Friday, 4 August 2017



Biswajit Basu, writes
A legend has passed

On 10 May 1998, I wearily boarded the last Indian Airlines flight from Hyderabad to Delhi. Much to my annoyance I had Seat 1A, and I hated it because usually the first row seats were given only to politicians and their noisy cronies and so all I could possibly look forward to was a boisterous and disagreeable journey home. However, I was mildly surprised when a small, short, frail looking gentleman took the seat next to me. As the aircraft took off,  we got to chatting about generalities and soon the plane settled, steady on its northern course. This gentleman then asked me if I would remain awake and if so, could I please request the flight attendant not to serve him dinner as he was rather sleepy. I readily agreed and watched him curl himself up to a little ball and doze off ever so quickly into the serenity of dreamland. He looked so peaceful and small in the seat which suddenly looked huge in comparison. He remained smiling thoughout the flight even as he slept. Two hours later we landed in Delhi and he thanked me and wished me goodnight and goodbye.
Next morning my wife excitedly handed me the newspaper and I read the headlines in awe that India had detonated a fusion (hydrogen) bomb in Pokhran. Below was a picture of Prime Minister Vajpayee and next to him was the affable and unassuming gentleman with whom I had flown the previous night.
Unknown to me till then, I had sat next to Dr Abdul Kalam, Head of DRDO during that routine, uneventful flight. Little did I know then that this courteous, soft and unassuming gentleman was about to make history the next day and would, one day, become the President of India.
It is perhaps the only occasion that humankind has ever known where a great scientist became a great President.
India will always revere you as one of its greatest sons, Dr Kalam
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