Arun K Tiwari, who co-wrote five books with Indian president, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, including the first and
autobiographical Wings of Fire, had a 34
year-long colorful and very memorable association with the late scientist — a relationship that was on a special intellectual level.
A former missile scientist, who worked
with Kalam at India’s Defence Research and
Development Organisation, Tiwari is now
chairman, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Committee, which is working to create a road map for CSIR’s partnership with the strategic sector in India.
He was one of Kalam’s key speech writers.
He flew to Delhi from Hyderabad, when
President Kalam’s body was flown to the
capital from Shillong, Meghalayaa, and
accompanied him on his final journey to
Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, because he says
he wants to be part of the whole life voyage
and see his mentor buried:
Iam in New Delhi at his house. It is 10.30 pm (July 28). There are still at least 2,000 people waiting outside to
pay their respects. Ordinary people. I never
attended the funerals of (Indian leaders)
Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
But I have not seen this kind of respect. I am
We have lost prime ministers, but I have
not seen an outpouring like this. Spontaneous. He was really a People’s President.
The first set of people gave him military
honors. Then all the politicians came, from
across the party lines. Everybody was there.
After that, from 4 onwards, common people are coming. I can see thousands of people standing outside. This is something different. There is some divinity in this person.
I am his pupil. That is my correct definition. I was 26 when I joined a laboratory
under him in 1982 (at DRDO). I was just a
novice and had entered the service. I was
lucky I had him as my boss. He mentored me
and made a scientist out of me.
In 1996 he wanted to establish the
Cardiovascular Technology Institute for the
good of people. So, he gave that responsibility to me. I resigned from my government
job and worked for the good of society.
He always supported me and during his
presidency I got opportunities to travel with
him all over the world. I wrote five books
with him, starting with Wings of Fire and
the last, one month back, Transcendence.
It is a long association.
My umbrella has run away today. I am
standing without my umbrella today. I don’t
know how to define that. I am not able to
comprehend. Somebody, who has been with
me for the last 34 years, is lying in a casket. I
am not able to come to terms with that fact.
I am his speech writer and he had to give
so many speeches. So philosophy and health
care came into my account (the topics on
which Tiwari wrote speeches). We have to do
research, we have to write background, we
have to write what he has to say.
Over the years you become somebody’s
alter ego. You know exactly what he wants to
say. Today suddenly… (he pauses emotionally) who is going to go out for what?...
The Shillong speech (Kalam’s last speech,
which he started delivering July 27 at IIM-Shillong) was a different topic. So Srijan (Pal
Singh, another advisor to Kalam) was handling that. He had a team. In that team
everyone had a topic...
He was a saint scientist. There must be
many more saints, bigger than him. And
there are many scientists bigger than him.
What I do not see is anyone parallel, in the
world, who is a saint scientist like him.
He had such a fantastic output in science,
but he was never (affected) by the trappings
of that success. There is no ego. There is no
flamboyance. All the things he could have
been — he was free of all this.
He is as simple as a child. The kind of solu-
tions he gives. For example, when the Anna
Hazare movement (the 2011 anti-corruption
movement) was going on he said a very sim-
ple thing. Corruption begins from the home.
So, what law do you need? You need to see
that in your family there should be no cor-
His solutions are very simple. He talks like
a saint. He is a great scientist. So, this combination is very unique, actually.
Between science and saintliness, saintliness is most important because if you (don’t
have that) nothing can come to you. Science
is a by product of the pursuit.
His saintliness came from childhood. His
father was a very righteous person. Mother
was a very religious and orthodox lady. He
lived next to the Rameswaram temple (in
Rameswaram). And his upbringing was fantastic. Excellent teachers. Went to some of
the finest schools. Good parents and good
teachers. If you read Wings of Fire it is a
tribute to his teachers and his parents.
There is this very mysterious thing which
is haunting me. June 20 we were returning
from Sarangpur in Gujarat, by car and we
had presented our new book Transcendence
to Pramukh Swami Maharaj (of the Bochasanvasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha).
Because I had written five books with him,
after we were returning from the function,
sitting in the car, I asked him, “Sir, what is
the next writing project?”
He said: “I think whatever has to be writ-
ten, I have written. No more writing.”
Then when I read page number 50 of
Transcendence, second paragraph, there he
writes, ‘No more maneuvers are required
any more, as I am placed in my final position
in eternity.’ When you put a satellite in orbit
you have to do some maneuvering to make it
synchronous with the sun.
Within a month of that, he was no more.
Again and again I am reading that paragraph. I didn’t realize the profundity of that.
Did Dr Kalam have a
Arun K Tiwari is unable to come to terms with his boss and friend’s departure.
premonition of his death?
When arun K Tiwari, right, reached rameswaram with the late president’s cortege, he met Kalam’s elder brother, a P J Marakayar, 98. he offered him the rosary sent by Pramukh Swami Maharaj (of the Bochasanvasi akshar Purushottam Sanstha) for Kalam. Marakayar looked at it and said ‘Let it be buried tomorrow with my brother.’CoUr TeSy: arUn K TI WarI
in the second car. Ahead of us was an open
Gypsy with three soldiers in it. Two of
them were sitting on either side and one
guy was standing, holding his gun. One
hour into the journey, Dr Kalam said,
“Why is he standing? He will get tired.
This is like punishment. Can you ask a
wireless message to given that he may sit?”
I had to convince him, he had been prob-
ably instructed to stand for better security.
He did not relent. We tried radio messag-
ing. That did not work. For the next 1.5
hours of the journey, he reminded me
thrice to see if I could hand signal him to
sit down. Finally, realizing there is little we
could do he told me, “I want to meet him
and thank him.”
When we reached IIM-Shillong, I got
hold of the standing guy. I took him inside
and Dr Kalam shook his hand, and said
thank you. “Are you tired? Would you like
something to eat? I am sorry you had to
stand so long because of me.”
The young guard was surprised at the
treatment. He just said, “Sir, aapke liye toh
6 ghante bhi khade rahenge.”
After this, we went to the lecture hall. He
didn;t want to be late. “Students should
never be made to wait,” he always said.
I quickly set up his mike, briefed him
and took position on the computers. As I
pinned his mike, he smiled and said,
“Funny guy! Are you doing well?”
“Funny guy” — when Dr Kalam said
that, it could mean a variety of things,
depending on the tone: You’ve done well,
you’ve messed up something, you should
listen to him or just that you have been
plain naive or he was just being jovial.
Over six years I had learnt to interpret
“Funny Guy” like the back of my palm.
This time it was the last case. I smiled,
“Yes.” Those were the last words he said.
President a P J abdul Kalam meets the soldier in his security detail who kept standing in the jeep from Guwahati to Shillong. all through the journey Kalam wanted him to sit. The soldier said, ‘Sir, aapkeliye6ghantabhikhaderahenge.’