31 October, 2020

Aureole Around Agni

An aggregation of positives, plus that halo, made Kalam an icon

Illustration by Saahil
Aureole Around Agni

Some years ago, I happened to be in Louisville, Kentucky, famous for having given the world Muhammad Ali and a baseball bat called the Louisville Slugger. This is the American south—conservative, Bible-thumping, bourbon-sipping aristocrats with a reputation for insularity. Imagine my surprise when in my hotel lobby, I saw a board announcing a lecture by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. It seemed odd that the former president had been invited by the local chapter of Rotary International to deliver a talk in Louisville, of all places. Intrigued, I entered the hall and there was no mistaking that goofy hairstyle, that deferential dem­eanour, the simplicity of his message—science and hum­anity—and the delivery style, like he was lecturing 10-year-old students. The hall was packed, and not with nris but local Americans, mostly white. He had launched into biotechnology when I had to leave, but it struck me that the Kalam effect was not just confined to India but had a global resonance.

It’s all to do with aura and context and the ‘halo effect’. In...



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