OneIndia Special: Thousands throng Guru Kalam's kabar at Rameshwaram
Pei Karumbu (Rameshwaram), Aug 20: Thousands of people are thronging former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam's kabar (burial place) in Pei Karambu grounds, situated in the temple town of Rameshwaram.
The former President's body was laid to rest here on July 30, following his demise on July 27. All buses coming from the famous Rameshwaram temple now halts at Pei Karumbu.
"All visitors coming from the temple now visit Guru Kalam's kabar. On weekends we have been witnessing a large number of crowds here. Many are still seeing crying inconsolably while offering their prayers to my grand-father," Sheik Saleem, the Missile Man's grandson and family spokesperson.
"We are happy to see now that he is being addressed as Guru Kalam by lots of people. Probably this is in tune with what we also have in mind," Sheik Saleem told OneIndia.
Visitors coming to the site 24x7
Policemen guarding the site say that visitors are still arriving to pay homage to Guru Kalam 24x7.
"From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, people have been coming to offer their love and prayers. Most people are seen clicking photos. Most of them come and ask us questions," says a police man, posted at the site. "Not sure, if anyone else ever got so much of love in this country," he adds.
Saleem says followers of Guru Kalam complete their trip to Rameshwaram by visiting House of Kalam, which is now a museum. A proper monument is expected to come up on 1.63 acres of land in Pei Karumbu.
"It will be difficult to find another icon to replace him. In fact the youth of this nation are now confused after the demise of Kalam Sir. Who is there for us to look up to? We get nothing in return by following film stars and cricketers. Kalam Sir gave love and knowledge in abundance," says Arun Murthy, an architect from Coorg.
No 10, Rajaji Marg all set to be handed over
Guru Kalam's official residence situated in New Delhi (No 10, Rajaji Marg) is still witnessing a steady flow of visitors.
"Some come with bouquets and there are many who wanted to know something about Guru Kalam. We are patiently listening to whatever people wanted to say. We are in the process of listing all his items, before handing them to the family members," says a close aide of Guru Kalam.
His library has over 3000 books, including some rare ones, which he often referred to. A complete programme list of Guru Kalam, post his Presidential years, is now being maintained by his staff.
He is said to have attended close to 20,000 programmes in the last eight years, a figure OneIndia couldn't independently verify. Two of Guru Kalam's loyal aides - RK Prasad and Harry Sheridon - are yet to come out of the shock of their master's demise.
The government will take over the building once Guru Kalam's assets are shifted out.
Security tightened at kabar: DSP
Rameshwaram Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) B Muthuramalingam told OneIndia that the security around the kabar has been tightened.
"The flow of visitors has increased now and hence we have put up a temporary shelter over the kabar. It is now fully covered. We are providing round-the-clock security," says Muthuramalingam.
Some temporary shelters have come up for the police, including provision for drinking water.
"We are keeping a close watch on hawkers and are not allowing anyone to set up petty shops and ice-cream stalls. The lighting for the site has been improved now and there's a make-shift tent for us as well," says Muthuramalingam.
He says the Rameshwaram Panchayat president and other members are playing a key role in the upkeep of the area.
"We are lucky to safeguard Kalam Sir's kabar. We are blessed by God to have served him," says Muthuramalingam.
Govt keeping a close watch on developments
Following the controversy over Guru Kalam's social media accounts and the mad rush being shown by many of his associates in hogging the limelight, the central government has distanced itself from making any statements.
A senior government official told OneIndia that since the matter is sensitive and the family is still on a mourning period, the government is on an ‘observation mode.'
"We have received some requests to set up a Kalam Centre for Knowledge in Delhi. There are other demands coming from many quarters as well. The family members also have requested a meeting with the Prime Minister," the official said.
He confirmed that the government cannot take any decision to carry forward Guru Kalam's legacy based on emotions and public sentiments, but would make a formal announcement after consultations with his family members.
"We will definitely consult his family and will come up with a plan befitting the man and his life," he said.
He refused to reply when asked why the central government did not conduct a formal condolence meeting for Guru Kalam.
The family members observed the 15-day ceremony on August 10 and are now gearing up for the final 40-day ceremony, scheduled on September 4.
Let's not be in a hurry, be patient: Arun Tiwari
Arun Tiwari, a long associate of Guru Kalam and a co-author of many books, told OneIndia from Hyderabad that everyone should be patient before jumping into any conclusion.
"The government needs time to plan. The Parliament session just got over and then the Prime Minister was travelling. There are other commitments to the government and we are sure something befitting to Dr Kalam will be coming up," Tiwari said.
He went on narrate an incident he had with Guru Kalam.
"Once he told me that our life is like a bird and we are all born to fly. Some people fly more and some less. But it is important that we must disappear the way birds do. Silently, without leaving any trace. The Almighty has given us two wings to fly. One wing is shukar (gratitude) and the other, sabar (patience). Anyone who doesn't have one wing will not fly for long," Tiwari concluded.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He was instrumental in launching Dr A P J Abdul Kalam's e-paper Billion Beats as its National Affairs Editor and has been spreading the Missile Man's vision through the Inspired Indian Foundation. He tweets @writetake.)