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Book Review

Book Review : Wings of Fire

Wings of Fire..Review


APJ Kalam’s “Wings of Fire” is an autobiography, detailing the major events of Kalam’s life. According to Kalam, the novel reveals the picture of his life, in a manner similar to bird’s eye view, as seen from afar. In sharing this story, with the people Kalam has tries to give some insight into his journey of life, the story of the making of a scientist. Kalam expects that his story will equip atleast a few young people to stand up to the authoritarianism in our society.
Abdul Kalam has come to personally represent to many of his countrymen, the best aspects of Indian life. Born in 1931 the son of a little educated boat-owner in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, he had an unparalleled career as a defense scientist, culminating in the highest civilian award of India, the Bharat Ratna. As chief of the countries defense research and development programme, Kalam demonstrated the great potential for dynamism and innovation that existed in seemingly moribund research establishments. This is the story of Kalam’s own rise from obscurity and his personal and professional struggles, as well as the story og Agni, Prithvi, Trishul and Nag- that have become household names in India and that haveraised the nation to the level of a missile power of international reckoning.
Kalam as a person is an extremely humble individual with a very humble background. He is an extremely spiritual person without any fundamentalism in his religious belief. He has faith in God as an all powerful source of energy, energy that can be felt flowing through ones existence when we come in close mental contact with God. His religion is that of humanity, one which unites the various forms of God.
As kalam himself says that he has always been a religious person in the sense that he maintains a working partnership with God. He believes that the best work requires more ability than he possesses and therefore he needs God’s help. He makes a true estimate of his ability then raises it 50% and puts himself in God’s hands. In this partnership, he has always received all the power he needed and in fact even felt it flowing into him. He affirms that the kingdom of God is within us in the form of this power. This power helps to achieve your goal and realize your dreams. He may not be an example to others, but a few souls may draw inspiration and come to balance that ultimate satisfaction which can only be found in the life of the spirit.
Kalam learned the various philosophies of his versatile life from relatively simple people in his life like his father Jainalabdeen and brother-in-law Jalaluddin. His simple school and college teachers like Subramaniam Iyer and Rev. Solomon who made the first and lasting impressions on his persona. These various philosophies of life have modeled Kalam, the way he is.
Kalam’s story is the story of the son of Jainalabdeen, who lived for over a hundred years on Mosque street in Rameswaram island and died there; the story of a lad who sold newspaper to help hid brother; the story of a pupil reared by Sivasubramannia Iyer and Iyadurai Solomon; the story of a student taught by teachers like Pandalai; the story of an Engineer spotted by MGK Menon and groomed by the legendry Prof. Sarabhai; the story of a scientist tested by failures and setbacks; the story of a leader supported by a large team of brilliant and dedicated professionals. But this story will end with Kalam, for he has no inheritance in the worldly sense. He has acquired nothing, built nothing, possesses nothing- no family, sons, daughters.
For Kalam his father had lived and died as a role model for every penitent and faithful man, who fear the merciful, though HE is unseen and comes before Him with a contrite heart.
Throughout the novel we may trace the various philosophical beliefs of Kalam, that have tempered him into the person that he is. Kalam says that the conventional world judges by appearances instead of judging appearances.
The biggest problem, Indian youth faces, according to kalam is a lack of clarity of vision, a lack of direction. He therefore decided to write about the circumstances and people who made him what he is today; Kalam just wants to say that no one, however poor, underprivileged or small, need feel disheartened about life. Problems are a part of life. Suffering is the essence of success.
Kalam suggests that, though he himself feels that his life cannot be a rolemodel for anybody; but some poor child living living in an obscure place, in an underprivileged social setting may find a little solace in the way his destiny has been shaped. It could perhaps help such children liberate themselves from the bondage of their illusionary backwardness and helplessness. Irrespective of where they are right now, they should be aware that God is with them and when He is with them, who can be against them?
He also says, that, the youth of today must de-learn the self defeating way of living life. The culture of working for material possessions and rewards must be discarded. Kalam points that, when he sees wealthy, powerful, learned people struggling to be at peace with themselves, he thinks of people like his father, jainulabdeen, his brother-in-law Jalaluddin, his teacher Iyadurai Solomon Etc. These were the people who were very happy, even though they were people with virtually no possessions. These were people who felt so secure, though they had nothing to fall back upon. They drew sustenance from within. They relied more on the inner signals and less on the external ones; like wealth, prestige, position, promotion, approval of ones lifestyle by others, ceremonial honors and status symbols of all kinds.
One must be aware of the inner signals and trust them. One must also have the focus of control over ones life in ones own hands. If we learn to make decision avoiding external pressures, which will constantly try to manipulate and immobilize us, the better or life will be; the better our society will become. The entire nation will benefit by having strong, inner directed people as their leaders. A citizenry that thinks for itself, a country in which people know and trust themselves as individuals, would be virtually immune to manipulation by any unscrupulous authority or vested interest.
