Prime Minister's visit for the second time to Rameswaram in two years highlights the respect he has for Dr Kalam. He took keen interest in the details of the memorial. It had to reflect the various facets of the life of Dr Kalam. The design showed an aspect of the Rashtrapati Bhavan in its central dome. Just below and around it was the circular facade of the Parliament. Four square halls with interlinking corridors flowed around the final resting place of the 'rocket-man born here.
The soft pink stone and the marble from Rajasthan, granite from the Deccan, the artisans from Agra and elsewhere, painters from Udaipur, wood carvers from Tamil Nadu, so on and so forth.
The exhaustive photographic collection of Dr Kalam's life captured with great sensitivity showed how from the southern tip of our country he reached the highest position as the President of the largest Democracy. Also it is well recorded that this trajectory was unusual, in that he achieved recognition as a scientist first and then as a much-admired President. Who can ever forget that historic on-site picture of Dr Kalam explaining the Pokharan II implosion to PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee?
This visit had another significant side to it. Dhanushkodi as the very name suggests, is the southern tip of the island Pamban/Rameshwaram. From Chennai, then Madras, the Boat Mail, brought pilgrims to Rameshwaram, several of whom, took the boat from Dhanushkodi to have a darshan of the ancient shiva temples in Sri Lanka. The boat ride was just under 20 minutes across to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. This ride runs parallel to the RamaSethu.
Dhanushkodi had a railway station, a small railway yard, a post & telegraph office, a railway hospital, a customs office, an elementary school and a port office too. This port office was located there since the beginning of World War I. All these, with an entire train and over 150 passengers were washed away by a horrific cyclone in 1964. Nearly 1800 people were tossed into the sea, forever.
I have an emotional personal connect to this episode. As an infant, during that cyclone, I was lying in the Railway Hospital in Villupuram with a severe attack of Diptheria. Not much hope, may have to move the child to Madras, my mother was told. My father, in Rameshwaram on-duty caught up in the super-cyclone, was untraceable, like many others. He was on-duty again to return from Rameshwaram. But the tracks were washed away and there weren't any trains! However, fortunately for the family, my father returned safe.
The pious kept visiting this part of the island even afterwards, to perform rituals in memory of the pitru-s on the sea shore, like Lord Shri Ram did for His father Dasaratha. Small hardy jeeps drove them from Rameswaram over several undulating sand dunes. The routes kept changing in line with the rise and fall of the tides.
Prime Minister Modi dedicated an all-weather road to Dhanushkodi during this visit. Together with Rameshwaram, Dhanushkodi shall also be revived under the Amrut scheme. To top this, PM Modi also flagged off the Shradda Sethu Express connecting Rameswaram to Ayodhya.
Decades after the deadly super-cyclone of 1964, the once abandoned town is seeing revival. I can only thank our Prime Minister on behalf of all those who are in someway connected to this region.
Nirmala Sitharaman is the Union Minister of State of Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge)
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