Leaving the splendour of the 360-room Rashtrapati Bhavan behind him, former President APJ Abdul Kalam on Wednesday moved into a tiny, seemingly uninviting guesthouse hidden away in Delhi Cantonment where he will have a Colonel for a neighbour. A police officer on duty outside House No 26, The Mall, definitely not Delhi's most stylish address, could be forgiven for commenting that the accommodation with its unaesthetic facade was hardly befitting of a former President.
The comforts indeed aren't royal. But the Army has left no stone unturned to make their former supreme commander feel cared for and wanted. Every detail has been addressed keeping Kalam's tastes and preferences in mind. Be it the colour of the upholstery, the music CDs stacked in the study, the hair oil in the dressing room or the items on the food menu; the Army has taken pains to make Kalam's transition to the new surroundings smooth.
Major General KJS Oberoi, General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area, told the
, "We did a thorough check on the ex-President's likes and dislikes before doing up the house. We found he loves Tamil and instrumental music so we picked up that stuff for him. His staff has informed us that he might retain the house for at least two months."
The official bungalow allotted to Kalam on Rajaji Marg is not yet ready for him to shift. His temporary accommodation basically serves as a guestroom for high-risk category retired officers visiting Delhi, such as former Army chief General VP Malik and Lieutenant General RS Dyal, (retd), who coordinated Operation Blue Star. Oberoi explained, "It is for security-sake that the house does not have swanky exteriors." Two
(orderlies), hailing from Kalam's hometown Rameswaram, were handpicked and sent to Rashtrapati Bhavan for training for five-days.
Asked to sum up his impressions about the new house, Kalam told
in his trademark style, "The accommodation is simply fantastic. The screensaver on the computer was a welcome message for me." Kalam personally conveyed to Oberoi his appreciation for the efforts made by the Army. In a rare departure from tradition, the new President Pratibha Patil and her husband Devi Singh Shekhawat accompanied Kalam on his ride from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to his new house.
Kalam will spend time reading stuff like
Nano-Hype: The Truth Behind the Nanotechnology Buzz
the Science Reporter
What the Quran Really Says
, among the books heaped up in his study.