Ordinarily, like every year, I would have said, “Welcome to the 85th orbit around the sun!” But only this year, you are the sun itself. But nevertheless, your memories still orbit around – effortlessly, unforgettably and unblemished. For once I cannot touch your feet on your birthday and happily take your blessings.
I do not remember a single birthday which you spent not working. Every single birthday, you were out – lecturing, taking classes and motivating the youth. You taught us that work is the greatest way to celebrate a birthday.
It has been over two and a half months now since Shillong. I remember whenever we used to meet after a gap of a few days – you would ask, “Srijan! Funny guy! What’s the news? What’s happening?”
So, today hoping this letter reaches you in some form – here is what is happening.
A lot has happened since you went away. Some good and some bad. For a starter, the “captain” played another “captain’s innings” and set things right. The guy just fails to fail! You were so right about him.
And remember whenever we were looking for something and you would say, “Ask google, it will tell you.” Google has now got an Indian boss… You were right, Indians are taking control over the world, just we also need to start controlling themselves. I am sure that will happen soon.
Your favorite ISRO launched ASTROSAT, this time with 6 foreign satellites on 27th September. You never missed congratulation them on twitter for every launch – I am sure they would have missed your, “Well done ISRO friends” tweet this time around.
But I am seriously concerned about the growth of intolerance. You used to say, all religions are completely connected by the common bridge of spirituality. For you, they all meant the same and led to the same destination. But things have changed a lot since you left. Just a few weeks ago, in Dadri, a human being was mob-slaughtered for wrongfully being alleged for cow-slaughter. Justice by the will of a mob is finding space in our civilization. You used to quote poet Rumi, “Be a lamp, a lifeboat, and a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd” Today often I am seeing the lamp fluttering, lifeboat rocking and ladder shaking. We need your advice and guidance on this – our countrymen need your spiritual wisdom.
Rest, your politicians are well, still doing over 70% political politics and less than 30% developmental politics. Nothing changed on that front. The Parliament ruckus continues after 27th July too. Everybody baked brownies in Dadri and elsewhere. Freebies, dole-outs, excessive perks are the norm – and little can people do about it. You said Bihar was a state of great potential and heritage, well it has become a battleground where the swords of caste and religion are happily being used to “cut-through” people. Most channels are adding caste and religion to predict who will win – merit is an unwanted commodity. Also, not much changed on farmer suicides – we need to implement the PURA idea somehow.
On the world front, you mentioned on 27th July, that “pollution of mind” which is shown through terrorism is a big threat to the planet. Well, ISIS just got blunted badly by Putin.
I keep meeting or talking with old colleagues and some of the family members. Everyone misses you, but all are determined to walk your path in their own chosen ways. Every now and then, I visit 10 Rajaji. A relatively large photograph of yours sits right at the far end desk you used to sit at and meet people. Many strangers come there to see you. It is a good photo, especially the eyes are very lively and radiant. The 100 plus-year-old friend of yours, Arjuna tree, is still holding strong. It looks sad, nobody is there to appreciate it and write poetry about it. The peacock which used to live under it was running around on road.
Today, I am going to go around two norms on your birthday.
First, I am not wishing you in private, but wishing you in public. Hoping that the collective voice of all Indians will somehow carry our messages and wishes to you. Stay smiling, wherever you are. Know that, we all miss you, your words, your little jokes and large inspirations.
Second, I am sure the nation is eager to give you a gift. I know you always rejected all presents and said, “gifts diminish value”. But this time I hope you will accept it. We all want to gift you the resolution to be like you, “Be a Kalam” rather than just read, remember and discuss you. Many youngsters, scattered all over the nation, have done their own bits – planting trees, making a mother smile, teaching kids, treating underprivileged. Some of them wrote to me, some have chosen to go about their task silently. You were right, “A true leader is a silent ladder”… that is what you have been to these – even without being around. This is the gift of an indebted nation and a privileged generation who had the privilege of living in a time like yours.
Without much more, with a half-smile at the memories I cherish and full tears at the moments I miss. Wish you on your birthday.
(Srijan Pal Singh)_(15-10-2015)
As posted by Srijan Pal Singh on his Facebook wall on 15th October 2015.
Srijan Pal Singh was the Officer on Special Duty and Advisor (Policy and Technology) at the Office of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam where he worked as a close aide to the former president on various consulting works.