I met Kalam four times. He was very unassuming, charming. Kalam was born in Rameswaram, but all of India has a claim on him. As president, on an official visit to Thiruvananthapuram in 2002, Kalam visited a cobbler who used to chat with him during his days in the city.
Kalam was fond of arts. As president, he invited my daughter-in-law, Gopika Varma, to perform mohiniyattam at Rashtrapati Bhavan. In 2006, Kalam delivered the Sree Chithira Thirunal Lecture in Thiruvananthapuram. In the speech, he said that as a young man in Thiruvananthapuram in the 1960s, he used to wait with hundreds of other people, anxiously, to catch a glimpse of Maharaja Balarama Varma, my maternal uncle, and greet him. Kalam showed a lot of warmth whenever he met us. I would like to believe that he was an adopted son of Thiruvananthapuram.
On his visits to the Kowdiar Palace, we offered him high tea, which he liked. He also liked the Matilakathu payasam from the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
As told to Anirudha Karindalam