Obituary of Nelson Mandela written by Dr. Abdul Kalam in Dec 2013I had a great experience during my visit to South Africa in the year 2004. I met a great personality who was responsible for the freedom of South Africa.
My thoughts are hovering on two scenes, which I experienced in South Africa during my visit. One scene was, in Robben Island where Dr. Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned for 26 years, and the other scene was at the house of Dr. Nelson Mandela. The youth can learn big lessons from this two incidents. They are: indomitable spirit and virtue of forgiveness. He is none other than Dr.Nelson Mandela.
CapeTown is famous for its Table Mountain; it has got three peaks called Table Peak, Devil Peak, and Fake Peak. Between the peaks it was a beautiful sight throughout the day, sometimes dark clouds and sometimes white clouds embracing the peaks. Table Mountain is very close to the sea coast of the Atlantic Ocean. We traveled by helicopter to Robben Island from Cape Town in 10 minutes flight. By fast powered boat it will take 30 minutes to reach the Robben Island. When we reached the Island, except sea roaring, the whole island, was a silent island symbolizing the thought: this is the place the freedom of individual was chained. We were received at the Island by Mr. Ahmed Kathrada a South African, who was a co-prisoner. I was shocked to see a tiny room, where sleeping and all human needs have to be fulfilled. It has to be remembered that Dr. Nelson Mandela, who was 6 feet tall was imprisoned in that room for 26 years – fighting against the apartheid. The major part of his life was spent in this silent Island. He used to be taken for quarrying in the nearby mountain in bright sun which damaged his eyes. In spite of his body being tortured, he revealed to the world the “indomitable spirit” in him. This is the time he evolved a manuscript of freedom in tiny letters every day, when the jail wardens went to sleep. This small tiny lettered manuscript finally became the famous book of Mandela “A long walk to freedom”.
It was a great event for me to meet him in his house in Johannesburg. What a moving reception, the man at the age of 86 gave with all smiles. Dear friends, I would like to share with you, when I entered Dr. Nelson Mandela’s house, I saw his three dimensional form with cheerfulness: the mighty man who got the freedom for South Africa from the tyranny of apartheid. When I was leaving from his house he came to the portico to give me a send off and while walking he discarded his walking stick and I became his support. While walking I asked him, “Dr. Mandela can you please tell me about the pioneers of anti apartheid movement in South Africa?” He responded spontaneously, “of course one of the great pioneers of South Africa’s freedom movement was M.K. Gandhi. India gave us M.K. Gandhi, we gave you back Mahatma Gandhi after two decades. Mahatma Gandhi was an apostle of Non-Violence”. That is indeed the tradition of India – to enrich whichever nation we go, our foremost responsibility is to enrich that nation. Enriching the nation is not only in financial terms, but enrich with knowledge, enrich with sweat above all enrich with honor and self-dignity.
Nelson Mandela when he became the President of South Africa he gave the people who specialized in apartheid and ill-treated and put him in the jail for 26 years, freedom to move, freedom to live in South Africa as equal citizens. Dear friends, a big lesson that we learnt from this personality Dr. Nelson Mandela is beautifully captured in one of the Thirukkurals written 2200 years before by the Poet Saint Thiruvalluvar:
இன்னாசெய் தாரை ஒறுத்தல் அவர்நாண
நன்னயஞ் செய்து விடல்.
Which means, for those who do ill to you, the best punishment is to return good to them. Enriching the nation is not only in financial terms, but enriches with knowledge, enrich with sweat, and above all enrich with honour and self-dignity. I saw in him these unique qualities in body and soul of Nelson Mandela. What a great inspiration I got to meet with him and discuss with him during my visit to South Africa, which is still reverberating in my mind as an everlasting memory.
In his passing away the world has lost a great personality. Humanity will remember his contributions for time immemorial.END