Well, not Prathiba Patel. But the former president of India, the man who's inspired millions and who's taught us to dream, dream and dream!
It's rather surreal to believe that I was actually face to face with Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and I'm still finding hard to believe.
It's not like I'm a this diehard fan ( I must confess, I've never read 'Ignited Minds') but I've always had profound respect for our former president, not just for his achievements but for the person that he is-the innocence, the childlike curiosity and the humility that he exudes.
Here's what happened. I was online as usual, had gotten back home from my exam and was whining about this fever I had-head throbbing, swollen throat etc and generally being a pain for everyone in the vicinity when I got this call demanding to come to college IMMEDIATELY...I was going to interview... Abdul Kalam!
Needless to say, I raced out of the house, jumped into my car and drove numbly to college, head throbbing and heat beating with excitement.
The deal was he was visiting to participate in a seminar in my college and we had to catch him before he left. A gang of 4 of us (me to ask the question and one person to shoot it on camera included) lurked around the area until a kind soul who knew one of our gang spotted us and motioned us forward.
We waited till he came walking towards us, flanked by security and other officials. He was smaller in physical stature than the rest, but stood out because of the benign expression he had on his face.
Here was the moment. Now or never. I approached him, asking if I could ask him a question.
He was so adorable! He brushed the formality aside and was more curious about us! He asked us if we were students and good students at that. I said yes but my friend hesitated and he said "Why?? Why don't you say 'YES!'?" , he said with his gentle, unassuming smile.
I proceeded to my question then, asking him about his message- to dream, dream and dream. But what about a young child who cannot afford to dream?
(I know, I know. A very boring question! But the documentary is about education and we wanted him to basically give his views on education for all)
Dr. Kalam listened to my question carefully but took no time to answer. He spoke about his vision 2020 and that education for all could be possible only as a result of development in all other spheres. He said that our duty was to be good students and if we were, then we could easily help the young child by each of us teaching one. His parting words were "And listen to your parents!"
We stepped back as he walked away, briskly (for a man of 77 years he walked faster than any of my peers!) as he was in such great demand. My friend and I hugged each other and we danced around (our professor declaring that this was our first taste of true journalism) as if in a surreal dream.
As we watched him walk away, surrounded by people, all wanting to share a little bit of his glow, to demonstrate their appreciation and to convey the impact that he has had on their lives in just a few moments of meeting. I stood apart, absorbing the scene and felt like a fake. Here I was, asking a question about an issue that I did care about but had no intentions to do something about and listening to an answer given by a great man, and nodding like I was going to take up his advice. I felt guilty. I still do.
I wish I could go up to him and ask him how we could get rid of this inertia that's sweeping over most of the youth today. About how we're imbibing the 'me' culture from the west while rejecting the west's values of growing social consciousness. About how to retain our individuality while being united with the rest of humanity. About how to seek spirituality whilst striving for material happiness.
I could go on forever. Perhaps, one day, I would get a chance to ask that great little gentleman all these questions. Till then, I'll probably set off to seek the answers myself.
P.S: What would you ask him?