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Wings Of Fire: An Indian Scientist’s Odyssey

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam will always be remembered in India and world history for his enormous contributions to the great Indian space mission

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Nilesh Chogle
Nilesh Chogle
Accountancy and Auditing.CS from ICSI,Delhi.PGDFT from the World Trade Institute_Gold Medalist.keen in Pharma Industry,Corporate,Culture,Finance,Foreign Trade,Procurement & SCM.

INDIA: Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam (fondly remembered by modern India as Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam) was a revolutionary leader and a gentleman par excellence. The former Indian President was also a Bharat Ratna recipient.

Dr. Kalam was born in 1931 in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu. Dr. Kalam, who was a son of a less educated but wise and religious father set ambitious goals to transform his beloved country. He had an unparalleled and profound career as a defense scientist. A man like Dr. Kalam needs no special introduction.

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The world is aware of his astounding journey in Indian Space Research and Development, yet it is imperative to reintroduce his high ideals, morals, religious faith, inner courage, and extraordinary dynamism to the world at large, and particularly in India.

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Wings Of Fire – An Autobiography

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Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam will always be remembered in India and world history for his enormous contributions to the great Indian space mission.

After a dynamic, innovative, and interpersonal team building, in a career spanning for several decades, Dr. Kalam was sworn in as the eleventh President of India on July 25, 2002. Dr. Kalam served from 2002-2007.

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His autobiography, Wings of Fire, is a true guide to honest, sincere, hardworking, and courageous young minds who want to forge ahead with India’s excellent growth potential in science, research, and development, apart from other major projects.

With a vibrant history and multifarious culture, India stands at the threshold of recreating past lost glory for future humanity.

As narrated in the preface of the book by Arun Tiwari, “This book is written for the ordinary people of India for whom Dr. Kalam has an immense affection, and of whom Dr. Kalam is certainly one. He has an intuitive rapport with the humblest and simplest people, an indication of his simplicity and innate spirituality.”

A saga of ordinary people with extraordinary goals

In APJ Abdul Kalam’s own words of humility, like Jesus Christ, here he intones, “The story is an account, I hope not just of my triumphs and tribulations but the successes and setbacks of the science establishment in modern India. It is a story of national aspirations and cooperative endeavors. And, as I see it, the saga of India’s search for scientific self-sufficiency and technological competence is a parable for our times.”

He further intones, “Each creature on this beautiful planet is created by God to fulfill a particular role. Whatever I have achieved in life is through His help and an expression of His will. He showered His grace on me through some outstanding teachers and colleagues, viz; Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Prof.Satish Dhawan, and Dr. Brahm Prakash, they played major roles in my life and the story of Indian science., and when I pay my tributes to these fine persons, I am merely praising His glory.”

“All these rockets and missiles, viz; Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul, and Nag—missiles, that have become household names in India and that have raised the nation to the level of a missile power of international reckoning, are His work through a small person called Kalam, to tell the several-million mass of India, to never feel small or helpless. We are all born with a divine fire in us. Our efforts should be to give WINGS TO THIS FIRE, and fill the world with the glow of its goodness.”

The book is divided into four sections

Orientation [1931 – 1963 ]

The Orientation (pages 3 to 33) deals primarily with the person that was Dr. Kalam, his childhood days, and how he was shaped by his austere father Jainulabdeen, a man of honesty, self-belief, and deep faith in god. He had no formal education, yet he possessed immense wisdom and true spiritual generosity.

Most of Dr. Kalam’s early life is shaped by his parents. His mother was Ashiamma, who must have fed food to thousands of people in their large pucca ancestral home made of brick and limestone in Rameshwaram, Madras state. Dr. Kalam was amongst many children to his parents.

He respected all cultures from his childhood since his father had told him “when you pray,” he said, “you transcend your body and become a part of the cosmos, which knows no division of wealth, age, caste, creed.” Dr. Kalam tried to emulate his father in letter and spirit in his world of science and technology.

A lot is talked in this part about his schooling, college, and his days at Madras Institute of Technology (MIT). His affection and support from his sister Zohara have been exemplified in these parts.

Creation [ 1963 – 1980 ]

The Creation ( pages 37 to 106 ) deals primarily with his professional life as a nuclear Research Scientist and a hardcore visionary and builder of India’s missiles. He was cultivated and nurtured by eminent men, like Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Prof.Brahma Prakash, Prof. Dr. Satish Dhawan, and many others who have a great imprint on Dr. Kalam. They were the pioneering men who were chiefly responsible for shaping the professional career of dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

This section also deals with Research vis-a-vis Development. The minute differences between these two terminologies are well elucidated in these pages. His obeisance to institutions like NASA, (Langley Research Centre(LRC), Hampton, Virginia, INCOSPAR, TERLS, HAL, DRDO, Hyderabad, DTD&P(Air), ISRO, INSA, DAE, DEAL. 

It is difficult to enumerate all his transitions and his managerial acumen, team building, and teamwork exercises; his tough measures at instilling discipline amongst his colleagues and subordinate, thereby not making anyone feel inferior, but ensuring appropriate participation and valuing each individual in the desired projects to finally becoming India’s missiles man, creating mission of developing satellites and nuclear capabilities and establishing India as a truly sovereign nuclear state (Atma Nirbhar Bharat).

Propitiation [ 1981 – 1991 ]

The Propitiation (pages 109 to 155 ) is again his entire journey in missile technology and the development of indigenous superiority.

Contemplation [ 1991 – ]

Lastly, The Contemplation (pages 159 to 178) deals with contemplative learnings of all the achievements made during the nuclear space research and development platform.

Dr. Kalam has been an inspiration for the masses. In one of his speeches, Dr. Kalam spoke about the essential rules for success.

What does the book teach the modern youth?

  1. The odd jobs he did to pay his school fees.
  2. How Dr. Kalam became a vegetarian?
  3. Did he want to become an Indian Air-force Pilot?
  4. How he became a rocket engineer instead of a Collector as his father had dreamt?

On the evening of 25th January 1981 this announcement was intoned and on the next day, India’s Republic Day, the Home Ministry conferred the prestigious Padma Bhushan award upon Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam for his achievement towards the missiles and satellite technology establishing for modern India.

President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had his last breath on July 27, 2015, in Shilong, Meghalaya, and was laid to rest with full state honors.

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