Rameswaram: Janab Haji A P J Mohamed Muthu Meera Maraikayar, elder brother of former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, turned 104 today.
House of Kalam in Rameswaram has planned a very private event on the occasion of Maraikayar birthday in the evening.
“Owing to Covid-19 restrictions, the celebrations are simple this year. Only close family members and friends will be present for cake-cutting at House of Kalam. Greetings have been coming from across the world and we are overwhelmed,” Shiek Saleem, grandson of Dr Kalam told Onmanorama.
Ever since Maraikayar turned 100 in 2016, his birthday has been celebrated with great fanfare in Rameswaram with thousands of well-wishers visiting House of Kalam to greet him.
The family on their part has been launching several green initiatives to mark birthdays of Dr Kalam and Maraikayar.
“Today we will be planting 1000 saplings to mark his birthday in addition to distributing a few scholarships for the needy students. We also visited A P J Abdul Kalam Memorial today and offered our prayers. On every special occasion at House of Kalam, we pay our visit to the memorial,” says Saleem.
Maraikayar often wanted to keep all celebrations low key and asked the people of Rameswaram to focus on the well-being of each other.
During his 100th birthday in 2016, Saleem said the family gifted him with a box of attar (perfume) as a special birthday present.
“It was a very emotional moment to all of us as the attar collection was preserved by Dr Kalam with great care and wanted to gift him on his brother’s 100th birthday. Following his demise in 2015, we ensured that the special gift was handed over to Maraikayar as per his wishes,” says Saleem.
The hand-crafted box contained 15 different varieties of attar and Maraikayar used it whenever he went to the mosque to offer Friday prayers.
“We were told that the attar was gifted to Dr Kalam by then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav,” recalls Saleem.
Despite his advancing age, Maraikayar often meets people who insist on having a chat with him.
“He is up to date with the happenings across the world. He loves spending time with great-grandchildren Azeem Ahmed, Aasil Liyana and Aasil Mifrah. He loves meeting people and obliges to every request the visitor has,” says Shiek Dawood, another grandson.
A coconut farmer and owner of fishing boats during his active days, Maraikayar hit the headline when he launched a campaign for Dr Kalam’s memorial in 2016.
“The memorial for his younger brother Dr Kalam who became the President of India was his desire. The campaign caught national attention and soon the memorial work gained momentum. He was a happy man after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated it,” says Dawood.
During an interaction with this Correspondent last year, Maraikayar said that how well one lived is important than how long.
“Several people ask me about my feeling of living beyond 100 years. You can have a long life provided you follow a strict discipline. You will have to follow your routine every day. Keep life simple and be compassionate to fellow beings. How well you live is important, rather than how long. You are the master of your destiny,” Maraikayar said.
Maraikayar’s memory is very sharp and he follows a simple and disciplined life. With assistance from his family members, he offers namaaz five times a day and never misses the date with newspapers.
Interestingly, the birthday boy doesn’t use the spectacles even now to read.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)