Recalling Dr Abdul Kalam's last steps
Chennai: A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was in his usual self when he left his 10, Rajaji Marg residence in high-security Lutyen’s Delhi, which had been his nest ever since he demitted office as President in July, 2007, talking about the attack on IAF airbase in Pathankot in Punjab that took place on that fateful Monday – July 27, 2015.
Little did he know that this was his last flight journey and needless to say, Kalam was an avid flier and he enjoyed his flights – be it domestic or international. The point of discussion in the White Ambassador car between Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh, his OSD and “good friend” was the IAF air base attack and frequent disruptions in Parliament which was in session then.
He was flying to Guwahati in Assam from where he was to proceed to Shillong, the capital of picturesque Meghalaya, to deliver a lecture to his “young friends” at the Indian Institute of Management. He was so excited about the lecture that he was discussing full-throttle with Singh during their nearly two- hour flight from Delhi to Guwahati.
After a brief lunch at Guwahati, his convoy, which he never really liked, proceeded to what would later turn as the last destination of the most loved People’s President that the country has ever had – Shillong. Even during the tiring two-and-a-half-hour journey, Kalam was as energetic and as cheerful he would be on a normal day.
“While on our way, Kalam noticed a policeman who was standing in the convoy vehicle through the way and he asked us to contact him through walkie-talkie to ensure that he sits. Once we reached Shillong, he ensured that he met the security personnel and offered him a cup of tea,” Srijan Pal Singh, OSD to Kalam, told Deccan Chronicle.
At 6.15 sharp – Kalam told Singh to proceed to the conference hall to set up his teleprompter and within 15 minutes, the former President was present in the hall to begin his class. “Funny guy, all set,” Kalam asked Singh, who replied: “Yes sir. All fit.”
As the lecture was progressing, he paused a moment and was not to be seen near the podium. He collapsed on the floor. Soon, Singh and other aides rushed to the hall and tried reviving him, but in vain. “When I put him on my lap, I could feel no breath. Everything was gone in a few minutes,” Singh said.
And the end had arrived for Kalam – the way he wanted to breath his last – while teaching. “He lived and died the way he wanted,” says Singh, who had co-authored a few books with the former President.