Former Indian President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam celebrates his 80th birthday at the Circuit Guest House in Coimbatore in the company of his close associates and friends. Photos: Copyright @ Billion Beats
India’s inspiration machine and former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam completed his ‘80th orbit around the Sun’ on October 15. The birthday boy was in his elements when his friends and associates cut the cake at the Circuit Guest House in Coimbatore at the stroke of the midnight. Among the special guests who witnessed his ‘entry into the 81st orbit,’ included his security staff, attendants, cooks and drivers.
The livewire ‘missile man’ then ensured that everyone got their share of cake and ate it too. While the shutterbugs shot at will, Kalam moved around accepting greetings from all. T. Sunil Kumar, an expert with the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) of Coimbatore police – on duty at the guest house – was completely floored when Kalam called him for a photo-op. “Never in my life I experienced something like this and ever I think, I will. I am moved by his simplicity, despite all the attention around,” Sunil said.
So was the case with the guest house attendant Giri, who has been taking care of Kalam’s dietary needs, right from his presidential days. “When he sits for dinner, he will ask whether I had mine. Then he would want to know in detail, what I had. I am blessed to serve him whenever he comes to Kovai,” says Giri. The b’day boy finally retired for the day at 2 pm, after making the final touches to his speech copies for the next day.
On Saturday, addressing a group of students at Nandankare -- on the outskirts of Coimbatore -- Kalam hoped that he would touch a century so as to witness the might of today’s youth. “If I complete 100 years...if I am alive, then I will be seeing many of you walking on the Moon and Mars. Hold on to your dreams to reach your goals. Never give up. Will you?” he said. R.K. Prasad, his personal secretary says that Kalam wants to meet everyone, who wants to meet him. “He doesn’t want to disappoint a single soul. He wants to connect with everyone, come what may,” says Prasad. Kalam's associate V. Ponraj too echoed the same view. "He has dedicated his life to India's youth. It is the power of the youth that propels Dr Kalam's energy," Ponraj said.
Hundreds of people were seen lined up on the roads waving at Kalam’s convoy, with some jumping in joy after spotting him inside the white bullet-proof Ambassador car. Seeing the never-ending enthusiasm of people, A. Sivathanu Pillai, head of BrahMos supersonic missile project, felt that Kalam’s ability to set goals for every human being he meets makes him different from the rest. “He is always dreaming of giving India’s youth an aim for shaping their lives with definite goals,” says Pillai, a long-time associate of Kalam.
As he stepped into the Coimbatore airport on Saturday evening to chart the flight-path for his next mission, the story remained the same with autograph and photograph hunters taking vantage points for that exclusive moment in their lives.