Book Review On Wings Of Fire History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
This autobiography has been written by Arun Tiwari who worked under Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam for over a decade in the Defence and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad. Had long series of sittings with Dr. Kalam to be able to pen down Dr. Kalam’s recollections. The autobiographical material is divided into four sections: Orientation, Creation, Propitiation and Contemplation and a total of sixteen chapters. The book ventures into the life of Dr. Kalam and explores his life starting from his childhood and ending around the time of India’s nuclear tests.
Dr.Kalam was born in a middle-class Tamil family in the island of Rameswaram in the erstwhile Madras state. The famous Shiva temple, which made Rameswaram so sacred to pilgrims, was about a ten-minute walk from our house. His father Jainulabdeen, had neither much formal education nor much wealth; despite these disadvantages, he possessed great innate wisdom and true generosity of spirit. He had an ideal helpmate in his mother, Ashiamma. His father used to avoid all inessential comforts and luxuries. However, all necessities were provided for, in terms of food, medicine or clothes.
He throughout his life tried to emulate his father in his world of science and technology. When he was six years old his father embarked on the project of building a wooden sailboat to take the pilgrims from Rameswaram to Dhanuskodi and back. He worked at building the boat on the seashore, with the help of a relative, Ahmed Jallaluddin, who later married Kalam’s sister, Zohara. The boat was later destroyed in a cyclone but by the time the boat mets its untimely end, Ahmad Jallaluddin had become a close friend of Kalam despite the difference in their ages. Jallaluddin was the most educated person in his family at that time and he always encouraged Kalam to excel in his studies and enjoyed his success vicariously.
He had three close friends in his childhood – Ramanadha Sastry, Aravindan and Sivaprakasan. All of them were from orthodox Hindu Brahmin families. As children none of them felt any difference amongst themselves because of their religious differences and upbringing. He earned his first wages by helping his cousin Samsuddin to catch bundles of newspapers which were thrown out of the moving train during the state of emergency imposed in India during the Second World War. After the Second World War was over and India’s freedom was imminent Kalam asked his father’s permission to leave Rameswaram and study at the district headquarters in Ramanathapuram. Samsuddin and Ahmed Jallaluddin traveled with him to Ramanathapuram to enroll him in Schwartz High School, and to arrange for his boarding there.
His teacher, Iyadurai Solomon, was an ideal guide for a young eager mind that was yet uncertain of the possibilities and alternatives that lay before it. He was the first child from Rameswaram to fly. After completing his education at Schwarta, Kalam took admission in St. Joseph’s College, Trichinopoly in 1950 to study for the Intermediate examination. At St. Joseph I was lucky to find a teacher like the Rev, Father TN Sequeira who taught his English and was also his hostel warden. He stayed on the St. Joseph campus for four years and shared his room with two other students. When he was in the final year at St. Joseph, he acquired a taste for English literature.
When He joined the B.Sc. degree course at St. Joseph’s he was unaware of any other option for higher education. Nor did he have any information about career opportunities available to a student of science. Only after obtaining a B.Sc. did he realize that physics was not his subject. He had to go into engineering to realize his dreams. He made a detour and applied for admission into the Madras Institute of Technology (MIT), regarded as the crown jewel of technical education in South India at that time. He managed to be on the list of selected candidates, but admission to this prestigious institution was an expensive affair. Around a thousand rupees was required, and his father could not spare that much money. At that time, his sister, Zohara, stood behind him, mortgaging her gold bangles and chain. He was deeply touched by her determination to see him educated and by her faith in his abilities. He vowed to release her bangles from mortgage with his own earnings.
