Nelson Mandela always considered Mahatma Gandhi as pioneer of apartheid movement in South Africa, recalls former President APJ Abdul Kalam who described his death as loss of a great personality whose contributions will be remembered for time immemorial.
In a long condolence message, Kalam recalled his visit to South Africa and said the youth can learn big lessons from two places -- Robben Island where Mandela had been imprisoned for 26 years and his house. "Indomitable spirit and virtue of forgiveness" could be learnt from these two places, he said.
Kalam recalled that it was a great event for him to have met Mandela, who was then 86, in his house at Johannesburg. "When I was leaving from his house he came to the portico to give me a send off and while walking he discarded his walking stick and I became his support. While walking I asked him, 'Dr. Mandela can you please tell me about the pioneers of anti-apartheid movement in South Africa?' He responded spontaneously, 'of course one of the great pioneers of South Africa's freedom movement was MK Gandhi.
"India gave us M.K. Gandhi, we gave you back Mahatma Gandhi after two decades. Mahatma Gandhi was an apostle of Non-Violence," Mandela had told Kalam.
Kalam quoted a line of poet Saint Thiruvalluvar who lived 2200 years ago to describe the personality of Mandela, "For those who do ill to you, the best punishment is to return good to them."
The former President also recalled his visit to Robben Island where Mandela had been in prison for 26 years. "I was shocked to see a tiny room, where sleeping and all human needs have to be fulfilled. It has to be remembered that Dr. Nelson Mandela, who was 6 feet tall was imprisoned in that room for 26 years - fighting against the apartheid. "The major part of his life was spent in this silent Island. He used to be taken for quarrying in the nearby mountain in bright sun which damaged his eyes. In spite of his body being tortured, he revealed to the world the 'indomitable spirit' in him. This is the time he evolved a manuscript of freedom in tiny letters every day, when the jail wardens went to sleep. This small tiny lettered manuscript finally became the famous book of Mandela 'A Long Walk to Freedom'," Kalam said.
He said he saw these unique qualities in Mandela's body and and soul. "In his passing away the world has lost a great personality. Humanity will remember his contributions for time immemorial," Kalam said.