Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s Prayer Meet at India House

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Photos: Bijay Dixit

By Manu Shah

HOUSTON: In 2007, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam addressed a gathering of Houstonians under a makeshift tent at India House as the building was yet to be completed. He also planted the first sapling on the grounds which can be seen in front of the building. A second visit followed in 2011.

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Four years later, on July 29, 2015, about 200 Houstonians met at the same India House for a condolence meeting to mark his demise and to share their heartfelt memories of his humility, simplicity and sincerity.

The event was initiated by Vijay Pallod and jointly organized by India House and India Culture Center, Houston.

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Many in the audience had personally interacted with him from Indu Sharma who studied with him at the Madras Institute of Technology 60 years ago to IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia who met him at Rashtrapati Bhavan with a team of delegates. The Executive Director recalled the grand edifice of the Presidential House and 11th President of India sitting in a corner of the room dressed in a simple khadi kurta, trousers and sandals.

Dr. Kalam left a deep impression on everyone who met him. Ashok Dhingra who hosted a lunch for him on his visit to Houston described him as “a man of short stature but the tallest among us as we will always look up to him.”

Dr. Sen Pathak had the honor of taking Dr. Kalam on a tour of MD Anderson. He recalled Dr. Kalam telling him to work for a cure for cancer that was affordable – “words that stayed with him all his life.” Today Dr. Pathak is working with alternative medicines in Ayurveda and Homeopathy to cure cancer.
A song by Hemant Bhavsar and Uday Shah from the movie Kabuliwallah – Ae Mere Pyare Watan was aptly touching in describing this “son of India.”

India House General Manager Col. Vipin Kumar showed a short clip of Dr. Kalam talking about the launch of a satellite “which instead of going into space fell into the Bay of Bengal.” According to Dr. Kalam, his mentor Satish Dhawan taught him an invaluable lesson on how to handle both “failure and success.”

Deepti Ganji from the Consul General’s office in Houston described Dr. Kalam as “an inspiration and a guiding force for many” and quoted Prime Minister Modi’s description of Dr. Kalam as “having the honesty of a child, the exuberance of a teenager and the maturity of an adult.”

President of India House, Dr. Manish Rungta expressed his sadness at the death of a “great leader” and shared some of Dr. Kalam’s inspiring quotes. He stated that India House also strives to serve the citizens of India like Dr. Kalam did. Rinal Desai from BAPS and Swatantra Jain from Preksha Meditation Center also described Dr. Kalam as “a blend of science and spirituality” as he reached out to their respective spiritual teachers to understand the higher purpose of life.

Ghulam Zarkari of the Indian Muslims Association of Greater Houston also paid tribute to Dr. Kalam’s hard work and sincerity and recalled Dr. Kalam’s message to refrain from complaining about what we don’t have but work to resolve that. He concluded by reciting a beautiful Urdu couplet penned by Dr. Kalam.

VP of ICC, Harshadbhai Patel, Yogina Patel from the Gujarati Samaj and Raju from ASIE also paid tributes to Dr. Kalam.

Dr. Kalam passed away doing what he was passionate about – teaching and encouraging the youth of India to dream and reach greater heights.  As Dr. Pathak put it – the best shraddhanjali we can offer “is to follow in his footsteps and work harder on his death anniversary.”