Why India would miss Kalam

I had two absolutely polar, but extreme reactions to the same news today.

I had just started working on the day's work-plan in the lab, when I got a text message from my dad - 'APJ has passed away'. Unlike half of other Indians (or perhaps much like them), I sighed, put the phone back in my pocket, turned up the volume on some Audioslave and quietly resumed work. I had a long day ahead of me and I definitely needed to get on with it. Moreover I had skipped coffee today morning as I was late to work.

I'm not much of an amiable person without coffee in the morning.

There are a lot of designations and honors that apply to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. President of India. 'Missile Man'. Scientist. Writer. MTV youth icon (twice, notably). Bharat Ratna. Many many more. This eminent personality passed away yesterday, owing to a massive heart-attack, while giving a lecture to the students at IIM Shillong. Poetic, one would say. He passed away doing what he much loved doing in his later life - inspiring the youth of the country.

I've had two instances at least, as far as I can remember, where I met Dr. Kalam face to face - one, at my school for an occasion I don't remember anymore. It would be sometime in 2008 or earlier. He might have been the President of India still, or had just stepped down from office. Next time I met him - and this time, I was much closer to have even touched his feet (something I do not much do naturally, much to my father's ire) - I was in IIT Bombay and he had come to inaugurate the new Biology Research building.

I do not know if I did that out of respect as the Indian-ness took over me overwhelmingly, or I just did it to feel some kind of an awe-inspiring connection with this charismatic figure. One thing that I could tell this last time was that he was really comfortable among students, who thrived to catch a glimpse of this 80 year old man. To us, this grandfather of a man was the coolest dude alive in India! (Ha-ha.. there's a weirdly healthy irony here). I stopped working for a while and smiled at myself as these thoughts passed my mind. The only Indian in my lab stepped in and asked me if I had heard the news of his passing away.

"Well, he was old. So it shouldn't come as a surprise, right?" I said, very much nonchalantly.
"I guess you're right.." she said quietly and returned to her work.

I don't get so touchy with natural death. The 'circle of life' philosophy runs deep in my understanding, since The Lion King still is my most favorite movie of all time. But something told me that I was borderline rude about my nonchalance, which mildly surprised me.

'Merica, 4th of July and Sexy Eyes

And suddenly the mundane fourth day of July isn't as mundane as it used to be.

All these years around this time, I'd be sitting through this hot summer day wondering what else to do except finishing that painting I started but never completed, except that holiday homework of 'writing an incessant essay on the second war of Panipat' in at least 120 pages and except practicing for the gymnastic classes I had been coaxed into signing up for. Really, this day had no meaning for me when I was a kid. It was usually the beginning of a very long summer holiday. We'd be collecting our WWE trump cards and taking the neighborhood up by a storm as we'd ride on our bicycles (and/or tricycles) and race against each other to songs of 'Eye of the Tiger' and 'Final Countdown' right around this time.