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Wings of Fire

Though tagged under review I’m going to try and bring the essence of the book, in no means I have the guts to write review on a book that’s written on/by Dr. APJ Adbul Kalam. Unlike regular biographies the book is filled with information and facts on Indian Space research straight from Dr. Kalam’s diary, has very limited information on his personal life. From Preface of the book we can understand Mr. Arun Tiwari co-author of this book had brought up this idea to write a book and put it work. The book is organized in seven sections but the core content is put inside 4 sections – Orientation, Creation, Propitiation, and Contemplation. While the rest cover how and why this book formed and what it intends to convey. Dr. Kalam being a spiritual person has quoted poems and lines from Quran throughout the book.

Orientation starts with the birth of the legend Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam in Rameswaram to Ashiaamma and Jainulabdeen, Dr.Kalam’s father is a humble boat owner and spiritually motivated person. Schooling life taught Dr.Kalam more than formal education, his family memebers like Jallaluddin though uneducated had somethings to teach. He feeds of the liberal minds of his father and father’s good friend head priest Pakshi Lakshmana sastry and his teacher Siva Subramania Iyer as and when we encountered castesium/untouchability . Dr. Kalam went to St. Joseph College, Trichy for learning science with Physics as major then reaches MIT, Chennai to pursue his ambition – Aeronautics Engineer. He aspired to become a pilot but his physical limitations puts an end to that dream, but as God decided he lands as Scientist in INCOSPAR.

Creation talks about how Dr. Kalam pursued and loved research, it covers few projects in which he worked and some he helped. Nandi was his first dream, an indigenous hovercraft which was sadly shelved though the prototypes seemed to work as expected. While he was down on spirit, he was pulled by MGK Menon and placed in Space research wing of India which will be formed at Thumba & Hyderabad and he developed a good relationship with Prof. Vikram Sarabhai. Under his guidance Dr. Kalam was asked to develop various sounding rockets later he was asked to be the Project Director for SLV -3 under the leadership of Dr. Brahm Prakash. Prof. Sathish Dhawan takes over the place of Prof. Sarabhai after his sad demises, and joins the team to aid in making the first indigenous SLV. After a humiliating failure, the second trial of SLV launch on 18 July 1980 – 0803hrs functioned as expected and became a grand success this got Dr. Kalam a PadmaBhusan.

Propitiation, following his grand success as Project director of SLV, the reputation that Dr. Kalam gained interested Ministry of Defense. And this interest got him into research wing of defense – DRDO at Dehra Dun, where he was asked to develop advanced missiles. Dr. Kalam set his own research center at Imarat, where he spent much of energy on scientist and engineers to motivate them and to help them be enthusiastic. He started Project IGMDP for creating 5 missiles Prithvi -Surface to Surface; Trishul – tactical; Akash – Surface to Air; Nag – Anti-tank; Agni – Reentry missile. One by one his team was achieving the goals; this attracted the concentration of world super powers. Soon International powers exerted much pressure on Indian government to go against testing of Agni, since it had the capability to carry nuclear weapon. Midst intense international pressure and criticism of media Dr.Kalam and his team successfully tested Agni on 22 May 1989- 0710hrs.

On the previous night Dr.Kalam was confused and tensed as previous 2 launches were called off and funny cartoons started to appear all over newspapers. To keep Dr.Kalam calm and help him relax Defense Minister (at that time) quipped “Kalam! What would you like me to do to celebrate the Agni’s success tomorrow” in reply Dr. Kalam replied “we need 100,000 saplings to plants at RCI”. I’m still smiling just thinking of how simply can a Director level person in DRDO takes care of nature, and we make big banners and paper pamphlets to say don’t cut tree without realizing we are already doing harm. Later in a university convocation he asked the students there to come forward and join India’s mission to make Astra, Air to Air missile. Soon Dr. Kalam was awarded Padma Vibushan.

Contemplation, “A large number of scientist and engineers leave this country at their first opportunity to earn more money abroad. It is true that they definitely get greater monetary benefits, but could anything compensate for this love and respect from one’s own countrymen?” – Dr.Kalam’s own words. Can I discuss about while working in MNC? Yes I will. To me going there is not bad but refusing to come back is! Refusing to rise along is! Running away from this country as you feel its rotten is cruel. All are not rotten; we have to remove the rotten ones before they spoil everything! Will you join hand?

Epilogue: Though the book is published at the dawn of 21st century, the information shared is much limited to the year 1990, but the rest are added in this section in few paras. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, who served in nations Space and Defense research joined Dept. of Atomic energy. Here he played many key roles including involving him in Nuclear Test of May 1998 which brought multiple ban on India’s economy abroad, basically it’s all out of fear that India would develop. He is also part of Self Reliant Mission, 1995 – 2005 it’s focus is to make all essential technologies inside India-indigenously – for which he called for the support of students. Also envisioned ‘The Technology Vision -2020′; for not just making India self-reliant but above it, as a front runner in technology space. Since Dr.Kalam believes that technology can raise a country above all and make it a super power, though the intension is not battle we have always witnessed that the side with superior technology wins one. Dr.Kalam was recognized as an important and valuable citizen of India when he was awarded Bharat Ratna – India’s highest civilian award.

At the time the edition was printed Dr. Kalam was sworn in as the President of India and was also Professor of Technology and societal Transformation, Anna University, Chennai. Dr. Kalam has always supported the involvement of students in India’s technology research at very early stage as early as design phase of SLV. From then Educational institutions are roped in to support the research and development of indigenous technology.

Dr.Kalam tells that every person on this earth is born with a fire within, he asks us to give it wings and make it fly. He asks us to achieve our dreams no matter how long or how hard it is. With that note I’ll complete this write up.

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