New Delhi, Jul 28: Stone's throw away from the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan, 10 Rajaji Marg today exuded the sort of despair and gloom that one does not associate with its late occupant, former President APJ Abdul Kalam, known for his vivacity and optimism.
As the coffin carrying Kalam's body was softly taken down from the gun carriage, the jaws of Mohan (26) stiffened, for it was difficult for him to stand the sight of his "hero", wrapped in tricolour, lying motion less.
"He (Kalam) was my inspiration and which is why I decided to pursue civil services. He was not only the people's president but also the people's poet. The news is just not sinking in," a stoic Mohan said, adding that he's been waiting to get a glimpse of Kalam since 6.30 AM.
Hundreds like him, anticipation writ large on their faces, started gathering in front of Kalam's residence since morning, even before the special flight carrying his mortal remains had taken off from Guwahati.
The diversity of the crowd, comprising a large number of youth, children, women and the elderly, many of them ailing, was perhaps testimony to the popularity of the 'people s president', cutting across sections of the society.
Prakash Kulkarni (62), suffering from oral cancer, insisted that he paid homage to Kalam for one last time despite being sick.
"He wanted to see him for the last time," said his daughter Pradnya, a medico, who was accompanying him.
Finely dressed cadets of the three forces, walked by intermittently as they prepared to pay tribute to their former supreme commander, one who did not blink twice before riding a Sukhoi jet.
Many of those who came to pay homage had not met Kalam personally, but for many he was a source of inspiration. Through his books, speeches online and his charisma that made him a role a model for many.