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Ignited Minds

Kalam in his third book continues to say what he said in his earlier ones. Only this one is, according to him, aimed at children

books Updated: Feb 06, 2003 11:39 IST

Unleashing the power within India
APJ Abdul Kalam
Non-fiction
Viking
New Delhi, 2002
Pages: 205
Price Rs 250 (Hardcover)

Rarely have the writings of an Indian scientist been so widely read in India as President-elect Kalam’s books. Whether it is his multi-faceted personality, so the ability to reach out to the masses through his writing, or his inspirational life, Kalam undoubtedly remains an author many want to read.

Kalam in his third book continues to say what he said in his earlier ones. Only this one is, according to him, aimed at children, at making for them the path to a ‘developed’ India.

Kalam’s life has the potential to inspire, especially the less privileged. From a boat owner’s son in remote Rameshwaram to Rashtrapati Bhawan is quite a journey. And while he may not have ever planned to become President, what his life undoubtedly conveys is the power to dream big, and how you can strive for the realisation of your dreams. And this little book throughout stresses this fact.

His writing may not be the best of prose, but it has a strange ability to move the reader nevertheless. Continuing his theme of helping build a strong India, he exhorts on the need to attain a mindset of developed society, to ‘realise its destiny as a developed nation’. And in his previous book, Vision 2020, Kalam had set out a blueprint for making India a ‘developed nation’ by that year. Which leaves about 18 years to eradicate poverty, make all Indians literate, to create employment opportunities for all…

To find an answer to how this could be achieved, Kalam says he went across the country, to schools, ashrams, etc. In the introduction to the book he writes, "Where are we making a mistake? What is it that needs to be corrected? We have a roadmap in our five-year plans that cover some of the things we need to achieve. We have most of the necessary resources. There seems to be an attitude problem, as we cannot shake ourselves out of a mindset of limited achievement. This book is all about breaking away from the forces that would make us remain a nation of billion people selling cheap labour and raw material and providing a large market for goods and services of other nations.

Kalam’s solution to India’s problems seems rather simple. Though he claims to address the complexities of the problems, the solutions suggested often seem to simplify the issues to the extent of distorting them. Some of his ideas indeed seem to hark back to an era that modern thinkers shudder at, sometimes even verging on jingoism. His ideas of what constitutes a ‘developed’ society (nation is the more frequently used word in the book) would be at considerable variance with the ideas of those who are considered to be the best intellects of our age.

Simply written, the book is divided into nine short chapters, each with a theme. There is a summary at the end of each chapter. If some of his ideas are a little jarring, what partly compensates is the refreshing candour with which Kalam puts down his thoughts, not hesitating to point out what he perceives as our collective drawbacks. Even if you do not agree with all his ideas, read this little homily to get a quick insight into what our next president is likely to try out during his tenure. Going by his plans here, his presidency is going to be different from all the preceding ones.

First Published: Jul 25, 2002 16:00 IST