After completing his first year, when he had to opt for a specific branch, he almost spontaneously chose aeronautical engineering. The goal was very clear in his mind now; He was going to fly aircrafts. In the course of his education at MIT, three teachers shaped his thinking. These three teachers were Prof. Sponder, Prof. KAV Pandalai and Prof. Narasingha. Their combined contributions formed the foundation on which he later built his professional career. Prof. Sponder taught him technical aerodynamics. Kalam consulted him before opting for aeronautical engineering. Prof. KAV Pandalai taught him aero-structure design and analysis. Prof. Narasingha was a mathematician, who taught him theoretical aerodynamics. His third and last year at MIT was a year of transition and was to have a great impact on his later life. The value system in which he had been nurtured was profoundly religious. He had been taught that true reality lay beyond the material world in the spiritual realm, and that knowledge could be obtained only through inner experience.
When he had finished my course work, he was assigned a project to design a low-level attack aircraft together with four other colleagues. He had taken up the responsibility of preparing and drawing the aerodynamic design. From MIT, he went to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at Bangalore as a trainee. There he worked on engine overhauling as part of a team. Two alternative opportunities for employment, both close to his long-standing dream of flying, presented themselves before him when he came out of HAL as a graduate aeronautical engineer in 1958. One was a career in the Air Force and another was a job at the Directorate of technical Development and Production DTD&P (Air) of the Ministry of Defence.
Interview at DTD&P (Air) went well. The questions were of routine nature and did not challenge his knowledge of the subject. Then he proceeded to Dehra Dun for his interview at the Air Force Selection Board. At the Selection Board, the emphasis was more on “personality” than on intelligence. Perhaps they were looking for physical fitness and an articulate manner. He was excited but nervous, determined but anxious, confident but tense. He could only finish ninth in the batch of 25 examined to select eight officers for commissioning in the Air Force. He was deeply disappointed to miss out.
He met a Swami Sivananda – a man who looked like a Buddha, wearing a snow-white dhoti and wodden slippers. The Swami inquired about the source of his sorrow. Kalam told him about his unsuccessful attempt to join the Indian Air Force and his long-cherished desire to fly. The Swami smiled washing away Kalam’s anxiety almost instantly. Then the Swami said to him in a feeble, but very deep voice.
“Desire, when it stems from the heart and spirit, when it is pure and intense, possesses awesome electromagnetic energy. This energy is released into the ether wach night, as the mind falls into the sleep state. Each monitoring it returns to the conscious state reinforced with the cosmic currents. That which has been imaged will surely and certainly be manifested. You can rely, young man, upon this ageless promise as surely as you can rely upon the eternally unbroken promise of sunriseâ€¦ and of Spring.”
He returned to Delhi and enquired at the DTD&P (Air) about the outcome of his interview. In response, he was handed his appointment letter. He joined the next day as Senior Scientific Assistant on a basic salary of Rs 250/- per month. If this was to be his destiny, he thought, let it be so. Finally, he was filled with mental peace. No more did he feel any bitterness or resentment at my failure to enter the Air Force. At the Directorate, he was posted at the Technical Centre (Civil Aviation). If he was not flying aero planes, he was at least helping to make them airworthy. To gain shop-floor exposure to aircraft maintenance, he was sent to the Aircraft and Armament Testing Unit (A&ATU) at Kanpur. On his return to Delhi, he was informed that the design of a DART target had been taken up at the DTD&P(Air) and that he had been included in the design team. After three years the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) was born in Bangalore and he was posted to the new establishment. Based on his preliminary studies on ground-handling equipment, a project team was formed to design and develop an indigenous hovercraft prototype as a ground equipment machine (GEM). The hovercraft was called the Nandi, after the bull ridden by Lord Shiva.
After a week of the test ride of the hover craft he received a call from the Indian Committee for Space research (INCOSPAR), to attend an interview for the post of Rocket Engineer. He was interviewed by Dr Vikram Sarabhai along with Prof. MGK Menon and Mr Saraf, then the Deputy Secretary of the Atomic Energy Commission. He was to be absorbed as a rocket engineer at INCOSPAR. This was a breakthrough a Youngman like him dreamed of.
