For any Indian, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam is the name that needs no introduction. Mere mention of the name brings forth a calm smile and the reverence from the core. This book is known to be an autography (not an autobiography) of Dr Kalam covering his early life and his work in Indian space research and missile programs. The story of a boy next door who went on to become a key player in Indian space research/Indian missile programs and later became the president of India is no less than a miracle. When I picked up the book, I finished it two straight days, the first time for me J. In this book, he has shared his personal views and messages for the young generation of India encouraging and guiding them to take their country to the new heights. His honest and noble thoughts strongly & positively influence the readers & that includes me J

I simply loved the initial chapters of Wings of Fire as it shows a vivid picture of our country during 1930 – 1950s. Dr Kalam was born in Rameswaram, a southern religious town in Tamilnadu. The initial chapters provide an interesting glimpse of religious harmony, which existed before India’s partition. In the book we learn how Dr Kalam started his career in Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and was involved in the design of a hovercraft. Later he moved to Indian Space Research which was the brain child of another genious Dr Vikram Sarabhai. In 1963, Dr Kalam went to NASA facility in Maryland(USA) as part of a training program on sounding rocket launching techniques. There he came across a painting which depicted Tipu Sultan’s rocket warfare against the British,

Here, I saw a painting prominently displayed in the reception lobby. It depicted a battle scene with a few rockets flying in the background. A painting with this theme should be the most commonplace thing at a Flight Facility, but the painting caught my eye because the soldiers on the side launching the rockets were not white, but dark-skinned, with the racial features of people found in South Asia. One day, my curiosity got the better of me, drawing me towards the painting. It turned out to be Tipu Sultan’s army fighting the British. The painting depicted a fact forgotten in Tipu’s own country but commemorated here on the other side of the planet. I was happy to see an Indian glorified by NASA as a hero of warfare rocketry.”

The book covers a lot of “behind the scene” information and technical details about India’s satellite and missile program (SLV-3, Prithvi, Agni, Trishul, Akash and Nag). This might interest technically inclined readers but is sure to put off readers who bought the book to get to know Dr Kalam or his principles/ideas. Space and missile programs are massively complex projects and managing them is extremely challenging. The book does give a glimpse of the participatory management technique adopted by Dr Kalam, but as it would suit most of the readers, it doesn’t go much deep.

Through Wings of Fire, I got an opportunity to know some brilliant people like Dr Vikram Sarabhai & Dr Brahm Prakash, who worked behind Indian space research program. The book also shows 24 rare photographs. I personally found the ones from the early days of Indian space program extremely interesting. This fact alone is worth the price of the book!

One of the things that stands out throughout the book is Dr Kalam’s optimism. He held many high ranking positions in various organizations, yet in the book he rarely mentions anything about lethargy/corruption of bureaucracy or politicians. The secret to his success seems to be his ability to ignore negative things around him. The book provides enough hints on why he was one of the most popular figures in India. His simple, secular and humanitarian approach has been inspirational for millions, I proudly am one of those millions 🙂

Abhisht

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