Our willingness to use our own inner resources to invest our life, especially our imagination, will bring us success. When we undertake a task from our own uniquely individual standpoint, we will become a person. Life is a difficult game which can be won only by retaining our birthright to be a person. To retain this right we must be willing to take the social or external risks involved in ignoring pressures to do things the way others say they should be done. Kalam has always considered the price of perfection prohibitive and allowed mistakes as a part of learning. He prefers a bit of daring and persistence to perfection. Mistakes for Kalam are lessons that one learns on the way to success. To avoid failures one must anticipate them. Further he says that it is in the handling of the crises that arise as a consequence, that talent can often be revealed.
In the novel Kalam gives the gist of a quote be G.B.Shaw. The gist says that all reasonable men adapt themselves to the world. Only a few unreasonable men persist in trying to adapt the world to themselves. All progress in the world depends on these unreasonable men and their innovative and often non-conformist actions.
For Kalam, a good plan violently executed right now, is far better than a perfect plan executed next week, as said by General George Pattan.
Kalam is a man, clothed beautifully in his success. He is known as the Missile man of india. His success lies not only in the successful Missile and Space Launch Vehicle tests, but in the fact that through his efforts, some superb teams of Scientists and Engineers have been created. He pins down his achievement as to having created an environment for teams of young people to put their heart and soul into their mission.
Total commitment is not just hard work; it is total involvement. Building a wall is a back breaking work. There are people who build rock walls all their lives. And when they die, there are miles of walls, mute testimonials to how hard their people had worked. But there are other men who build rock walls, and all the time they are placing one rock on top of another they have a vision in their minds, a goal. The rock wall may enclose an apple orchard or make a boundary. When they finish, they have more than a wall. It is the goal that makes the difference.
When Kalam looks back in retrospect on his days as a young scientist, he is aware that one of the most constant and powerful feelings that he experienced was his desire to be more than what he was at that moment. He had a strong unwillingness to let his mind wallow in pettiness, where it idles. He desired to feel more, learn more, express more. He desired to grow, improve, purify, expand. He never had any outside influence to advance in career, all he had was the inner urge to seek more within himself. The key to his motivation was to look at how far he had to go rather than how far he had come. It is his belief that through difficulties and problems, God gives the opportunity to grow. So when our hopes and dreams and goals are dashed, search among the wreckage, we may find a golden opportunity hidden amidst then ruins.
At Jadavpur University he was conferred the Doctor’s degree and he had advised the young audience saying, “Be more dedicated to making solid achievements than in running after swift but synthetic happiness.”
With all these simple philosophies of life Kalam has not only reached his goals, but he has eclipsed them.
Always encouraged to be a Buddha or Gandhi; how and why did India become a missile power is a question that needs to be answered for the coming generation. For Kalam, two centuries of subjugation, oppression and denial have failed to kill the creativity and capability of Indian people. It is our bounden duty to guarantee the security and integrity of our nation against this threat of subjugation. Only when we are technologically self reliant will we be able to safeguard our security.
In addition to creating India’s awesome weaponry, Kalam has maintained the ascetic rigour of his personal life, working 18 hours a day and practicing the veena. With characteristic modesty, Kalam ascribes the greatness of his achievements to the influence of his teachers and mentors. He describes the struggles of his boyhood and youth, bringing alive everyday life in a small town in South India and the inspirational role of educators. He describes the role of visionary Indian Scientists, such as Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, and of the creation of a coordinated network of research institutions. This is also the saga of independent India’s struggle for technological self sufficiency and defensive autonomy- the story as much about politics, domestic and international as it is about science.
Success is entrusted by God on those shoulders that are humble enough to handle the big prize. “God can do tremendous things through the person who doesn’t care about who gets the credit. The ego involvement must go.” Schuller.
This story is an account, not just of the personal triumphs and tribulations of Kalam’s, successes and setbacks of the science establishment in modern India, struggling to establish itself in the technological forefront. It is the story of national aspiration and of cooperative endeavors, and the saga of India’s search for scientific self sufficiency and technological competence is a parable of our times.
Every individual creature on this beautiful planet is created by God to fulfill a particular role. Whatever Kalam has achieved in life is through His help, as an expression of His will. He showered His grace on Kalam through some outstanding teachers and colleagues and whenever Kalam pays a tribute to these fine people, he is merely singing His glory. All these rockets and missiles work through a small person like Kalam, in order to tell the several million mass of India, to not ever feel small or helpless. Kalam says, that we are all born with a divine fire in us. Our effort should be to give wings to this fire and fill the world with the glow of its goodness.
Let the latent fire in the heart of every Indian acquire wings and the glory of this great country light up the sky.
As for the youngsters of India Kalam says-
I am a well in this great land
Looking at its millions of boys and girls
To draw from me
The inexhaustible divinity
And spread His grace everywhere
As does the water drawn from a well.

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Wings of Fire
Category : Autobiography
Book Title : Wings of Fire
Author : APJ Abdul Kalam
Publication : OrientLongman
Primary Language : English

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, the son of a little-educated boat-owner in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, had an unparalleled career as a defence scientist, culminating in the highest civilian award of India, the Bharat Ratna. As chief of the country's defence research and development programme, Kalam demonstrated the great potential for dynamism and innovation that existed in seemingly moribund research establishments.

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