Like many Indians, I looked up to Dr.Kalam and he served as my inspiration to live with dignity and respect the dignity of labour. And it should not come as a surprise to many that ever since his sudden demise there has been a large outpouring of grief from all quarters. People from walks of life loved the man he was, he was the “Peoples President”, Bharat’s Ratna.
However, there is something that irks me to no end. And I’m afraid to say that whenever I think about it I’m filled with a lot of rage. Recently my social media feed has been flooded with posts condoling his demise, which is fine by me. But here’s the thing, people are trying to convey how Dr.Kalam died doing what he loved most by comparing his death to that of Paul Walker’s. I do not have an iota of doubt that Dr.Kalam loved teaching and reaching out to millions of students across the length and breadth of this nation.
How does Paul Walker come into the picture here? It’s been more than a year since he passed away. Moreover, (I hope I don’t make you shudder, so look away before you’re offended) Walker was a mediocre actor at best with a very average body of work, something which would be forgotten in time. Walker will perhaps be only remembered for his role in the Fast and Furious franchise, which has spawned numerous sequels over the last decade or so, beating my intellect senseless with its superficial character with little substance, bad acting and a `gissa, pitta storyline`. It is beyond me how actors such as Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who passed away unexpectedly as well, albeit in different circumstances, who contributed so much to the world of cinema are not commemorated with the same devotion and fanfare that Walker gets. I honestly believe that both these great actors had more talent, versatility and range than the entire cast of Fast and Furious combined.
I might have strayed a little off the topic, for which I apologize and I sincerely hope that I haven’t bored you yet. But the point I’m trying to make here is that Paul Walker and Dr. Kalam are not on an equal footing. I don’t intend to disrespect the late actor, but the latter’s contribution to a nation’s progress is unparalleled. In the world that is constantly changing at a rapid pace, his steadfast devotion and unwavering loyalty to the country of his birth is what set him apart from the rest. Even until his last breath all that bothered him were the problems that plagued the country and finding a solution. He was not an ordinary citizen, but more or less an ideal one. And no he isn’t Abdul Kalam Azad either. (Some people make me cry at times)
I’m not going to give you an exaggerated account of his exploits, it’s there for all to see, but I’d nevertheless go ahead and tell you anyway. I had the good fortune of listening to Dr.Kalam speak at a function which my school had organized about five years ago. It was on the 29th of August 2010. As ignorant as I could be, and oblivious to what he had achieved in his lifetime, I entered the hall not expecting anything good. I was only present for the attendance. I was under the notion that all politicians were corrupt and were basically crooks. Please do overlook my shortcomings, for I was only fifteen and furthermore I’m only human. However, what unfolded over the next couple of hours left me stupefied. This diminutive talisman, nearing the age of eighty, managed to hold the attention of more than a thousand people in a poorly ventilated room, cajoling the audience to pledge their time and devotion and join him in the quest for the progress and development of India. His energy and optimistic outlook were so infectious, that it could probably even bring life into a dead person. He spoke about the likes of Mario Capecchi, Ramanujan and C.V Raman with alacrity. When most people look forward to accepting death’s invitation, here he was in front of me in flesh and blood, so full of life and hope for the future. He made us promise him that we would meet him on the planet Mars in the year 2030 when he would be turning a hundred years old.
Dr. Kalam’s legacy will and should be kept alive in a manner he’d deem fit and that is only through the quest for knowledge, an unquenchable thirst for learning and a desire to contribute to the society. For a nation which is perpetually mired in controversy and in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, he stood out for his integrity and honesty. Men of integrity are rarely found in today’s world. Dr.Kalam’s hopes and dreams and aspirations for this young nation should not die with his mortal remains. They need to be kept alive through all of us. The onus solely rests on us. He has passed on the baton to the youth of India whom he greatly loved. Let us not let his sacrifices go in vain.
– Preetham Oliviera