COLOMBO: Former Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam took Tamil-speaking Jaffna by storm when he addressed students and teachers at the university and at the Hindu College there on Monday.
“The audience at Jaffna University’s Kalasapathy Kalai Arangam was unprecedented,” Prof Sivachandran, former HoD of Geography, told Express over phone.
“I have never seen such a crowd at any public meeting here in the last 40 years,” Sivachandran added.
Another member of the audience said that even the LTTE, with its awesome muscle power, could not muster such a crowd at its public meetings.
Kalam’s speech at the university was in Tamil and was peppered with quotes from the Thirukkural and recitations of his own Tamil poems. “He spoke about progress and development. There was no mention of any political issue,” said Prem, a former student of Loyola College in Chennai.
The Jaffna Teacher
The audience was thrilled when Kalam said that as a young school student at Rameswaram in the early 1940s, he had learnt the rudiments of mathematics from a teacher who hailed from Puloly in Jaffna.
At the university function, the organisers had allowed five questions, but only one was asked and that was provocative, inviting disapproval from the audience. The questioner wanted to know why Kalam had taken so much time to visit Jaffna. Kalam smiled and replied:
“I was in constant touch with what was happening in Jaffna, though I wasn’t here.”
Interacts with Students
At the Jaffna Hindu College, the organisers had brought students and teachers from all the local schools and Kalam had a dialogue with the kids.
“The children responded enthusiastically because he spoke in simple Tamil, simplifying complex thoughts,” said Thaya Master of Jaffna’s Dan TV.
Jaffna residents said Kalam’s popularity stemmed from the fact that he was a “humble Tamil” from a small town.
Meets TNA Delegation
On return to Colombo, Kalam met a delegation of the Tamil National Alliance, led by R Sampanthan.