Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
I've been flaunting this name on my portfolio for over a decade now. Who wouldn't? After all, I was that one lucky artist chosen by the Indian Naval Defense to paint a picture for the great man, ten years back. The frames of INS Vikrant I painted were gifted to Dr. Kalam and Dr. Manmohan Singh respectively, during an event hosted by the Indian Navy around 2005-2006.
I secretly hoped that that my artwork would be hanging on one of the walls of his place. That was my inchful of destiny to get close to the legend. No other Indian President has been as much a people's man as Dr. Kalam. Despite his tryst with the highest realms of space research and nuclear research programmes, he seemed so uncomplicated that even a street-side common man could fall in love with him. From children to youth to senior citizens... it was as though he was born to be loved by all.
A sea of masses descended to offer Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam a final goodbye on 27th July, 2015.
Every Indian felt the pain of his departure. On the same unfortunate day of his death, several civilians were shot down in an unexpected terror attack in Punjab. It therefore seemed only natural and appropriate that India's leading newspaper, The Times of India, should carry a Black & White cover-page the subsequent morning. Two highly depressing news side-by-side had left the entire nation mourning. Felt instant respect for the thoughtfulness exhibited by this daily.
And therefore... for this very reason... it felt all the more absurd, cheated and mocked upon, when one spotted a hint of yellow at the top of the folded newspaper! Hello, was it April Fools' Day? The Black & White print was, it seems, not a token of condolence or reverence... but an advertising gimmick by Epson Colour Printers, supported and saved by The Times of India for an opportune day like this!
A pathetic and sorry state of Indian media.... While terrorists attacked Mumbai's Taj Hotel on 26/11 several years back, television channels had to be "requested" not to disclose army positions live. These otherwise smart people lacked the sensitivity then that terror masterminds in Pakistan would be using their platform as a window to guide their henchmen inside the hotel. In a repeat of the same episode... the day before in Punjab, Indian media was again regaling in showing off where exactly our army-men were positioned. It's an act equivalent to treason.
Here, we're ruing as much for who's gone.... as for who's unfortunately left behind.