He later went to the United States to work at NASA. He started my work at NASA at the Langley research Centre (LRC) in Hampton, Virginia. From LRC he went to the Goddard Space Flight Centre (GSFC) at Greenbelt, Maryland. Here he saw a painting prominently displayed in the reception lobby. It depicted a battle scene with a few rockets flying in the background. A painting with this theme should be most commonplace thing at a Flight Facility, but the painting caught his eye because the soldiers on the side launching the rockets were not white, but dark-skinned, with the racial features of people found in South Asia. One day, his curiosity got better of him, drawing him towards the painting. It turned out to be Tipu Sultan’s army fighting the British. The painting depicted a fact forgotten in Tipu’s own country but commemorated here on the other side of the planet. He was happy to see an Indian glorified by NASA as a hero of warfare rocketry.
As soon as he returned from NASA, India’s first rocket launch took place on 21st November 1963. It was a sounding rocket, called Nike-Apache, made at NASA. After the successful launch of Nike-Apache Prof. Sarabhai chose to share with them his dream of an Indian Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV). While talking about the SLV Prof. Sarabhai asked Kalam to take up studies on a rocket-assisted take-off system (RATO) for military aircraft. The rocket launch site later blossomed into the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launch Station (TERLS). The real journey of the Indian aerospace, however, had begun with the Rohini Sounding Rocket (RSR) Programme. The RSR programme was responsible for the development and fabrication of sounding rockets and their associated on-board systems for scientific investigation in India. The development of Indian rockets in the twentieth century can be seen as a revival of the eighteenth-century dream of Tipu Sultan. When Tipu Sultan was killed, the British captured more than 700 rockets and subsystems of 900 rockets in the battle of Turukhanahally in 1799. his army had 27 brigades, called Kushoons, and each brigade had a company of rocket men, called Jourks. These rockets had been taken to England by William Congreve and were subjected by the British to what we call ‘reverse engineering’ today. With the death of Tipu, Indian rocketry also met its demise – at least for 150 years. Rocketry was reborn in India thanks to the technological vision of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
He may even say that the most significant achievement of the sounding rocket programme was to establish and maintain nation-wide mutual trust. He often read Khalil Gibran, and always found his words full of wisdom. “Bread baked without love is bitter bread that feeds but half a man’s hunger.” At TERLS, he was involved with rocket preparation activities, payload assembly, testing and evaluation besides building subsystems like payload housing and jettison-able nose cones.
The future Satellite launch vehicle (SLV) had also been conceived by this time. Recognizing the immense socio-economic benefits of space technology, Prof. Sarabhai decided in 1969, to go full-steam ahead with the task of establishing indigenous capability in building and launching out own satellites. In 1968, they had formed the Indian Rocket Society. They modified the existing SLV-IV stage design to suit the Diamont airframe. It was reconfigured and upgraded from a 250 kg, 400 mm diameter stage to a 600 kg, 650 mm diameter stage.
Having taken up the leadership of executing the SLV-3 project, he faced urgent and conflicting demands on his time for committee work, material procurement, correspondence, reviews, briefings, and for the need to be informed on a wide range of subjects. The SLV-3 project had been formulated in such a way that the major technology work centres could handle propellant production, rocket motor testing and launch of any large diameter rocket. As participants in the SLV-3 project we set three milestones for ourselves: development and flight qualification of all subsystems through sounding rockets by 1975; sub-orbital flights by 1976; and the final orbital flight in 1978.
For the first time, they inspired the confidence of the nation. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi told Parliament on 24 July 1974, “The development and fabrication of relevant technologies, subsystems and hardware (to make India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle) are progressing satisfactorily. A number of industries are engaged in the fabrication of components. The first orbital flight by India is scheduled to take place in 1978.” Like any other act of creation, the creation of the SLV-3 also had its painful movements. His brother in law and mentor Jenab Ahmed Jallaludin, was nor more. In 1976 his father passed away. The SLV-3 Apogee rocket, developed as a common upper stage with Diamont, scheduled to be flight tested in France was mired in a series of knotty problems. He had to rush to France to sort it out. Before he could depart, late in the afternoon, he was informed that his mother had passed away.
