Former President A P J Abdul Kalam, who turned 80 on Saturday, celebrated a ‘unique and green birthday’ in the company of hundreds of children and farmers at Nandangarai, 25 KM from the city.
“This is the first time I am celebrating my birthday in a grand, but unique manner, that too in the company of children,” an emotional Kalam said, after cutting a cake.
Dressed in a gray full-sleeved safari suit, Mr. Kalam, who was received by the trustees of Siruthuli, a NGO, which organised a function of planting tree saplings, took a seat on a swing, taking two girl children by his side, with more than 2,500 children watching.
While swinging, two students, standing on either side, fanned him with ‘Venchamaram’ (cluster of strands made of Lion’s hair) and peacock feathers, as students and others gathered wished him happy birthday.
Later, Mr. Kalam planted a naval (jambul) sapling, said to be the seedling of a tree, planted by Mahatma Gandhi during his visit to the city, some decades ago.
He also accepted a ‘green’ gift on his birthday- a Pasumai Ponnadai,’ a green shawl, with 80 leaves woven on it, offered by the ‘Green Army’ of Siruthuli.
The event has been named ‘Paadhai Engum Pasumai’ (green everywhere) indicating the green path envisioned by Mr. Kalam to make India a super power by 2020, through participation of the student fraternity, during which 10,000 saplings would be planted in Coimbatore city, the organisers said.
Siruthuli, under its ‘Pasumpulari’ project, plans a year long afforestation drive to plant one lakh saplings in the city to commemorate the 2011 UN declaration as the International Year of Forests. More than 60,000 saplings have been planted in various locations and rest would be planted soon after the onset of North East Monsoon, they said.