New Delhi, July 28: What Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Nath Tagore could not do for Shillong - also known as the Scotland of the East - for almost a century, the 'Missile Man' of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, did to the capital of Meghalaya with his last visit.
Although Tagore wrote his most famous novel 'Shesher Kabita' - Last Poem - in Shillong, it hardly brought the abode of clouds the kind of recognition in the country that it deserved.
Patricia Mukhim, editor of The Shillong Times, aptly put it in her article on The Wire. "Shillong will no longer be mispronounced or misspelt. Thank you, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. May you continue to teach us through your wonderful books and memorable speeches."
"There is a lot of ignorance about the whole region outside northeast India. Tagore's work in Shillong is not known to many outside the Bengali community. Also, since 'Shesher Kabita' was written in a different era, many people are not aware of it. Kalam is the 'Man of the Nation' and entire Shillong is mourning his death. A pall of gloom has descended here," Mukhim told IANS from Shillong.
"This is a personal loss for me. We all wanted to pay last respects to him adequately, but his body was flown back to Delhi early in the morning. Many children and their parents were in tears yesterday (Tuesday) after they learnt about the sudden demise of Kalam. It was a very emotional moment for us. We'll be holding a condolence meeting at the State Library auditorium in Shillong to pay tribute to him," she said.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker and parliamentarian from Meghlaya, P.A. Sangma, recalls his association with Kalam and that he agreed to write the foreword for his book 'A Life in Politics'.
"The news was very shocking, but what was more shocking was that it happened in my home state. It gives me an element of guilt that perhaps we could not offer adequate medical attention to save his life. He wrote a foreword for my book in which he stressed on the need for development and beautification of the place he loved the most (Shillong). That gives me some amount of consolation," Sangma told IANS.
Former cabinet minister in Meghalaya and ex-editor of The Shillong Times, Manas Chaudhuri, was of the view that Kalam's death in the state brought Shillong into global and national prominence.
"Generally, people are highly saddened by the fact that Kalam was destined to die in Shillong. Since Meghalaya is predominantly a tribal state, they loved his simplicity and humility. These qualities of his endeared him to the local people here. But his death here brings Shillong into global and national prominence. Shillong will be remembered for Kalam forever," Chaudhuri told IANS from Shillong. He also recounted Kalam's several visits to the city he loved.
"Meghalaya has declared a state holiday today (Tuesday). All the banks and government offices were closed and the streets wore a deserted look," Chaudhuri said.
Kalam, who won popular acclaim as India's president from 2002 to 2007, died on Monday evening after collapsing during a lecture at the IIM-Shillong.