The SLV dream was finally realized in the middle of 1979. They had scheduled the first experimental flight trial of SLV-3 for 10th August 1079. Stage I performed to perfection but the second stage went out of control. A post-flight review conducted on 11th August 1979 was attended by more than seventy scientists. On 18th July 1980 at 0803 hrs to be precise, India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle, SLV-3 lifted off. At 600 seconds before take-off, Kalam saw the computer displaying data about stage IV giving the required velocity to the Rohini Satellite(carried as payload) to enter its orbit. Within the next two minutes Rohini was set into motion in a low earth orbit. Within a month of the SLV-3 success, Kalam visited the Nehru Science Centre in Bombay for a day, in response to an invitation to share my experiences with the SLV-3. They established that the SLV-3 solid rocket systems would meet the national requirements of payload delivery vehicles for short and intermediate ranges (4000 km). This paved the way for the formulation of the Re-entry Experiment (REX) which, much later on, became Agni.
The next SLV-3 flight, SLV-3D1, took off on 31st may 1981. He witnessed this flight from the visitor’s gallery. This was the first time he witnessed a launch from outside the Control Centre. The unpalatable truth he had to face was that by becoming the focus of media attention, he had aroused envy among some of his senior colleagues, all of whom had equally contributed to the success of SLV-3. In January 1981, he was invited by Dr Bhagiratha Rao of the high Altitude Laboratory (now the Defence Electronics Applications Laboratory (DEAL)), Dehra Dun to give a lecture on the SLV-3. republic day, 1981 brought with it a pleasant surprise. On the evening of 25th January, Mahadevan, Secretary to Prof. UR Rao, rang up from Dehlo to inform him about that Home Ministry announcement about the conferment of the Padma Bhushan award on him. His Padma Bhushan evoked mixed reactions. While there were some who shared his happiness, there were others who felt he was being unduly singled out for recognition.
A minor tussle over his services occurred at this time, between ISRO, which was a little hesitant to relieve him, and DRDO, which wanted to take him in. Many months went by, and many letters were held in the secretaries of Defence R & D establishment and the Department of Space to precipitate a mutually convenient course of action. Overcoming the niggling doubts that had caused delays over the past year, the decision to appoint him Director, DRDL was finally taken in February, 1982. He visited DRDL in April 1982 to acquaint himself with his potential work site. He joined DRDL on 1 June, 1982. Very soon, he realized that this laboratory was still haunted by the winding up of the Devil missile project. The tactical Core Vehicle (TCV) project had been hanging fire for quite some time. It was conceived as a single core vehicle with certain common subsystems to meet the requirements of the services for a quick reaction Surface-to-Air Missile, an anti-radiation Air-to-Surface Missile which could be launched from helicopters or fixed wing aircraft.
Days of debate and weeks of thinking finally culminated in the long-term ‘Guided Missile Development Programme’. He made a presentation in the South Block. Although some questioned our ambitious proposal, everyone, even the doubting Thomases, were very excited about the idea of India having her own missile system. When he met the Defence Minister in the evening, he had a hunch they were going to get some funds at any rate. But when the minister suggested that they should launch an integrated guided missile development programme, instead of making missiles in phases, they could not believe their ears. The Defence Minister put up their proposal before the Cabinet and saw it through. His recommendations on their proposal were acceptred and an unprecedented amount of Rs 388 crores was sanctioned for this purpose. Thus was born India’s prestigious Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, later abbreviated to IGMDP.
The proposed projects were named in accordance with the spirit of India’s self-reliance. Thus the Surface-to-Surface weapons system became Prithvi (“the Earth”) and the Tactical Core Vehicle was called Trishul (the trident of Lord Shiva). The Surface-to-Air defence system was named as Akash (“sky”) and the anti-tank missile project Nag (“Cobra”). Kalam gave the name Agni (“Fire”) to his long cherished dream of REX. Dr. Arunachalam came to DRDL and formally launched the IGMDP on 27th July 1983. this was the second most significant day in his career, next only to 18th July, when the SLV-3 had launched Rohini into the earth’s orbit. After prolonged discussions, they decided to reorganize the laboratory into a technology-oriented structure. They needed to accommodate a matrix type of structure for the execution of various activities needed for the projects. In less then four months, four hundred scientists began work on the missile programme. During this period, the most important task before Kalam was the selection of the Project Directors to lead individual missile projects.
