CHENNAI: It has only been a day since former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s sudden demise shook the nation. In the middle of endless flurry of wishes and tears, most of which does not go beyond the glossy screens of our smartphones, there are many determined to trace his legacy and truly understand the genius of Dr Kalam. And what better way than the books authored by the man himself.
A string of old and remote bookstores around the city are now getting a steady stream of Chennaites asking for them.
“Some boys studying at a nearby college came in and, although they aren’t economically well off, many of them bought Dr Kalam’s books,” says Rajesh, who runs a decade-old store.
There were several people, who expressed a new-found desire to buy his books, both in English and Tamil. They wanted to understand his work and more than anything, know why his loss affected them so much. Govindraja N, an auto driver breaks down in tears talking about him. “He was an ingenious and a non-political President. Where will we find a person like him again,” he asks. The 51-year-old who loved reading Agni Sirugugal (Wings of Fire) looks forward to read the rest of his work.
In another part of the city, Nisha, an HR officer, remembers her most favourite of Kalam’s words, still etched in her mind for years. “Black is sentimentally bad. But every black board makes a student’s life bright,” she recalls, with a smile. In this old bookstore from the ‘Madras’ part of the city, Kalam still lives on. ‘As a mark of respect, 20 per cent off on all Dr Abdul Kalam’s books’ read a sign at the entrance of this store. “Almost 160-170 copies were picked off the shelves by late afternoon today,” says a store assistant.
These older and perhaps less glamorous stores saw a steady stream of people coming in since morning. Picking up not just his best-sellers, but even his newer and lesser known books, he was all they could talk about. A store in Purasawalkam, saw almost 30 copies being billed within two hours of the shop being opened. “Some government school teachers came in and bought the books. It will be good if they can teach the students,” says Kamal Basha, the shop in-charge.
An uncomfortable but telling truth arises, showing a distinct difference between the demography that invested money and sentiment into this loss, unlike the ilk of the social media harpers making new memes every hour.
What remained unchanged though, was the choice of books that flew off the shelves.
“Wings of Fire is my favorite. I wanted to buy an extra copy today,” says Padmalakshmi, a housewife, while picking up a copy at a small platform store in Kilpauk.
While some shops saw his books going like hot cakes, there were a few outlets that didn’t see the same attraction. “Sorry, none ordered or bought any of his books,” was the strikingly answer received from some of the branded stores. Neither Ignited minds, nor Wings of Fire and not even his recently released Transcendence.