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Wings of fire by APJ Abdul Kalam

15 December 2022

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Book review: The Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam
                 by Nitya Govil 

The Wings of Fire, an autobiography by none other than the missile man of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. I would like to move further by mentioning a quote from the book “ God has not promised Skies always blue, Flower-strewn pathways all our life through; God has not promised Sun without rain, Joy without sorrow, Peace without pain. “

Moving onwards with the wise words by our former President, this book is about his early life struggles and how he came across them and his work in Indian space research and missile programs. The story of a young man who came from not so very well off background who then became a role model for millions of students and the major name in Indian history of science and technology. If someone is looking for them to aspire, this book is a perfect start. I mean how can not someone get inspired this this book. It not only covers the journey of Kalam but many of life lessons that one should keep in mind. We all know that how kind and humble Kalam was bit with the help of this book, I felt like I was there witnessing his journey covering all the milestones in midway. He quoted his journey as “ A big shot is a little shot who keeps on shooting, so keep trying. “


Kalam was born in Rameswaram, a southern religious town in Tamilnadu. The initial chapters provides an interesting glimpse of religious harmony which existed before the partition, the famous Shiva temple, which made Rameswaram so sacred to pilgrims, was about a ten minute walk from their house. Their locality was predominantly Muslim, but there were quite a few Hindu families too, living amicably with their Muslim neighbours.
There are instances in the where a teacher spreading social inequality is punished and force to leave the school.

Kalam in younger years wanted to be an officer in air force, however he couldn’t clear the interview. He met Swami Sivananda after this failure and I found his words to Kalam interesting and in a way prophetic; “ Accept your destiny and go ahead with your life. You are not destined to become an airforce pilot. What you are destined to become is not revealed now but it is predetermined. Forget this failure, as it was essential to lead you to your destined path. Search, instead, for the true purpose of your existence. Become one with yourself, my son! Surrender yourself to the wish of God. “ These words have now stick with me for the rest of my life. If you find me attaching many of his quotes from the book in this review, pardon me already but I can’t stop myself from doing so.
Here one more, " Once your mind stretches to a new level it never goes back to its original dimension. “ How beautifully Kalam has quoted his self musings in his work left me in awe! The book allows me to think in a way that I wasn’t aware of. He also showed his views on the contemporary Indian society as he says, “ What makes life in an Indian organizations difficult is the widespread prevalence of this very contemptuous pride. It stops us from listening to our juniors, subordinates and people down the line. You cannot expect a person to deliver results if you humiliate him, nor you can expect him to be creative if you abuse him or despise him. The line between firmness and harshness, between strong leadership and bullying, between discipline and vindictiveness is very fine , but it has to be drawn.”

In the book, Kalam mentioned the start of his career in Aeronautical Development Establishment commonly known as ADE then how he switched to the off spring of Vikram Sarabhai’s brain Indian Space Research and then how he landed in NASA. 

For the technical readers, this book is an epitome, a treasure but as an autobiography it is, readers like me thought that we might get to know some personal answers from kalam’s life. Kalam had a thing for poems and we can see many of the poems in the book. One of his favourite poem that he has written is: 

“Do not look at Agni
As an entity directed upward
To deter the ominous
Or exhibit your might.
It is fire in the heart of Indian.
Do not even give it
The form of a missile
As it clings to the 
Burning Pride of this nation
And this it bright.”

Kalam was a versatile personality with many talents: he was a scientist, a poet, an instrumentalist and a democrat. He has outstanding tendency of being positive and this can be noted by the reader. I think in the order of 180 pages only, President has efficiently portrayed what he wanted to do. My rating for the book will vary from 8.5 to 9/10. 

Thank you

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The wings of fire: review of original.
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This is just a book review. Original book is written by APJ Abdul Kalam.