Home India Politics Many await Kalam – the veena-playing missile man

Many await Kalam – the veena-playing missile man

By Papri Sri Raman, IANS

Chennai : They all know him and they all want him back. And each one has a story to tell if you mention A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

India has elected a new president in Pratibha Patil, and what Kalam proposes to do after he leaves Rashtrapati Bhavan is a matter of intense speculation.

Looked upon as simply brilliant or slightly wacky like Ned Brainard of the 1961 Disney film "The Absent Minded Professor" or master scientist Phor Tak of "The Fighting War of Mars", how will this veena-playing missile man spend his time?

While his brother still hopes Kalam will come back to his house in Rameswaram, the Madras Institute of Technology, his alma mater, wants him to teach there and his former students want to continue their research under his guidance.

Kalam, however, reportedly wants to remain in New Delhi. The government has found an official bungalow chosen by the outgoing president.

His elder brother Mohammed Muthu Meera Maraikar has painted their house in Rameswaram, in the southern tip of Tamil Nadu, hoping Kalam will come to live in the house where he was born Oct 15, 1931.

The first floor will be Kalam's in the 'House of Kalams' on Pallivasal Street, from where this boatmen's family sent its son to become India's first citizen in 2002.

"Ever since, this little house has become a place of tourist interest," says Maraikar.

Kalam is expected to arrive in Chennai as soon as he demits office July 25. He is expected to visit his hometown Rameswaram some time later, even if he does not live there.

Kalam had called Anna University vice chancellor D. Viswanathan and said he would guide research scholars as visiting professor. He had in fact asked for the same quarters he had occupied before he was nominated to become president.

"Kalam went to sleep at about 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. and got up at about 6.a.m. He used to go for a walk in the green campus, waving to students," recalls Viswanathan. "What Kalam will do is for him to decide once he comes down to the university."

The Gandhigram Rural University near Madurai has also reportedly offered him visiting professorship.

The National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, has invited him to be a visiting professor, as has the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Thiruvananthapuram research centre. Anna University, Coimbatore, has offered him Emiritus Professorship.

PhD students who worked under him like A.K. George, a priest who also co-authored "Wings of Fire" with Kalam, want to continue research under his guidance.

George is researching on "Enhancing the Capabilities of Mentally Challenged Children" – a subject dear to Kalam's heart.

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief controller A. Sivathanu Pillai, who co-authored "Envisioning an Empowered Nation" with Kalam, wants to write more books with the scientist.

"We have moved from vision to mission stage," says Pillai. So now he and Kalam want to write books on education, healthcare, infrastructure development, IT, convergence technology, biotechnology, nano-technology and agriculture.

Adds George: "He has a thousand things to do but he can simultaneously programme in everything."

Everyone who knows Kalam knows he will do all of these things and still play his veena, write poetry, research the Thirukkural further and meet young people constantly.

Seventeen of his Tamil poems were translated into English and published in 1994 in a book titled "My Journey".

And perhaps he will sit by the sea in his beloved Rameswaram sometimes, stringing his instrument and composing his own lyrics. That is the hallmark of the man – more than the post of president.