He wanted men who had the capability to grow with possibilities, with the patience to explore al possible alternatives, with the wisdom to apply old principles to new situations; people with the skill to negotiate their way forward. His search for someone who could lead the Prithvi project ended with Col VJ Sundaram who belonged to the EME Corps of the Indian Army. For Trishul, he was looking for a man who not only had a sound knowledge of electronics and missile warfare, but who could also communicate the complexities to his team in order to promote understanding and to earn his team’s support. He found in Cmde SR Mohanm who sailed into Defence R&D from Indian Navy, a talent for detail and in almost magical power of persuasion. For Agni, his dream project, he needed some body who would tolerate his occasional meddling in the running of this project. In RN Agarwal he found the right person. He was an alumnus of MIT with a brilliant academic record and had been managing the Aeronautical Test Facilities at DRDL with keen professional acumen.
Akash and Nag were then considered missiles of the future; their activities were expected to peak about half a dacade later. Therefore, he selected the relatively young Prahlada and NR Iyer for Akash and Nag. Two other young men, VK Saraswat and AK Kapoor were made deputies to Sundaram and Mohan respectively.
After many brainstorming sessions, we decided to improvise a Devil missile to test the system. A Devil missile was disassembled, many modifications were made, extensive subsystem testing was done and the missile checkout system was reconfigured. After installing a make-shift launcher, the modified and extended range Devil missile was fired on 26 June 1984 to flight test the first indigenous Strap-down Inertial Guidance system.
When India carried out its first nuclear explosion for peaceful purposes, it declared itself as the sixth country in the world to explode a nuclear device. When it launched the SLV-3 it was the fifth country to achieve satellite launch capability. By the summer of 1985, all the groundwork had been completed for building the Missile Technology research Centre at Imarat Kancha. It has been Kalam’s personal experience that the true flavour, the real fun, and the continuous excitement of work lied in the process of doing it rather then in having it over and done with. To return to the four basic factors that he was convinced are involved in successful outcomes: they are goal-setting, positive thinking, visualizing and believing.
The first launch of the Missile Programme was conducted on 16th September 1985, when Trishul took off from the test range at Sriharikota. It was a ballistic flight meant for testing the in-flight performance of the solid propellant rocket motor. Two C-Band Radars and Kalidieo-theodolite (KTLs) were used to track the missile from the ground. The test was successful; the launcher, rocket motor and telemetry systems functioned as planned. This was followed by the successful test flight of the Pilot-less Target Aircraft (PTA). Prithivi had been designed as an inertially guided missile. To reach the target accurately, the trajectory parameters have to be loaded into its brain – an on board computer. A team of young engineering graduates at Jadavpur University under the guidance of Prof. Ghoshal developed the required robust guidance algorithm. At the IISc, postgraduate students under the leadership of Prof. IG Sharma developed air defence software for multi-target acquisition by Akash. The re-entry vehicle system design methodology for Agni was developed by a young team of IIT Madras and DRDO scientists. Osmania University’s Navigational Electronics Research and Traning Unit had developed state of the art signal processing algorithms for Nag.
