Unforgotten – Teaching from Beyond
~ How I almost met APJ ~
It’s not often that a person inspires and teaches without meeting in person. But like they say, the best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. And to hear heartbeats, it’s not necessary to be close by. One of the most amazing teachers I’ve had the pleasure to be taught by is Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, who was a former President of India. When he was at the helm of the nation, he sought to inspire the youth of India, who he considered the nation’s future. It’s quite difficult to get millions of people to listen; after all, so many speak, so many hear, but very few actually listen. But Kalam managed to do that through visits, words and of course, through books.
I’ve almost met him in person on three occasions, and it’s one of my regrets that I couldn’t actually do it. I remember the first time. It was announced in my college that he would be visiting one of our sister colleges for some function. I don’t remember which sister college it was, or what was the function, because all my mind registered was, “Abdul Kalam would be visiting.” And I was ready to go the distance to that college and see him. But I fell ill two days prior to that function, and was advised bed rest for a few days. It didn’t stop me from asking my friends to update me. Those who had gone climbed on top of our college bus and saw him from a distance. They heard his speech through the loudspeakers, and they had fun. One of them managed to give me a phone call, and I heard it. From many miles away, I was inspired.
There’s a famous mosque, the Cheraman Juma Masjid, near my native place in Kerala. It’s considered as one of the oldest mosques in the world, and the first mosque in India. When I had been to my native place on vacation, President Kalam had come to offer prayers at the mosque. It was late evening when he reached, but the roads were already lined by people who wanted to catch a glimpse of him. I could see the road standing at the threshold of my home, and caught a glimpse of him and his entourage when they went past. He was a very important person of course, and no one was allowed to go too near or shake his hand, though I wish I could have. It was late when the entourage returned from the mosque, but I had stayed up to see if I can get another glimpse. He was on the wrong side of the car then, sadly.
The third time was again for some function at that sister college. I strived to keep healthy when the rumors spread that he would be coming again. But only the senior batch was allowed to go for that function, and I missed out once again. It was painful to have been so close yet so far to that opportunity to meet someone who inspired me then, inspires me now and I’m sure will continue to inspire me afterward.
He may be gone from this world, but a true teacher teaches from anywhere. His legacy is left behind in the memories he gave us, in the lessons that have stayed in so many hearts. It’s very close to me always, for in my little bookshelf are four of his books – Wings of Fire, Turning Points, Ignited Minds and My Journey. And it’s wonderful to see more books about him coming to the fore. In that way, he stays unforgotten and continues to teach us from beyond. For till his final breath, he did what he loved to do – teach.
(© 10th September 2015)