Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s Last Visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival

By Ayush Garg, based on the Jaipur Literature Festival

Two years ago, I had to choose between Allahabad and Jaipur for my post-graduation. Each city has its pros and cons. After days of deliberation, it was an easy decision to make; I choose Jaipur over Allahabad. The reason being that world’s largest and only free literature festival occurs in Jaipur every January.

Since its inception in 2006, ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival has hosted a plethora of national and international writers at the beautiful Diggi Palace in the heart of Jaipur. The festival organises a range of readings, literary lunches, talks, performances, debates, children’s workshops and many other interactive activities. This year, approximately 2,50,000 people visited the festival from all over the world.

My first visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) was in 2015. I planned to attend the talk of former President and Missile Man Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. The session was scheduled to start at 12:30 pm and I reached Diggi Palace an hour early. In a normal scenario, it would seem I was way too soon to the venue. But, at JLF, that too for Dr. Kalam’s talk, I was way past late. At the entry gate, all I could see was a sea of human faces. People, irrespective of their age, were in a hurry to attend the session. Thanks to pre-registration, I could leapfrog the crowd and enter the venue.

Another shock awaited me here. The situation outside was nothing compared to what was inside the venue. At the entry gate, I could only see people’ s faces. Once inside, I couldn’t see anything more than the people surrounding me. Such was the reverence for Dr. Kalam, that even a blind man could tell that this was where the People’s President was scheduled to give his talk. Moreover, many a person planned ahead and attended the previous talk at the same venue so that they could get seats for the much-awaited speech of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. I was stuck at the main gate and trying hard to enter.

When Dr. Kalam arrived at Diggi Palace, there was a loud roar. Every single person was trying to catch a glimpse of the popular former president. The security guards made a human ring inside which Dr. Kalam was walking to the stage. One glimpse of Dr. Kalam ushered positive energy inside me. I felt proud to be an Indian and to see him one more time – not kowing at that time, that this would be the last. Once Dr. Kalam started speaking, people went silent and latched on to his every word. In the end, he asked the audience to repeat a verse from the poem after him. The whole audience, including I, felt motivated after this session. The difficulties faced in attending the session were suddenly irrelevant compared to this feeling once the session was over.

One incident happened just when Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam arrived at the venue. A Danish girl, standing next to me, after seeing the commotion surrounding the arrival of the guest unknown to her, said to her friends that he must be some Indian politician. I clarified  politely to that girl that he was not just “some Indian politician” but the very well respected and revered former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. I also proudly told her about the road Dr. Kalam took to become the President of India from a common man.

The next session of the former president was in the evening the same day. This time, I was better prepared to tackle the situation. Once the afternoon session got over, I had the lunch at the venue itself. After this, I sat at the place where his evening session is going to be. After every session, the position of my seat advanced further closer to the stage. When the talk was about to start, I was in a much better position to listen. Finally, I could attend two talks of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

It was truly a wish fulfilled.

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