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President Kalam wins hearts in Kerala

Dr Abdul Kalam was given a rousing reception in Kerala on his two-day maiden visit to the state from November 17 to 18 as President of India. 

"Kerala is not new to me. I lived here for 20 years," said the president. Amid a hectic schedule of attending 12 functions in different areas, he could not spare much time for the media. After landing at the naval aerodrome in Kochi, he first went out to address a mammoth crowd on the sprawling Marine Drive ground there. The occasion was the concluding session of celebrations marking the 1950th year of the arrival of St. Thomas to India and the 450th death anniversary of St. Francis Xavier.

Dr Kalam called upon religious leaders to transform themselves into spiritual leaders and become instrumental in bringing welfare to human kind. He also appealed to religious leaders of different faiths, to work "for the benefit of the oppressed and marginalised people."

The president’s next programme was at Farook College, Feroke, close to Calicut. On November 17, the naval helicopter carrying him landed on the specially made helipad in the forenoon on the campus of Farook College. A jubilant crowd of more than 5,000 including women and children, fasting in Ramadan, and standing under scroching sun welcomed him. Some young people climbed on nearby trees to watch their beloved president. 

Dr Kalam spoke after unveiling a plaque to commission the newly built Rs.1.5 crore Abussabah (the founder of the Darul Uloom Arabic College and Farook College) library complex on the college campus. While lauding efforts of the college authorities in setting up a user-friendly high-tech library with a collection of over 70,000 titles. Dr Kalam suggested that it was not the attractiveness and architectural beauty of the structure which mattered, but the availability of good books, because books were reliable friends, and lovable companions. 

"Books give the reader the capability to acquire knowledge, to think, have dreams, and convert these dreams into action. Books awaken curiosity. The human mind is a unique gift and the capability to think is the richest capital asset," he observed. The library complex marks the golden jubilee of the college. After concluding his speech, Dr Kalam rushed to meet students among the audience to have an interaction with them. Standing among the thrilled students who raised questions on various subjects, Dr Kalam answered their questions. To the bewilderment of the security staff and VVIPs, Dr Kalam took the mike from students and started reciting the national anthem. The students joined in a chorus. 

After that Dr Kalam took the impromptu pledge, "Let us dream. Dream will be transferred to thought. Thought into action. And action into results." With him the students took the pledge. He invited them to correspond with him directly on his website.

A document on academic growth was released by Chief Minister AK Antony. Dignitaries like parliamentary affairs minister, M M Hassan, education minister, N Soopy, parliamentarians E Ahmed and K Muraleedharan, and college principal P M Mubarak Pasha, president of the Roulathul Uloom Association K V Mohammed Koya, vice-chancellor of Calicut University Syed Iqbal Hasnain and member of Farook College managing committee, Mohammed Ali were present.

Dr Kalam left Calicut by helicopter for Attappadi, a tribal area. He was welcomed with traditional tribal dance and songs. The president, in defiance of security formalities, joined the tribal dance and mingled with the chieftains of four tribes. One of them is supposed to be 119 years old and married 19 times, and 16 of his wives are still with him. The secret of his longevity is said to be living in accordance with natural principles. The president, who is also a Tamilian, made a 20-minute inaugural speech in Tamil, receiving standing ovation from the audience because it was the first time they listened to the President of India speaking in tribal dialect of Tamil. He inaugurated a Rs 36 crore Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes Total Development Programme, to be implemented by the Attappadi Hill Area Development Society. The president read out seven pledges to protect the environment and told the audience that all Indians belonged to each other. If the 100 crore population of India stood united, the country could become one of the most developed nations in the world in the next 20 years. 

He hoped that the tribals would benefit from the project. Concluding his speech with a quotation from the 2000-year-old Thirukkural, a Tamil poem praising five qualities: health, wealth, unity, peace and power. The president also met Shree Raghavan Nair, a retired defence accounts officer, who translated Thirukkural and the Quran in Malayalam.

Accompanied by the chief minister, Dr Kalam visited Thiruvanantapuram, the state capital where he worked at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre. Dr Kalam devoted most of his time at public functions advising students to have a meaningful existence. He left behind fond memories of a people’s president who cared so much for the youth, tribals, common Indians.

¯ K Hamza in Calicut

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