Kalam's unfulfilled dream of celebrating brother's 100th b'day

Kalam's unfulfilled dream of celebrating brother's 100th b'day

Kalam's unfulfilled dream of celebrating brother's 100th b'day

A P J Abdul Kalam had planned a "big surprise party" for his elder brother who would turn 100 this November by gathering all the family members at his native place Rameswaram, putting up banners saying '100' and playing Tamil songs but destiny had other ideas.

Sixteen years older, A P J Maracayer was like a father figure to Kalam and counselled him on several important decisions and was also his spiritual guide.

But as fate would have it, seven weeks after this planning session Kalam passed away on July 27 last year.

Kalam's aide Srijan Pal Singh presents a tribute to the late President on his first death anniversary in the form of a book "What Can I Give?: Life Lessons from My Teacher, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam."

The book, published by Penguin Random House, brings alive rare personal and unheard-of anecdotes as well as unseen pictures from Kalam's life.

Taking Kalam's vision ahead, Singh has decided to donate all the royalties from the book to the charitable cause of providing free education to underprivileged children through an initiative called The Kalam Library Project.

On the grand plans made by Kalam for his brother's 100th birthday celebrations, Singh writes, "In 2015, in the month of May, Kalam's brother dropped by for a visit. It was a special moment as Janaab A P J Maracayer was about to turn 99 in a few months. His birthday was on the 5th of November. The day his brother was leaving for Rameswaram, Kalam met him over dinner. He said to me later, 'You fellow, listen. My brother will turn 99 years old in November. Tell me, now by the end of this year, how many orbits will he have completed around the sun?’

"This was the question he always asked on people's birthdays. A true rocket engineer, he loved equating years to the number of orbits the earth had made around the sun and the number of orbits the moon had made around the earth. I was familiar with this question by now."

"Hundredth orbit!" Singh replied.

"Right. Now listen, you fellow. You see, next year, in November 2016, my brother will be a hundred years old. He has never celebrated his birthday in a big way. On his hundredth birthday, I want to throw him a big surprise party. He would love it, right?" Kalam asked.
Kalam wanted the party to happen at his native place.

"We can also gather all the family - the grandchildren, the great-grandchildren - everyone. There will be about 50 fellows like that," Singh quotes Kalam as saying.

Kalam entrusted Singh with making all the arrangements. Then Kalam was undecided on what gift he should give to his brother. For the next half an hour, both sat planning the details of the party.

"We thought of everything, from banners saying '100' to Tamil songs to be played in the party. We came up with many ideas for commemorating the occasion and finally decided to open a 100 libraries across rural India. A 100 libraries for a 100 years on earth. Kalam was very happy with the idea. We decided to begin working on it by July," Singh writes.

The Kalam Library Project was started in December 2015. "By the time this book reaches you, we would have perhaps already completed the target of opening a hundred libraries. And by reading this book, you are becoming a part of this project because the proceeds from this book will be used to open more and more such libraries," Singh says.