THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Personal effects of former President A P J Abdul Kalam, including the coat that he wore at his last public function in Shillong, will go on display from Thursday at a museum here, billed as the first in south India dedicated to India’s ‘missile man.’
“He had worn this coat at the last function he attended at the IIM-Shillong,” says Shaiju David Alfi, CEO of the Dr Kalam Smriti International which has been set up at the Dale View College of Pharmacy and Research Centre at Punalal in the district. Though he hailed from Rameswaram, Kalam had a long and fruitful association with Thiruvananthapuram, where he was instrumental in the development of India’s space programme and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre at Thumba.
Shaiju, attracted by Kalam’s philosophy and his rise from a poor background as one of India’s best-known scientists and, later the President, had painstakingly collected the memorabilia over the years. Other exhibits at the museum include pens used by Dr Kalam, and a battered steel plate and spoon used by him when he used to frequent the Guruvayurappan Lodge near the Secretariat during his days in the state capital.
Former ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan will throw open the museum on Thursday. “Getting hold of the memorabilia was difficult. We managed to get hold of the coat with the help of R K Prasad, who was his private secretary. The Guruvayurappan Lodge had preserved the utensils. We also have some of the books and pens used by Dr Kalam which were donated by his family,” Shaiju said. The museum has rare photographs of Kalam, popular quotations by him and a 40-minute bio-pic on his life and times.
There is also a copy of the ‘Metaphysical Traveller’, the volume by Taiwanese poet Yu Hsi dedicated to Kalam.
ISRO has contributed to the museum scale models of its three rockets; the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the Mark II and Mark III versions of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). Shaiju proudly displays a short entry in the guest book dated February 22, 2015; “Great institution. With best wishes.” The entry was made by Dr Kalam who visited the pharmacy college just a few months before his death on July 27, 2015. “We had invited him on many occasions, but we did not think he would come,” Shaiju recalls.
In the long run, the college hopes to roll out a mobile exhibition and film theatre on the former president.