By Siva Sivapragasam
The temple town of Rameswaram, situated in the Southern tip of India, turned into a sea of tears to give a final send off for it’s favourite and famous son, Abdul Kalam, Former President of India.
Braving the scorching sun and humid weather, thousands lined up the streets in this port city to pay tribute to the son of a poor boatman who became the President of a country which is the largest democracy in the planet. The sight of so many Muslims in their skull caps, and Hindus with their heads covered offering prayer side by side on the streets best summed up President Kalam’s symbolic life and times.
Keeping his secular credentials in mind and his love for all religions, a special prayer was held at the Rameshwaram temple with which the former President shared a childhood bond and the Mohideen Aandavar Masjid, his place of worship.
The Rameshwaram Siva temple is where Lord Ram prayed to Eshwar (Siva) and performed a special puja to Lord Siva in the form of a lingam before leaving for Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from the clutches of the ten-headed demon king Ravana.
The temple held a special Moksha Deepam (a prayer for the departed) on Thursday to pray for the departed former President and the town’s own son Avul Pakir Jainulabdin Abdul Kalam. As a young man, Kalam grew up in the town that sprang up under the shadow of the towering, sprawling temple and shared a special bond with it. His close friends in school were Brahmin boys whose fathers were priests in the temple. In later years, Kalam’s knowledge of Tamil and Hinduism were simply amazing.
The last rites and prayers were performed at his ancestral “Kalam Home” with a brief stop-over for “janaza prayer” at the nearby mosque.
A large number of people, who gathered inside and outside the mosque, were moved to tears as the cortege took the final journey from the mosque to the burial site to the shouts of “nare takbeer’, ‘Kalam sab hamara hai’ and ‘Jai Hind’. People lined up on either side of the road and paid their last respects with folded hands and tears in their eyes.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the official mourning on behalf of the Government of India.
Prime Minister Modi wrote as a funeral eulogy “Bharat has lost a Ratna, but the light from this jewel will guide us towards A P J Abdul Kalam’s dream destination: India as a knowledge superpower, in the first rank of nations. As a boy, he had to support his studies by earning money as a newspaper vendor; Today, page after page of the same newspapers are filled with his obituary notices. He took little from the world, and gave all he could to society. He combined the honesty of a child with the energy of a teenager and the maturity of an adult. As a bachelor, he was childless. But that is wrong. He was a father to every Indian child, teaching, cajoling, urging, exciting, clearing darkness wherever he found it with the radiance of his vision and the passion of his involvement. The good that he did will not be interred with his bones, because his children will preserve his memory through their lives and work, and gift it to their children”
Leaders from all parts of India gathered at the funeral site to pay their last tribute to India’s great and famous son. It was a moving scene to watch when Kalam’s ninety nine year old elder brother known by the family as “Peria Thaatha” was escorted to take a final glimpse of the mortal remains of his famous brother.
As the body of Rameshwaram’s most favourite son was lowered into the burial pit, Mother Earth slowly received it with pride.
(Picture Courtesy: The Hindu, Saisuresh Sivasamy – Rediff.com)