Wings of Fire

29 09 2008

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, or simply APJ Abdul Kalam, is one of the most well known defense ‘scientists’ that India has seen in recent decades. I have been an admirer of his thinking and contributions to the nation since mid 1990s. That was the time he was regularly cited, quoted and interviewed by Indian newspapers and TV channels after and in between successful test flights of indeginously developed missiles under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP), of which he was the chief architect and thus he is and will be remembered as Missile Man of India for the posterity. He was granted multiple extensions in service.

In early 1998, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, just after becoming Prime Minister of India for the second time, appointed Kalam as his Adviser on Scientific Affairs as he had special plans. The plans came out of fold soon when on May 11 and 13 of 2008, Lord Budha smiled once again. With the green signal from the government of nationalists in New Delhi, a Indian nuclear scientists planned and executed explosions of five nuclear devices in Pokhran and changed the world view of India for ever. APJ Abdul Kalam was at the vanguard of Committee of Experts which spearheaded the project. Later on, in 2002, he was elected President of the Union of India with an overwhelming vote.

Though at times a bit contentious, while his stay at Rashtrapati Bhawan, he was truly people’s president and actively pursued dialogue with student and research community and thus shed the image of Union’s President being ceremonial. He championed in his ways, making people realize the value of education.

Above written words are not description of the book as the book covers his life till 1993. But the book tells all about the making of Kalam. Two golden concepts that I gained from this book are:

  • Difference between Science and Technology: He repeatedly calls himself a technologist and not a scientist, against the popular perception of people, because a technologist is bound to produce desired  results in a certain time frame whereas Science is an endless exploration which scientists pursue to achieve something that is undefined yet.
  • Dilemma regarding measurement of one’s performance: He states that a person judges his acts or performance on the bases of his intention behind that whereas he is judged by others on the bases of output. This mismatch sometimes negatively influence the moral of the person being judged. He observed this phenomenon while he was Project Director of IGMDP and thus faced similar circumstances.

So simple but so true.

This autobiography was one of the most inspirational pieces of text that I have read so far and thus I recommend it for every Indian.

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