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The staff at the Bethany Hospital in Shillong did not have any clue that the next patient entering the hospital is a former President. The small hospital, which is nearest to the IIM Shillong where APJ Kalam was giving his last lecture, hit the international headlines overnight, thanks to kalm last journeythe Simple Man. He birth was humble, in a fisherman’s family, and declared dead at a hospital which is hardly visited by the who’s who in Meghalaya. Even in that small hospital, Kalam initially did not get any preferential treatment. There was no time to maintain the protocol, to sentise the area, before taking the former President there. The hospital staff knew it was Kalam only when they saw him.

In APJ, the country saw an undisputed leader widely respected across the spectrum, which was last seen probably in Mahatma Gandhi. But such a leader would roam about across the globe without very little media attention. His purpose was clear. He made students his primary focus since he left the Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2007. Teaching and enlightening the future generation with broader values had been his goal since. He wanted to avoid encounters with the media, not because of fearing controversy but perhaps in trying to use the time for something more constructive towards fulfilling his goal. In Shillong too, the media did not have any clue about his arrival on July 27, the evening he collapsed while taking his last class on ‘Making a Livable Planet’. There was no media crew standing outside the IIM gate when he was rushed to the hospital. He did not even let the Shillong media stand outside the Bethany Hospital for too long as the death was announced within less than one hour.

The ‘People’s President’, who was no more then, spent that night in the serene environment of the Military Hospital in Shillong. There was hardly any high profile treatment to his body till the next morning when it was taken out in a procession to the helipad at Upper Shillong. There was absolutely no chaos despite the death of the nation’s tallest personality. Modi rightly said, ‘Bharat has lost its Ratna’. But the expression of grief was orderly. Shillong did not have to face any traffic jam, a common problem, on account of his death. He came here quietly, left quietly.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on July 31, 2015)