Everybody asked me why there was no cartoon to mark the passing away of former President Abdul Kalam the very next morning. The first news came to me around 9 pm. Only if I finish the work relating to the cartoon by 10 pm, can it appear in the next morning’s editions. An hour’s time is hardly enough to come up with a satisfactory and meaningful piece.
Another reason was I was steeped in deep sorrow as I had lost a close family member and could not collect myself. My mind and intellect were working around the loss of the great leader and I could not concentrate on the work I had taken up that evening. In fact, it took several hours to get over this tragic loss.
The next day when I started work, what I had drawn on July 25, 2007 for the paper repeatedly came to my mind. The cartoon that appears here was published in The New Indian Express and Dinamani a day after he relinquished office as President.
The whole nation was praying that he should get a second term. For nearly a month, I was drawing many cartoons reflecting the expectations of the nation. On July 24, 2007, Abdul Kalam stepped down as the President of India and the then UPA government did not want to give him a second term. I had to record this in my cartoon. There should be no petty politics. I wanted to provide solace to the readers through my cartoon. At the same time, the cartoon could not deviate from the truth. I faced a great dilemma.
My cartoons used to have a great sense of humour whenever I experienced great agony and anger. It is like a piece of green chilli becoming a slice of jack fruit. But there was no scope for humour in the cartoon I had in mind. I wanted to apply balm to soothe the feelings in the hearts of readers. I am happy today that I finally succeeded.
My collections of Ada De cartoons (six volumes) were released by Kalam at a function in April 2008. I gave a memento of this cartoon embossed on a brass plate to him. Looking at the memento for a minute, Kalam asked me how I got the idea for that cartoon. And he said, “ I just wanted to be a visiting professor at the Anna University in Chennai. But now, I go around the country, being in Thiruvananthapuram on one day, and visit Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata....” I just replied to him that the anguish in my heart found an expression in the cartoon.
The organisers of the function had earlier notified that mementos and other souvenirs given to the President would have to be sent to his Delhi address and that he would not carry them with him. But at the end of the function, I could not spot the memento I gave him. I felt guilty that I could not send the prize to his place. As he is a recipient of several mementos and souvenirs, I wondered whether he would remember this particular article of mine given as a token of my love and affection. I thought even if his aides had carried all the items to his place, my gift would lie somewhere in a heap unnoticed. I thought it would be silly to take up the matter with his office and forgot about it.
After five years, I got a call on my mobile from Dinamani reporter in Rameswaram, informing me that he had a piece of good news for me and that Kalam’s house had been converted into a museum. He also told me the brass plate was prominently displayed with two focus lights at the entrance to the museum.
The reporter also said that there was a cartoon of mine showing Kalam with a rocket in his hand. He sent me photographs of them the next day.
I am immensely happy that my memento is among the very few articles exhibited there. I think that is a great honour for my brush!
Born in Rameswaram, he achieved much as a scientist, rose to be the President of the country, and with his immeasurable love he has become a people’s president.
Mankind seldom comes across such a great leader and Kalam will live in our hearts forever.
The author is Dinamani cartoonist.