The first time he visited their residence in Vasundhara Enclave, Mayur Vihar, A P J Abdul Kalam brought 101 roses, recalled Sriram, son of veteran music critic, musician and composer P V Subramanian.
Kalam, the then President of India, told the ailing composer that the gift, from the Mughal Gardens in Rashtrapati Bhavan, was his way of wishing him a long and healthy life.
“People know him as a president, a scientist, a man of repute, but Kalam was also fond of Tamil poetry and loved playing the Veena. Few know that he really admired my father’s writing and work. In fact, he conferred the Sangeet Natak Akademi award on my father in 2005. Since my father couldn’t visit the Rashtrapati Bhavan as he was wheelchair bound, the President decided to visit him personally at our home,” recalled Sriram.
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“When my father asked him whether he could release the news of the visit, adding by way of explanation, that he had many fans, the President immediately asked to be counted among them,” Sriram recalled.
The President’s next visit to their residence, in 2007, came on a somber occasion, after the death of the critic in 2007.
“He came to the house at 12.30 in the night. He just placed a single yellow rose on my father’s body, paid his respects and left,” Sriram said.
“He was a great man. But what struck me most about him was his humility. He took time out to talk to our maid and shake hands with her. When he was leaving, a crowd had gathered outside the building. He took out the time to talk to our neighbours,” said Jayashree, Subramanian’s daughter-in-law.
“He must have met so many people between the two visits, but he still remembered our names. We were told, he never forgot names. The country has lost an eminent scientist and a great human being. It’s a great loss to the nation,” Sriram said.