RAMESWARAM: Still shaken by the news of his younger brother’s death, 99-year-old APJ Maraikayar has not slept one bit. “After his demise, what do you expect me to say... I am yet to recover from the shock,” Maraikayar told Express as he met the constant stream of visitors offering condolences after the death of former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
Thousands have thronged the Kalam residence since the news broke, and yet again, the scientist-turned visionary united visitors across all faiths, castes and ages as they offered their respects and awaited his arrival on Wednesday afternoon.
Though Maraikayar maintained a grim silence, he met visitors, accepted their condolences and rested in intervals inside a small room.
Outside his home, huge hoardings proclaimed, ‘Great dreams of great dreamers are always transcended’. This famous Kalam slogan is printed on the hoardings, with a picture of him, an Indian flag and a missile. These hoardings were not put up by educated youth, but by unorganised construction workers, painters, tailors and fishermen. They have come together to pay homage to the Missile Man in local style. After lighting incense sticks near his picture, the youth said, “Kalam is a great saint like Patanjali yogi for us. Patanjali yogi, who taught yoga to the world thousands of years ago, but our modern saint, who taught us to believe in ourselves and hard work to come up in life, has left us now in dismay,” said Ramar, a wage labourer from the town. “Nobody taught us to dream when we were young, all our parents said was, work for the family. But our children have started to dream, hats off to Kalam ayya,” said Antony, a construction worker.
A tourist couple from North India, who were sightseeing in Rameswaram, rushed to Kalam’s house after they read the news in the morning dailies. “I learnt to lead a simple life after witnessing him fly in economy class,” said Krishnan, a businessman from Delhi, who had come with his wife and child to greet Maraikayar and seek his blessing. Several people from the northern region too visited Kalam’s residence.
Kalam’s close friend Ramanatham Shastri and brother Lakshmanan (90) visited the house and gave moral support to Maraikayar. “Kalam has dedicated a page for our family in Wings of Fire. He studied with my brother, but he was very close to me. Whenever he visited, we would meet. His death is a great loss to the nation,” said Lakshmanan.