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TORONTO: `People’s President’ APJ Abdul Kalam was remembered with fond memories by the Indo-Canadian community at a memorial in his honour at the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation (SVBF) community centre here on Thursday.
“Dr Kalam was not just a president, but he was probably the most popular president, `people’s president.’ He was not just a Bharat Ratna, but also a shining star among Ratnas of modern India. He was a scientist, scholar, thinker, visionary, teacher, social reformer and an inspiring leader,’’ said Indian consul general Akhilesh Mishra.
Mr Mishra said the passing of Dr Kalam has evoked the kind of personal sense of loss that was only seen in 1948 when Mahatma Gandhi died.
Because Dr Kalam was respected so much that there “has been a kind of personal sense of loss among not only the people of India or people of Indian origin but also millions of friends and admirers all over the world.’’
The Indian consul general said Dr Kalam’s life itself was an inspiring message. “Born in a very humble, poor Muslim family in a remote village, he rose to great heights through sheer diligence, commitment and determination and took the nation to unprecedented glory and technological accomplishment.’’
Calling him a `true Karmayogi,’ Mr Mishra said, “It is still vivid in my memory that he left Rashtrapati Bhavan (in 2007) with the same equanimity and humility with which he had entered President’s office five years ago. He left with the same few suitcases, with only some additional books.
“He dreamed of India as a developed nation not just in the sense of physical properity, but also as a knowledge super power…He constantly urged people to shed pettiness and work for larger, greater causes.’’
Mr Mishra said, “To pay tribute to such a karmayogi who was tireless in action, shedding tears is not enough, we must pledge to embrace not just his memories, but his entire mission, vision of India and work to realise his dream.”
Dr VI Lucky Lakshmanan, who was friends with Dr Kalam and instrumental in bringing him to Canada three times, recalled his close association with the `people’s president.’
Dr Lakshmanan, who is a former chairman of the Canada-India Foundation, said Dr Kalam was the true Mahatma of modern India. “There has been no leader like him since Mahatma Gandhi.’’
He said when he requested him to come to Canada in 2008, Dr Kalam insisted that he was interested meeting only children, scholars and researchers. The late President saw a huge synergy between India and Canada in the areas of nuclear energy and waterways connectivity.
At core, Dr Lakshmanan said, President Kalam was a teacher and he died teaching teaching till the very last breath of his life.
Describing the late President’s multi-faceted personality, Dr Lakshmanan said Dr Kalam was thoroughly well-versed with Carnatic music. He also revealed how Dr Kalam once quickly composed a poem during his visit here.
Canada-India Foundation chairman Ajit Someshwar said Dr Kalam’s visit to Canada in 2008 imparted a big momentum to nuclear talks and subsequent deal between India and Canada.
Recalling hosting the late President at his Toronto home, Ajit described how Dr Kalam liked a simple south India dish. He also recalled how Dr Kalam had presented him a small statue of the Buddha when he once met him in Delhi.
Canada India Business Council president Gary Comerford, who has a long association with India, and Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown recalled their personal interactions with Dr Kalam and admired his global vision.
MPP Indira Naidoo-Harris read Premier Kathleen Wynne’s tributes to Dr Kalam.
Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce president Sanjay Makkar and Panorama India chairperson Anu Srivastava also paid rich tributes to the late President.
Soulful music and prayers were also recited in homage to Dr Kalam.