This happened sometime in late February, I think. I was talking on phone with one of his assistants, Mr. Sharma. I explained to him the magazine, the idea behind it and requested him to coordinate a meeting with Dr. Kalam. He heard me out and then asked, ‘When are you exams?’ That was odd. Now what had my exams got to do with my requesting an appointment with Dr. Kalam. Well, I said they are in May-June and enquired why did it matter? Inside, I was wondering humorously whether he’d ask my marks next to qualify for meeting Dr. Kalam (after all, Dr. Kalam is a very intelligent man and so maybe, he met only top scorers). Well, Mr. Sharma then clarified that Dr. Kalam had given strict orders that students’ minds should not be diverted during the exam season of February and March, especially in the keenness of meeting him. Wow! That was a great thought. I was speechless for a second. Then next question followed was ‘Are you going to come to
That’s when a bouncer came when Mr. Sharma asked if I would like Dr. Kalam to visit me. ‘What?’ I yiked. For a moment, I was too dazed to think of anything. ‘Dr. Kalam?...Visit me?...I mean how?...I mean...’ I just couldn’t talk. Perhaps, Mr. Sharma had been through this before, and I guess he was smiling on the other side. He then lucidly explained, ‘Dr. Kalam doesn’t like students spending money to just come and see him. He wouldn’t mind meeting if you were here for some work or meeting your relatives or something like that. He would prefer to meet you when he is in your city. And surely he would. Will that do? Can you wait for him? He will meet you.’ That was it. I was floored. I just didn’t know what to answer. Imagine such a big personality coming to meet me. The very thought was so alluring.
Indeed, if this was the humbleness of Dr. Kalam that was reflected in his assistant, Mr. Sharma, then what must be Dr. Kalam in person? The thought that his modest persona must have passed on to all his people was so difficult to contemplate, but yet so remarkable and true. It inspired me. In all my endeavors to meet so many people this particular one remains as the experience of ‘NOT’ meeting a man. That is the iconic Dr. Kalam for you who even inspires without meeting in flesh and bone.
P.S. Of course, the next time he was in Pune, he did meet me (and some of my colleagues too), true to the last word as promised. And then what is the experience of meeting this man? Though clichéd as it may sound, it’s a memory for a lifetime. Simply awe-inspiring, isn’t it?