Thousands throng the narrow mohallas around the Mohideen Aandavar mosque in Rameswaram for former President A P J Abdul Kalam's Alvida Namaaz. Saisuresh Sivaswamy/Rediff.com reports from Rameswaram
The Mohideen Aandavar mosque in Rameswaram had anticipated a crowd for A P J Abdul Kalam's Alvida Namaaz on Thursday, July 30. Still, it could not have expected the thousands of people, Muslim and Hindu, who thronged the narrow mohallas around the mosque.
Clearly, the security agencies did.
With the three service chiefs expected to be at the mosque to receive President Kalam's mortal remains after the prayer, they had put up barricades to regulate the crowds that had started gathering from early as 8 am.
At one point the situation looked uncontrollable, with the muezzin repeatedly appealing for silence and order.
The sight of so many Muslims in their skull caps, and Hindus with their head covered, offering prayer side by side on the streets best summed up President Kalam's syncretic life and times.
All the noise, the melee, quietened down when the muezzin gave his cry to prayer. 'Allah hu Akbar, God is Great,' and the crowd roared back in acknowledgement.
It was a brief prayer, not longer than five minutes at best. The crowd peacefully repeating 'Ameen' after every verse.
Once the namaaz was over came the real problem. How to take President Kalam's cortege outside, with crowds filling out the access streets.
Once again the muezzin exhorted the crowds to give way, reminding them it was the house of God and to please disperse peacefully. As the defence forces stepped out with the cortege, phones were whipped out for photos, the crowds roared 'Allah hu Akbar, 'Dr Kalam ki Jai'.
Finally the funeral procession moved outside, where thousands of people lined up the road leading up to President Kalam's final resting place to catch a final glimpse of the military truck as it rolled out.
Rameswaram has downed shutters today to enable the public to pay their respect to its legendary son.
This will be one final farewell India will not see again in a long, long time.