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Kalam would say, ‘I don’t want to be choked in a Bandhgala’

APJ Abdul Kalam

The former president’s `Kalam suits’ were especially made for him in a Delhi shop because he didn’t want to wear the usual bandhgala

Three suits in Aman Jain’s Karol Bagh shop in Delhi will never be delivered to their rightful owner -APJ Abdul Kalam. On July 27 India lost its former president and pioneer of missile programmes and Jain lost his most famous customer. Jain, owner of the shop, which was the former president’s favourite for the last 20 years, narrates his experiences with the Missile Man – from his first visit till the very last one. “We genuinely feel blessed and fortunate that we got in direct touch with him. We tried serving the former president in the best way that we could,” says Jain.

FIRST VISIT WAS LIKE ANY OTHER REGULAR CLIENT

As a scientist and science administrator at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Kalam’s first visit to Jain’s Fairdeal Shop did not draw a lot of attention. Jain recounts, “His first visit to our shop was almost 20 years ago. He walked in like a regular customer and we treated him like that too. He was very simple and basic in his needs. During those days, his trademarks were a dark coloured trouser and a sky blue shirt.”

`I DON’T WANT TO GET CHOKED IN A BANDHGALA’

When Dr Kalam became president, Jain and his staff were very excited. Jain says, “It had been a few years since he became a regular and we suddenly heard his name had been proposed for president. After he became the president, we were called to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and he said, `I am suppose to wear a bandhgala, but one of my colleagues says that it will choke me and I will not be able to speak what is on my mind. Obviously , I don’t want that.So, what is the way out?’ I then started looking for a design that would suit him. We came up with this special `Kalam suit’, which is like a bandhgala but is slightly open in the middle.”

`YOU CLOTHED ME’

“He was never very vocal about any of his feelings. But once he told me, `You know what Aman? You have clothed me’. For a second I thought, `What is clothed?’ Then he told me it is a reference from the Bible. That was the best compliment I got from him. I feel very emotional every time I look at these suits,” says Jain.

THE DELIVERY THAT WASN’T TO BE

The shop currently has three Kalam suits ready which were supposed to be delivered to Kalam’s house on July 31. Recalling the day when he found out about his death, Jain says, “There have been a number of hoax calls about Dr Kalam in the past. So, when I got a call saying that he was no more, I was praying that it was another hoax, but when I tuned in to a news channel, I realised that it was true.”

THE LAST MEETING

Jain had invited Kalam for his daughter’s wedding in June and was told that social meetings are not attended by Kalam or any of his officials.

But to every one’s surprise, Kalam did show up for the wedding. “My last meeting with him was on the day of my daughter’s marriage. He spent 30-45 minutes with the newlywed couple and the young kids present there. With his motivational mantras, he made my daughter’s big day very special,” Jain says.

PEOPLE CALL AND ASK FOR KALAM SUITS

According to the staff at the shop, Kalam’s all-time favourite colours were light grey and sky blue. Initially, they made suits for him in navy blue and green, but these colours were rejected by him. “When people got to know about us, they started calling and enquiring about Kalam suits. It has become as popular as the Nehru jacket. Such calls are quite regular,” says Jain.

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