Tripura connection in Kalam's 'Thinking Huts' - Former President reveals a soft corner for the Northeast in his latest book Turning Points...

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By SEKHAR DATTA
  • Published 27.08.12
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Fond memories

Agartala, Aug. 26: A decade ago, the ruling CPM in Tripura had confronted a major dilemma in the lead-up to the presidential polls that year.

The CPM politburo had decided to put up late Laxmi Sehgal as candidate, contrary to the wishes of the party unit in Tripura that pitched for A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The state unit cited his association with the state as adviser and as a man from the minority community.

The politburo, known for its certitude and “tragic intransigence”, saw Laxmi Sehghal lose the polls by a heavy margin. Information on what had transpired between the CPM state committee here and the party’s apex executive body had trickled out subsequently in bits and pieces.

However, the then President Kalam, in all his magnanimity, had retained a soft corner for Tripura in his heart.

Within three months of assuming office, he had visited Tripura and fascinated everyone by closely interacting with students in an auditorium, proclaiming a road map for Tripura’s development in a public meeting and offering sage counsel to the political leadership. His robust optimism and enervating positivism were contagious indeed.

But more was to come soon as the unorthodox President set about renovating and refashioning the celebrated Mughal Gardens within the hallowed precincts of Rashtrapati Bhavan. As he wanted to install two huts in the garden, skilful craftsmen from Tripura came to his mind. What followed is recorded in Kalam’s latest book: Turning Points: A journey through challenges.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

How his idea of installing huts took shape is impeccably described by the former President in his inimitable style: “I installed two huts in the garden, both designed in keeping with the environment and using natural materials. One was built by craftsmen from Tripura and was called the Thinking Hut. I took many of my close friends to this hut for discussions during weekends and one of my books, Indomitable Spirit, was mostly written in this hut.”

The identity of the craftsmen behind the second hut, named “Immortal Hut”, is concealed but the two huts nestled in corners of the massive Mughal Gardens provided the quiet serenity Kalam required for reflection over critical issues as well as ideas of poetry.

“Whenever a complex national decision was to be made, these two huts were where I sat and thought. Of course, the inspiration for many poems also came while I was there,” Kalam says in his latest book.

Apart from the pithy reference to Tripura in his book, Kalam has allotted two of 27 colour pictures to states of the Northeast. One picture shows him giving away degrees to traditionally attired Naga students in Nagaland University while in the other he is interacting with female folk dancers of Arunachal Pradesh.