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OneIndia Special: I am thankful to God that I met Nandeeshwar, says APJ Abdul Kalam

By Dr Anantha Krishnan M

Bengaluru, Jan 29: Missile Man Dr A P J Abdul Kalam will probably remember his recent visit to Bengaluru -- a city that has gifted him many memorable moments -- for a long time to come. This time, it was not the technological and scientific advancements of the Aviation Capital that inspired him. But, the musical prowess of Nandeeshwar Acharaya, a 52-year-old driver from the VVIP protocol pool of the Karnataka government.

Nadeshwar Acharaya was assigned to drive Dr Kalam's bullet proof vehicle on January 19 during the former President's one-day lighting visit to the city. Little did he realise that the man on the wheels is a master in music, violin and flute.

Nandeeshwar Acharaya

Sharing details with OneIndia, Dr Kalam said it was a pleasant surprise for him to have a driver with so much of talent. "After the Parikrama Science Festival at IISc, I was proceeding to attend the next function at a school. We also had a musical event to attend the same day. Once my car started Nandeeshwar told me about his interest in music," Dr Kalam told OneIndia during an exclusive interaction at Karnataka Raj Bhawan.

I am thankful to God that I met Nandeeshwar: Kalam

Nandeeshwar shared with Dr Kalam details of his gurus and his long musical sojourn. "His gurus were all greats, including R K Srikantan (vocal), R R Keshavmurthy (violin) and T R Mahalingam (flute). A driver with so many gifts, I wondered. I am thankful to God that I met such a wonderful human being," Dr Kalam said.

It was music on wheels for the next 10-15 minutes as Nandeeshwar recited Dr Kalam's favourite keerthanas one after another. "Whenever, we had to slow down at traffic signals, Nandeeshwar obliged to all my requests. He sang Endaro Mahanubavalu.., a Thyagaraja Pancharatna Keerthana in Sri Ragam. He beautifully recited the Keerthana. I was mesmerised by his voice and rendering of all ragas," Dr Kalam said.

With his ability to appreciate the beauty within every human being he meets, Dr Kalam said with a touch of humour and smiling: "I ensured that he wasn't singing and driving!"

Dr Kalam said that all through the day he observed Nandeeshwar's ability to enjoy his work with passion. "He is smiling all the time, driving with pleasure and enjoying his work. See how music has changed the life of a driver. Music makes him happy. And, we all should learn from Nandeeshwar and enjoy every job we do," Dr Kalam added.

Kalam with Acharya

Unsung heroes mattered to ex-Prez always

R K Prasad, Dr Kalam's trusted aide for several decades, said that the former President never missed an opportunity to encourage the talent of unsung heroes. "For Dr Kalam, it is the people of India that matters. He keeps looking for people from grassroots level. Nandeeshwar's musical abilities have touched his heart," Prasad said.

"Sometimes we had to rush to the airport so that we don't miss the flight. Dr Kalam doesn't mind any amount of time listening to people, their dreams, aspirations and hopes," Prasad added.

Echoing Prasad's views was V Ponraj, the tech brain behind Dr Kalam during his presidential days. "In the morning when Nandeeshwar reported for duty along with other convoy, I noticed that he was a very religious person. I also found that he was enjoying every bit of his work, be it removing the dust from the window pane, or adjusting the seat for Dr Kalam. Every moment of his life had a silent musical touch," said Ponraj, who recently co-authored a book with Dr Kalam.

Driver's story even in speech copy

Dr Kalam also ensured that the story of Nandeeshwar was incorporated in his speech during the last programme for the day in Bengaluru. "Every achievement gets recorded in Dr Kalam's mind," Ponraj said.

Finally, it was the turn of the man of the moment to share his thoughts on penetrating the mind of the Missile Man. "I will remember this day for ever. Music is always in my mind and I am lucky that Kalam Sir had the insight to see it. Kalam Sir is God for me." Nandeeshwar said.

Hailing from Shimoga in Karnataka, Nandeeshwar has been with the Protocol Department for the last 25 years, as a driver. "I got initial lessons in music from my father Gangadhar Acharaya, who was a violin vidwan. I was introduced into the magical world of music at the age of eight. I am honoured to have received the blessings of Kalam Sir," he said.

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)

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