Tuesday, July 28, 2015

HE DIED WITH HIS BOOTS ON













 Pic.: Pradeep Nanda



“To shine like the sun, first burn like the sun.”

- APJ Abdul Kalam
  

 This eleventh-standard (ISC) girl called me just now. “Sir, do we have class today?”

“Of course yes,” I said, “why, what happened?”

“Sir don’t you know ‘our President’ – APJ Abdul Kalam died?”

“Yes beta, I know,” I said, almost choked, “he died with his boots on… Please come for the class at 3.”

I do not know if this sixteen-year-old understood what those words – ‘He died with his boots on’ – meant… and why I was using it, in the current context…

This girl comes from a different generation… Not the kind who would be easily fascinated by the kind of lifestyle – unbelievably simple for a highly qualified, acclaimed and, above all, for a  nation’s President -  Kalamji chose to live by… or the kind of rustic dialect with which he spoke… Yes, there was nothing visible that could fire up the imagination of masses – cutting across their age, religion, region, political or intellectual affiliation – in our former President Kalamji, except his brutally-honest simplicity and clean intent. To remain so - unaffected by fame, position or power – one needed the kind of spiritual and intellectual depth that he abundantly possessed…

I am yet to figure out why no other President in my county – barring, may be, Dr. Radhakrishnan and Dr. Rajendra Prasad – evoked such feelings within us, such connect… such inspiration!

It is just like the American Presidents…. So many have come and gone… but, a few have fired our imagination… Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy…

It is just like this mystery: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa…

Like Krishna, Christ, Nanak, Muhammad, Kabir or Shirdi Saibaba…

There is an Amitabh Bachchan  and there is a Sachin Tendulkar…

There is something, in these men and women, that evokes a deep reverence and aspiration in all of us… They are, really, great souls!


True power of man lies in his integrity, honesty and intent. Abdul Kalamji was truly a ‘powerful’ man… He remained committed to his mission till the last breath: to fire our imagination to lead a lofty life… aiming at the stars but planted solidly on the ground… He was the quintessential ‘Karma Yogi’… and, true to his mission, he died with his boots on!

Our sixteen-year-old girl still thinks Abdul Kalamji was our present President!

To me, she was neither dumb or naïve…

That’s the sad state of affairs, today. The young-ones need the missile-men like Kalamji to fire their imagination… We all need… even the ones who wear the silver-most hair and stand close to their 84th sunset!

Kalamji has filled me, today, with that kind of fuel, that kind of hope… and, has reassured me, that if we remain simple, honest and clean – we needn’t be worried about anything else in life… That, there is really, really, really something extra-ordinary in the ordinary…

And, yes, as my friend Sundar shared, today, to shine like the Sun, we should first burn like the Sun…

Here I take my bow, sir… before that SUN!





GERALD D’CUNHA