[Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays tribute to Kalam. (Photo credit: Sitanshu Kar on twitter)]
Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu): Preparations are on for the final journey of India's 'Missile Man' and former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Thursday, with large number of people gathered outside his residence here.
Kalam who died on July 27 in Shillong due to cardiac arrest will be accorded state funeral and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to arrive here around 10.30 a.m.
As per plan, youth icon Kalam's body would be taken to a mosque here for prayers. From there the mortal remains will be carried to the burial site.
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar are already here.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and several other leaders would also attend Kalam's last rites.
Kalam's family members have also reached here.
"All our relatives have also arrived to attend the last rites," A.P.J.M.K. Sheik Saleem, the former president's brother's grandson, told IANS.
The government declared a public holiday on Thursday, under the Negotiable Instruments Act. As a result, banks, insurance companies, schools and colleges are closed throughout the state.
The government has also ordered closure of liquor shops and bars.
Around 30,000 jewellery shops would also remain closed, while petrol bunks would stop selling for an hour between 10-11 a.m. as a mark of respect for Kalam.
Movie theatre owners too have decided to shut down while fishermen have decided not to venture into the sea.
Political parties like the DMK and the AIADMK have cancelled their functions.
Interestingly, the closure decisions by private sector organisations were voluntary which shows that Kalam was truly a "People's President".
Born in Rameswaram on October 15, 1931, Kalam, as a boy, hawked newspapers to supplement his family income. His father owned a boat, and his mother constantly struggled to keep the family sufficiently fed and clothed.
His sister pawned jewellery with a moneylender so that the studious Kalam could have Rs.600 when he decided to leave Rameswaram to join the Madras Institute of Technology.