Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A.P.J Abdul Kalam:My Journey

Title: My Journey- Transforming Dreams into Actions
Author : A.P.J Abdul Kalam
Publisher : Rupa Publications
Genre : Non-fiction
ISBN : 9788129124913
Number of Pages: 146
Price : Rs. 195

Our Eleventh President can never get it wrong, it seems. From having designed missiles, to having devised strategic development plans for the country to having written books that share honest anecdotes from his life, he has done everything with excellence and elan. I particularly liked the book for his accounts of the scientific life and the challenges that didn't cow him down. How each failure only shaped his sight and made him a better human. His humility and spiritual connect to the Almighty God doesn't make you wonder, why he always gets it right. 

The first story My Father's Morning Walk talks of his father Jainulabdeen and his connect with nature and divinity. His calmness and composure made him a favourite person in the small town of Rameshwaram where people always used to turn upto him with their woes and wails. His spirituality was a healer to people battered by loneliness and worries and he had answers to souls scavenged by sorrows. 

The Boat inspires us to not force our ambitions and plans on paper and leave them in the care of the greater force called nature which has already charted a path for us. It communicates to us that surviving is gathering those pieces and moving on, just like his father did everytime a natural disaster failed him and his business.

A Working Boy at Eight tells us of Dr. Kalam's first job. Which involved delivering newspapers to the neighborhood and how it helped him to grow in physical stature and improved his judgement and calculations. His little contribution at eight incremented the family income hit by British policies, that fractured his father's business.
Three Great Hearts Resolve a Problem talks of the three great men in their temple town that including his father, who didn't let caste and religious divide ruin the harmony that their town delved in.
My Mother And My Sister talks of his mother and sister who placed his dreams beyond their ambitions and even in hunger to bail him out of crisis ridden situations so that he could realize his talents. Both their stories talk of the resilience and resourcefulness of an Indian woman who without recognizing her plans toils for the welfare and progress of her husband and children.How his mom giving up on her dinner and how her sister mortgaging her gold ornaments are stories of courageous Indian women who have been selfless yet strong.
My First Mentor is the story of Ahmed Jallaludin and his love and understanding for the little Abdul that recognized his prowess and gave him wings to fly. He has expressed his indebted thankfulness to him with sincerity and honesty. 
When I Failed documents his failures and falls beginning with his inability to make it to the top eight and qualify as an Air Force Pilot landing him a job as a scientific assistant. As he resigned to the will of destiny he got what was predestined for him, becoming one of India's greatest scientists. And all that could have never been possible had not Prof. Srinivasan pushed his limits that helped him recognize his true potential.
Looking forward to reading "Lights from Many Lamps", one of Dr. Kalam's favourite books. To find many inspiring stories in a single book would be like laying your hands on a collector's copy of a classic.
In A Brush With Fire, Dr. Kalam echoes the fears and doubts that most scientists have to go through when uncanny incidents unfold in front of them as adversities.  Both the incidents shaped him with more humility and hope than earlier.
In the story that talks of Dr. Kalam's first scientific mentor, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, it was amusing to read how a church building and its surroundings in Thumba were donated to be built into a space research station. The role of Reverend Father Dr. Peter Bernard in the establishment of the station has been wonderfully recited and so has been the incident when he didn't fret and considered it important to seek the permission of the congregation before handing over the land to Dr. Sarabhai. Dr. Sarabahai's qualities as a leader who had an eager ear to his junior's ideas and his ability to think creatively and build teams paved the path to making India self-sufficient in space research. As a young scientist, there are many lessons that this chapter taught me particularly to never bow to failures and keep trying until you don't succeed in your mission. 
A Life In Science talks of Dr. Kalam's journey from Rameshwaram to the Schwartz high school to MIT, and from there to building rockets some of which failed to take off and strengthened his ideas as a scientist and many of which earned him laurels and a name "The Missile Man of India". He has charted his fears and challenges as a rocket scientist very beautifully and painted the stories in the different colours of human emotions.

Our Eleventh president calls hardwork and piety, study and learning, compassion and forgiveness as the cornerstones of his life. His humbleness pestered him to go in the midst of people and know their problems which also earned him the title of "The People's President".

His spirituality and connect with God made his feet stay firmly on the ground, for with his kind of success someone like you or me would have got lost in the glitz and glamour of name and fame which could blind a vision. As a visionary his contribution to science and technology is outstanding and as a policy maker and thinker, the push he gave to the plans for India do deserve a loud round of applause from us.

The language is simple and lucid with a few editing errors here and there, but that doesn't take away the pleasure of reading. It's a book with just 146 pages, that has been written for the masses and especially for the young Indians with fairness and frankness. I give it 4.5/5, 0.5 points go away for the few minor errors I pointed out in editing. 

As a person pursuing sciences, this book was one of the most satisfying learning experiences where I learned from Dr. Kalam to surmise on my scientific sensibility and at the same time to not forget that spirituality is just the other side of the same coin called life. 


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