India in 2001, Abdul Kalam joined Anna University as a visiting professor.

"I met him when he was a professor there," says Prime Point Srinivasan, a man in his early 60s. "I also met him a few times after he became President. I found him to be the same man, without the trappings of the position he held. He is the same humble man always.'

"I feel he is like a great rishi. I touch his feet when I meet him and also when I leave him. That is the kind of admiration I have for him," Srinivasan adds.

"More than him inspiring me, I used to study how he inspires the young. I feel youngsters get attracted to him because of the simple language he uses and the inner qualities he has. He is the only person who can channelise the energy of the youth in the right direction."

Instead of stooges of political parties occupying the highest office in the land, do we not deserve an impartial statesman as President?

Doesn't a country with 70% of its population below the age of 35 need an inspirational and positive personality as its President?

Shobha Warrier