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Wings Of Fire

Wings Of Fire is unequivocally one of the most sincere and piercing accounts of a life well spent. More, it is a story well told.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2003 12:26 IST

Wings Of Fire

An autobiography A P J Abdul Kalam with Arun Tiwari
Non-fiction
University Press and Mr. M Reddy,
Distributed by Orient Longman Ltd.
Price: Rs. 200 (Paperback)
Pages: 180

Wings Of Fireis unequivocally one of the most sincere and piercing accounts of a life well spent. More, it is a story well told.
The autobiography of one of the nation’s most distinguished achievers and the presidential candidate is a prismatic journey that plumbs the very roots of Kalam’s composite experience of life and science.

The two, as the reader follows, are related to each other as organically as heart is to emotion. The queer and fascinating relationship between unwavering spirituality and staunch scientific temper forms the vertebrae of the book, and it is through the debate and reconciliation of the two elements that the book proceeds to project its story.

Kalam himself is a product of this mesmerizing interplay. The book begins at the beginning, as the biographer, and through him the author, recreate the magical beauty of Ramesaram, the fertile, serene progenitor of Kalam’s moral fiber.
An encouraging and affectionate matrix of family and friends as Jallaluddin and Samsuddin are introduced in the narrative, never to be discarded. In fact, this one feature stands out in the book. None of Kalam’s edifying affiliations, whether they are people, or places or events are forgotten. Like individual pivots, they contribute to the course that the scientist’s life takes.

Overtly, Wings Of Fire tells the reader more about the professional progression of the protagonist and less about personal feats and failure. The accomplishment of the book however, lies in the fact that these two elements are connected with an invisible, yet brawny umbilical cord.
To detach Kalam’s work with Prithvi,Agni,IGMDP with his chance encounter with Swami Sivananda would do irrevocable damage to the amalgamated experience that the book slowly and surely moves towards. Similarly, the immense contribution of Prof. Vikram Sarabhai, Prof. Satish Dhawan and Dr. Brahm Prakash to Kalam’s life cannot be considered purely incidental, or purely professional.

Which is why Abdul Kalam is a man whose life is worth writing about, worth reading about and worth learning from. Very rarely does one feel an endearing empathy for- what eventually turns out to be- a success story. But this is not just another man who struggled and made it. This is the story of a man who, despite his real and assumed handicaps, ‘made the world adapt to him’, a man who insists that India shouldn’t be the fifth nation, the fourth nation, but the first, always the first.

But then, neither Wings Of Fire, nor this review is an enthralled eulogy to the President-in-waiting. The book is bigger, by far, than the man. It expounds sans didacticism, the merits of high thinking, good living, sound leadership, humility, thirst for knowledge, courage, determination and above all, faith. To believe in, and to practice doggedly.

That an ordinary, inconsequential small town dreamer spurred by faith in God, in himself and in the faith of those who loved him, became an extraordinary leader of many minds, is not terrifically stellar. But, that an extraordinary leader impelled by knowledge remains indebted to and reverent towards those who breathed life into his aspirations is indeed noteworthy. Wings Of Fire is a must read.