Kalam and Wings of Fire

Who does not know APJ Abdul Kalam? Abdul Kalam is the name of inspiration, knowledge and glory. Though physically he is now no more in this world, he still lives in the hearts of countless Indians. His life was really simple. It is he who served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. He is admired in the entire world for his selfless service. He was a great scientist by profession. He played an important role in the progress of India’s missile programme. That is why he is popular as Missile Man of India.

Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu. He developed his career as a defense scientist who played an important role in the second Pokhran nuclear test in 1998. In short, Kalam played a significant role in shaping India’s future. For his contribution he earned great acclaim. He was honoured with several prestigious awards like Bharat Ratna in 1997, Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and Padma Bhushan in 1981. He died on 27 July 2015 in Shillong, Meghalaya.

Respected Kalam has written a number of inspirational books. Wings of Fire: An Autobiography is one of them. It is the autobiography of APJ Abdul Kalam. It has been written by Kalam and Arun Tiwari jointly. Mr. Arun Tiwari, a scientist, was a colleague of Dr Kalam. This inspirational autobiography was published in 1999. It has been written very honestly. It highlights the rise of kalam’s life and his contribution. This autobiography was first published originally in English. After that it has been translated and published in 13 languages.

Wings of Fire examines Kalam’s early life. At the same time it underlines his personal contribution in Indian space research and missile programs. It tells the story of his struggle and success. It examines kalam’s endeavor, hardship, strength and chance. In this book, the former president shares his individual experiences and minute details of his own life. This is also the account of independent India's struggle for technological development and defensive self-sufficiency. It also tells the tale of the origin of missiles like Agni, Trishul and Nag.

Wings of Fire starts with homage to Kalam’s parents. It has been divided into four sections- Orientation, Creation, Propitation and Contemplation.

The first section this book deals with the childhood of Kalam. It presents the details of his birth place, family, friends, teachers and other acquaintances. It also covers his early education and higher education. He completed his school education in Rameswaram. After that he joined St. Joseph College Trichi to complete his graduation. At last he went to Madras Institute of Technology. It was difficult for him and his family to afford the expenditure of this costly institute. His sister Zohara supported him at this stage. From MIT he went out to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited at Bangalore as a trainer. After the completion of engineering, he had applied for the Air Force and Directorate of Technical Development and Production. But he was not selected because he failed to pass the physical fitness standards. Later he was appointed there as Senior Scientific Assistant on a lower salary.

Wings of Fire tells that Kalam belonged to a lower class Tamil Muslim family. He used to sell newspapers to help his brother and to overcome his own financial challenges. In this first section kalam talks about his father. His name was Jainulabdeen, a boat owner. He was also the Imam of a small mosque in Rameshwaram. He was a man of great wisdom and kindness. People used to go to him for advice. In this part Kalam’s mother, Ashiamma, has been presented as an ideal mother. She has been depicted as an ideal house wife too. Here Kalam mentions Lakshmana Shastry. Lakshmana Shastry was the father of Kalam's friend Ramanadha Shastry. It was he who was the head priest of the Rameshwaram Temple. Kalam’s friend Ahamad Jalaluddin has been described here. It has been said that Kalam was influenced by him. He was 15 years older than Kalam. With his friend he talked about spiritual matters.This shows that spiritualism was a subject of his interest. He always went to Lord Shiva's temple with his friends.

In the first part of this autobiography Kalam expresses one significant event of his school life. He says that Rameswaram Shastry, a teacher, did not like sitting of a son of a Hindu priest with a Muslim boy like Kalam. Kalam was ordered to sit on the backbench. Kalam and his parents felt very sad at this attitude of the teacher. Lakshmana Shastry suggested the teacher that he should not spread the poison of social inequality and communal intolerance in the minds of innocent children.

The name of the second part of this autobiography is Creation. This section deals with Kalam’s progress as a man of science and innovation. Here one can find Kalam’s experience and his involvement with the military projects. His role as a scientist at DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization) and ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) finds fantastic expression here in this part. Here It has also been pointed out that he was given a project by DRDO on hovercrafts. When he joined ISRO, he was mentored by Vikram Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan. In this part Kalam remembers a painting in the lobby at NASA. That painting depicted a battle view with a rocket flying in the background. When he saw the picture attentively he found that displayed painting was of Tipu Sultan’s army. Kalam felt happiness to see the glory of India. The death of Kalam’s father also finds an expression in this part.

The third part of this autobiography is Propitiation. This part covers Kalam’s journey towards becoming the missile man of India. In this section, his excellent leadership qualities are clearly visible. In this phase of his life, Kalam played a prominent role in the development of the missiles named Prithwi, Trishul, Akash, Nag and Agni.

Contemplation is the last part of Wings of Fire. Here Kalam informs that he became the Scientific Advisor to India’s Defense Minister in 1992. Here the successful nuclear tests at Pokhran, Rajasthan in 1998 finds beautiful expression. As chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet Kalam prepared vision of India 2020.

In short, Wings of Fire is widely considered one of the most inspiring autobiographies. It is the fantastic account of the struggle and the success of an ordinary human being. The book is written in simple English. It offers an important lesson of finding success from failures.


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