New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee has said no president was ever loved so much like A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was and the "people's president's" demise overwhelmed him with a sense of tremendous loss.
"No president was ever loved so much... Watching Kalam enjoy the company of children and students, it seemed as if he was (Jawaharlal) Nehru in another form," Mukherjee told media persons.
The president said he was shocked when he heard the unexpected news of Kalam's demise. "A sense of tremendous loss overwhelmed me," he said.
"Kalam was always jovial but carried his years lightly. His mind was ever agile. He was humble but had a mighty mind. He was the people's president during his tenure as president and will continue to remain so in the hearts of people after his demise," Mukherjee said.
"I am deeply saddened by Kalam's unexpected demise. He would have completed 84 years in October. There is only a four year difference between us. He was born in October 1931 and I was born in December 1935," Mukherjee said.
"I, Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and a couple of others were present. The technical aspects of the tests at Pokhran II was explained by Kalam through an impressive presentation. (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee ji, ministers and other political leaders analysed it from the political angle," the president said.
"I was defence minister in the UPA-I government when he was the president and supreme commander of the armed forces. He asked me to support the Brahmos missile project. His direct encouragement resulted in the Brahmos being used by all the three services," Mukherjee said.
"Kalam's contributions enhanced our defence capabilities," Mukherjee added.
"Kalam used to often write poetry. Sometimes, while paying respects to departed soldiers at 'Amar Jawan Jyoti', he would compose a poem and quietly pass it on to me. I received two/three poems like this," the president recalled.
Their friendship developed because they had a common passion-books, he said.
"He loved books and lived amongst them. Moreover, he was a prolific writer. This passion brought us together. When we met and the few times he came to see me, we would discuss books. What each one was reading or what he was writing...."