The highest constitutional honour has finally been bestowed on a woman! I should have been overjoyed. But how come I am not celebrating or rather why no women around me seem to be doing so? No slogans from women lib groups, no news channels going berserk over the new President’s life, no Sunday Times reminiscing over past Rashtrapti Bhavan occupants…
Could the alleged scams surrounding Ms Pratibha Patil be the reason? But no, it’s not that… the silence, in my opinion, is the result of overwhelming sadness in the wake of the exit of Dr Abdul Kalam – the brilliant man who touched the hearts of every Indian, the scholar who linked himself with the wider populace of the country, the simple man who gave Indian Presidency a timely new definition.
India has a long tradition of legendary Presidents. However the last five years was probably the first time Indians felt directly connected to the First Citizen of their country. For me, our Ex-President represents a long list of values that I would like to cultivate. My first introduction to Dr. Kalam was through his -“Wings of Fire”. What impressed me the most was that the book read, not as an autobiography, but as a narration of the development of Indian aeronautic and space technology, with due respect and credit given to all of his senior as well as fellow scientists. And all this without undermining any other field of knowledge! His brilliant career, his massive contribution to the Indian space program and above all, his humility has made him a father figure and guru to the youth and a great visionary for the old.
Dr Kalam personified the term “secularism”, which has only been the blunt-edged by-word of Indian polity for over 50 years. His autobiography makes subtle but significant references to his secular background and his views without sounding like a preacher. His charisma, coupled with his genuinely good manners, made him the most loved “First Citizen” of this country.
Not all of us can aspire to become Presidents or even scientists. But we can strive to be simple, sincere, secular and …scientific. This is the only way to invite Dr Kalam to preside over our hearts forever.