APJ Abdul Kalaam: Opposites Interlocked

August 3, 2015 at 9:15 PMAug (Musings, Slice Of Life)

abdul-kalam_111414125035Former President APJ Abdul Kalaam is no more. Following the news of his demise people across the country have been showering obituaries. The love and respect of the people of the nation for Mr. Kalaam is genuine and unwaxed.

It can be said that two reasons, mainly, played a major role in making Mr. Kalam as popular as he is. One, him endorsing weaponization. Two, his soft nature. He was a fascinating mixture of the two and carried them within him without much conflict about it.

Abdul Kalam was the best possible choice for the India which has just stepped into the 21st Century having closed 20th century with strong memories of Kargil war and Pokhran. He was the best possible choice for the Atal Bihari Vajpeyee government which was looking for a face which could become their secular mask.

The life story of Mr. Kalaam is undoubtedly inspirational. His journey from poverty to such heights, from Rameshwaram to Rashtrapathi Bhavan is truly heroic. But that need not make us accept the weaponization and the masculine politics that he represented.

In the case of Koodakulam certifying atomic energy as “safe” by Mr. Kalaam reveals that he was more of a nationalist than a scientist. Juxtapose this with the response of scientist and humanist Albert Einstein to the atomic bomb during Second World War.

For a nation which poses like a peace loving country but believes in militarization and for a society which speaks of ‘vasudaiva kutumbakam’ and not just discriminates but also breeds violence through intolerance the best representative face embodying its interlocked opposites and a peaceful coexistence of this opposites was Mr. Kalaam.
For a country which was fancying weaponization Abdul Kalam became the undisputed icon. His iconic nature was also because of his soft nature.

A.P.J.-Abdul-KalamCulturally we are conditioned to trust and respect, easily, those who are soft natured and soft spoken. A soft speaking oppressive landlord appears more trustworthy than a militant oppressed bonded labourer. Over ages we have acquired in our collective unconscious this notion that soft natured people are trustworthy and respectable. ‘Shaanta Rasa’ (tranquility/ peace) is more accepted and respected over ‘Raudra Rasa’(fury) in this nation. So the slogans of the agitating protestors of Koodakulam get drowned in the words of a soft spoken Kalam certifying atomic energy as “Safe” and the nation lends its ears to the soft speaking Kalam and not to the cries of the people.

Ours is a society which gave godly status to the saints and Brahmins who because of their easy life without any struggle for life or livelihood because of their lifestyle divorced of sweat and toil could ‘culture’ themselves as soft natured people. As a continuation of the same tradition we tend to trust believe and respect soft natured people, soft speaking people.
The soft nature of Atal Bihari Vajpeyee played a huge role in making him a popular leader. Added to it was his skill in soft speech. The same was with Abdul Kalaam.

The same society also celebrating, at once and at the same time, ‘Veera Rasa’ (courage) is puzzling and revealing at the same time. It speaks of a nation/ society which has opposite interlocked within itself. So a soft speaking but hatred injecting Vajapeeye becomes a heroic figure, a soft natured Abdul Kalaam who promotes militarization and weaaponization becomes an icon, Salman Khan who plays the soft hearted boy who upholds masculine power and violence becomes a star in this country.

Society and an era represents itself through and reflects itself in a person and thus enables us to deconstruct and decode. Some persons become an embodiment of a time and a society. Abdul Kalaam was one such person and hence his death has disturbed an entire nation.

A final salaam to Kalaam.

[Originally written in Kannada as a part of the fortnightly column being written in Karavali Karnataka]

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