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Did President Kalam have a premonition of his death?

July 29, 2015 20:42 IST

'When I read page number 50 of Transcendence, second paragraph, there he writes, "No more manoeuvres are required any more, as I am placed in my final position in eternity".'

'And within a month of that. he was no more.'

Arun K Tiwari, co-author of five of President A P J Abdul Kalam's books, including Wings of Fire, colleague and alter-ego, pays a moving tribute to his mentor of 34 years.

Tribute to Kalam

Arun K Tiwari, who co-wrote five books with President A P J Abdul Kalam, including the first and autobiographical Wings of Fire, had a 34 year-long colourful and very memorable association with the late scientist -- a relationship that was on a special intellectual level.

A former missile scientist, who worked under Dr Kalam at the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Tiwari is now the chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Committee that is working to create a road map for CSIR's partnership with the strategic sector. Tiwari was one of Dr Kalam's key speech writers.

He flew to Delhi from Hyderabad, when President Kalam's body was flown to the capital from Shillong, and accompanied him on his final journey to Rameswaram, because he says he wants to be part of the whole life voyage and see his mentor buried.

Arun K Tiwari spoke to Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/

I am in Delhi at his house. It is 10.30 pm (Tuesday, July 28). And there are still at least 2,000 people waiting outside to pay their respects. Ordinary people.

I never attended the funerals of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. But I have not seen this kind of respect. I am overwhelmed.

We have lost prime ministers, but I have not seen an outpouring like this. Spontaneous. He was really a People's President.

The first set of people gave him military honours. Then all politicians came, across the party lines. Everybody was there. After that, from 4 o'clock onwards, common people are coming.

I can see thousands of people standing outside. This is something different. There is some divinity in this person.

I am his pupil. That is my correct definition. I was 26 years old when I joined a laboratory under him in 1982 (at the DRDO). I was just a novice and had entered the service. I was lucky I had him as my boss. He mentored me and made a scientist out of me.

In 1996 he wanted to establish the Cardiovascular Technology Institute for the good of people. So he gave that responsibility to me. Then I resigned from government job and worked for the good of society.

He always supported me and during his Presidency I got an opportunity to travel with him all over the world. I wrote five books with him, starting with Wings of Fire and the last, one month back, Transcendence.

It is a long association.

My umbrella has run away today. I am standing without my umbrella today. I don't know how to define that. I am not able to comprehend. Somebody, who has been with me for the last 34 years, he is lying in a casket, under refrigeration. I am not able to come to terms with that fact.

I am his speech writer and he had to give so many speeches. So philosophy and healthcare came into my account (the topics on which Tiwari wrote speeches). We have to do research, we have to write background, we have to write what he has to say.

Over the years you become somebody's alter ego. You know exactly what he wants to say. Today suddenly (he pauses) who is going to go out for what?...

The Shillong speech (President Kalam's last speech, to be delivered July 27 at IIM-Shillong) was a different topic. So Srijan (Pal Singh, another advisor to Dr Kalam) was handling that. He had a team. And in that team everyone had a topic. I had expertise in philosophy and healthcare for the last 10 years so I am into that...

He was a saint scientist. There must be many more saints, bigger than him. And there are many scientists bigger than him. What I do not see is anyone parallel, in the world, who is a saint scientist like him.

He had such a fantastic output in science, but he was never (affected) by the trappings of that success. There is no ego. There is no flamboyance. All the things he could have been -- he was free of all this.

He is as simple as a child. The kind of solutions he gives. For example when the Anna Hazare movement (the 2011 anti-corruption movement) was going on he said a very simple thing. Corruption begins from the home. So what law do you need? You need to see that in your family there should be no corruption.

His solutions are very simple. He talks like a saint. And he is a great scientist. So this combination is very unique, actually.

Between science and saintliness, saintliness is most important because if you (don't have that) nothing can come to you. Science is a by product of the pursuit.

His saintliness came from childhood. His father was a very righteous person. Mother was a very religious and orthodox lady. He lived next to the Rameswaram temple (in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu). And his upbringing was fantastic. Excellent teachers. Went to some of the finest schools. Good parents and good teachers. If you read Wings of Fire it is a tribute to his teachers and his parents.

There is this very mysterious thing which is haunting me. On June 20 we were returning from Sarangpur in Gujarat by car -- it was about a 150 km journey -- and we had presented our new book Transcendence to Pramukh Swami Maharaj (of the Bochasanvasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha). Because I had written five books with him, after we were returning from the function, sitting in the car, I asked him, "Sir, what is the next writing project?"

He said: "I think whatever has to be written, I have written. No more writing."

And then when I read page number 50 of Transcendence, second paragraph, there he writes, 'No more manoeuvres are required any more, as I am placed in my final position in eternity.' When you put a satellite in orbit you have to do some manoeuvring to make it synchronous with the sun.

And within a month of that. he was no more.

So again and again I am reading that paragraph.

I did not realise the profundity of that.

IMAGE: A child pays tribute to a poster of President Kalam in Chikmagalur, Karnataka. Photograph: PTI


Arun K Tiwari