Young Kalam had three close friends in his childhood-Ramanadha Sastry, Aravindan, and Sivaprakasan. All these boys were from orthodox Hindu Brahmin families. As children, none of them ever felt any difference amongst themselves because of their religious differences and upbringing.
Ramanadha Sastry was the son of Pakshi Lakshmana Sastry, the high priest of the Rameswaram temple and later he took over the priesthood of the Rameswaram temple from his father; Aravindan went into the business of arranging transport for visiting pilgrims; and Sivaprakasan became a catering contractor for the Southern Railways.
"During the annual Shri Sita Rama Kalyanam ceremony, our family used to arrange boats with a special platform for carrying idols of the Lord from the temple to the marriage site, situated in the middle of the pond called Rama Tirtha which was near our house," Dr. Kalam wrote.
Events from the Ramayana and from the life of the Prophet Muhammed were the bedtime stories young Kalam's mother and grandmother would tell the children in family.
According to Dr. Kalam, one day, when he was in the fifth standard at the Rameswaram Elementary School, a new teacher came to the class.
Kalam used to wear a cap which marked him as a Muslim, and he always sat in the front row next to Ramanadha Sastry, who wore a sacred thread.
"The new teacher could not stomach a Hindu priest's son sitting with a Muslim boy. In accordance with our social ranking as the new teacher saw it, I was asked to go and sit on the back bench," Dr Kalam wrote.
Young Kalam felt very sad, and so did young Ramanadha Sastry.
"He looked utterly downcast as I shifted to my seat in the last row. The image of him weeping when I shifted to the last row left a lasting impression on me," wrote Dr. Kalam.
After school, they went home and told their respective parents about the incident.
When his father heard about it, he, along with his learned Brahmin friend and a Christian priest, summoned the teacher.
"They would not allow their children to be segregated," the three wise men said to the penitent teacher, reports The Telegraph.
Lakshmana Sastry, told the teacher that he should not spread the poison of social inequality and communal intolerance in the minds of innocent children.
"Not only did the teacher regret his behaviour, but the strong sense of conviction Lakshmana Sastry conveyed ultimately reformed this young teacher. On the whole, the small society of Rameswaram was highly stratified and very rigid in terms of the segregation of different social groups," Dr. Kalam Wrote.
('The three wise men' usage is not recorded in his autobiography, but, he told this to The Telegraph report mentioned above.)
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