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'For our generation President Kalam is the Mahatma'

By Saisuresh Sivaswamy and A Ganesh Nadar
July 29, 2015 19:48 IST
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IMAGE: Volunteers from the Syed Ammal Engineering College who have arrived in Rameswaram to pay their respects to President Kalam. Photograph: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/Rediff.com

President Kalam was loved by the youth of India. Something evidenced by the mass of student volunteers who have arrived in Rameswaram to mourn and to help out other mourners who have arrived in the island town to pay their last homage to India's 'Missile Man.' Rediff.com's Saisuresh Sivaswamy and A Ganesh Nadar report.

That former President A P J Kalam was truly a 'People's President' is incontestable if only one witnesses the surge of volunteers who have gathered at his hometown of Rameswaram after his demise.

An accretion of college students, lecturers and members of the local Rotary Club, all of whom identify themselves as "volunteers" have come out to President Kalam's hometown Rameswaram.

Groups of such volunteers help in controlling the surging crowds at Dr Kalam's home and aid in distributing water and food among the incoming mourners. They have promised to remain in Rameswaram till the conclusion of the late former President's final rites on Thursday, July 30.

The organiser of one such group of volunteers is Dr Karthikeyan who heads the computer science department at the Syed Ammal Engineering College in the neighbouring mainland town of Ramanathapuram; Rameswaram is an island, connected to the mainland by the Pamban Bridge.

There are about 75 members in Dr Karthikeyan's group who like many other volunteer groups have been on the streets of Rameswaram since Monday, July 27, lending a helping hand to the thousands who have gathered to pay their last respects to Dr Kalam.

"Most of us are from our college and the rest belong to three other organisations. We have come together because we all love Dr Kalam. That is the bond which holds us together," Dr Karthikeyan told Rediff.com

Dr Karthikeyan mentions that grief-stricken people were seen lining the route from Mandpam, where the Indian Air Force helicopter landed with President Kalam's mortal remains, to Rameswaram.

"Can you imagine the people doing this for anyone? No man has been loved by so many," says Dr Karthikeyan.

"The reason for this affection," he adds, "was Dr Kalam's simplicity and his message of transforming India that so inspired the youth of the country."

Dr Karthikeyan recalled his first meeting with Dr Kalam, when the latter had come to his college in 2008.

Hearing Dr Kalam speak Dr Karthikeyan was hooked onto his message. After that, Dr Karthikeyan has read many of Dr Kalam's books, and picks one of them, Manifesto for Change, as a life-changer.

"We changed that book into a programme and implemented it in our college," he explains.

Dr Karthikeyan feels the reason for President Kalam being such an inspiration to so many people was that he appealed to students directly.

"That was his charm," says Dr Karthikeyan.

"He was not interested all that much in speaking to the 30-somethings. He was very focused on the young, school children and college students who he believed were the future who had the potential to transform India. That is why he visited schools and colleges so much. And since his message was simple and direct, they responded to his words," he adds.

This tremendous response, as evidenced in the humongous turnout of the young, including many school children in their uniforms, leads Dr Karthikeyan to believe that today's youth will follow in Dr Kalam's footsteps.

"In my grandfather's time there was Mahatma Gandhi," says Dr Karthikeyan. "For our generation President Abdul Kalam is the Mahatma."

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Saisuresh Sivaswamy and A Ganesh Nadar in Rameswaram
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