It was a reception befitting a rock star. Everywhere former Indian President Abdul Kalam went, during his four-day tour of Sri Lanka, huge crowds waited to see and hear him. And, unlike the obtrusive security of leaders, Mr. Kalam's security personnel were sensitive, The Hindu said.
Senior politicians and bureaucrats are unable to recall an instance when a foreign leader received such a warm and spontaneous response. Hundreds of students in Colombo University, and elsewhere, surged ahead to get a glimpse of India's 11th President, exchange a word, or seek an autograph. And, Kalam had no problems obliging them all, though the clock dictated that he get on with his lecture.
Across four days, he spoke in nine different venues. There was no standing space in any of the halls in Colombo, Moratuwa and Jaffna. He encouraged questions, spoke elaborately on the need for rising above the ordinary while remaining firmly rooted in one's culture and traditions. He obliged hundreds of students, professionals and ordinary people with autographs and posed for photographs.
The media too joined in the Kalam frenzy, carrying full texts of the motivational speeches that he delivered across the country. But some sections of people were sore that they did not get a chance to meet the new-age messiah. A few politicians raised a question in the media as to why he did not visit the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, which is Tamil majority. Many Indians based in Colombo too did not have the opportunity to meet him. Officials here explained that a four-day visit was “quite a long one” and that they had “accommodated most requests” they could find time for.