Work on Prithvi was nearing completion when we entered 1988. For the first time in the country, clustered Liquid Propellant (LP) rocket engines with programmable total impulse were going to be used in a missile system to attain flexibility in pay load range combination. Prithvi was launched at 11:23 hrs on 25th Feburary 1988. It was an epoch-making event in the history of rocketry in the country. Prithvi was not merely a surface-to-surface missile with a capacity of delivering a 1000kg conventional warhead to a distance of 150km with an accuracy of 50 meter CEP; it was in fact the basic module for all future guided missiles in the country. It already had the provision for modification from a long-range surface to an air missile system, and could also be deployed on a ship. The launch of Prithvi sent shock waves across the unfriendly neighbouring countries. The response of the Western bloc was initially one of shock and then of anger. A seven-nation technology embargo was clamped, making it impossible for India to buy anything even remotely connected with the development of guided missiles. The emergence of India as a self-reliant country in the field of guided missiles upset all the developed nations of the world.
Indian core competency in the rocketry has been firmly established again, beyond any doubt. The robust civilian space industry and viable missile-based defences has brought India into the select club of nations that call themselves superpowers. Two centuries of subjugation, oppression and denial have failed to kill the creativity and capability of the Indian people. Within just a decade of gaining independence and achieving sovereignty, Indian Space and Atomic Energy Programmes were launched with neither funds for investing in missile development nor any established requirement from the Armed Forces.
The Agni team comprised of more than 5000 scientists. The Agni launch had been shcduled for 20th April 1989. After a few failures a detailed analysis was conducted round the clock for the next ten days. Our scientists had the missile ready for launch on 1st May 1989 but again a Hold signal was indicated. Finally the launch was scheduled for 22nd May 1989. Agni took off at 0710 hrs. it was a perfect launch. The missile followed a textbook trajectory and all flight parameters were met. Great ire was raised by the test firing of Agni, according to a well-known American defence journal, especially in the United States where Congressmen threatened to put a stop to all dual-use and missile-related technologies, along with multinational aid. In September 1989, Kalam was invited by the Maharashtra Academy of Sciences in Bombay to deliver the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture. He used this opportunity to share with the budding scientists my plans of making an indigenous Air-to-Air missile, Astra. The second flight of Prithvi at the end of September 1989 was again a great success. Prithvi has proved to be the best surface-to-surface missile in the world today. It can carry 1000 kg of warhead to a distance of 250 km and deliver it within a radius of 50 meters.
On Republic Day 1990, the nation celebrated the success of its missile programme. Kalam was conferred the Padma Vibhushan. India had achieved the status of having a third generation anti-tank missile system with the ‘fire-and-forget’ capability – on par with any state-of-the-art technology in the world. They celebrated the nation’s forty-fourth Independence Day with the test firing of Akash. Towards the end of 1990, Jadavpur University conferred on Kalam the honour of Doctor of Science at a special Convocation. The year 1991 began on a very ominous note. On the night of 15th January 1991, the Gulf War broke out between Iraq and the Allied forces led by the USA. The successful test firing of Prithvi and Trishul during the course of the Gulf War was enough to make an anxious nation relax.
He also received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the IIT, Bombay. In the citation read by Prof. B Nag on the occasion, Kalam was described as “an inspiration behind the creation of a solid technological base from which India’s future aerospace programmes can be launched to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Also during this period of his life Dr. Kalam decided to put down his memories and express his observations and opinions on certain issues. The biggest problem Indian youth faced, he felt, was a lack of clarity of vision, a lack of direction. It was then that he decided to write about the circumstances and people who made him what he was today; the idea was not merely to pay tribute to some individuals or highlight certain aspects of his life. What he wanted to say was that no one, however poor, underprivileged or small, need feel dishearten about life. Problems are a part of life. Suffering is the esense of success.
It will not be presumptuous enough to say that his life can be a role model for anybody, but some poor child living in an obscure place, in an underprivileged social setting may find a little solace in the way my destiny has been shaped. It could perhaps help such children liberate themselves from the bondage of their illusory backwardness and hopelessness. Irrespective of where they are right now, they should be aware that God is with them and when He is with them, who can be against them? It was his observation that most Indians suffer unnecessary misery all their lives because they do not know how to manage their emotions. They are paralysed by some sort of a psychological inertia.
Technology, unlike science, is a group activity. It is not based on an individual intelligence, but on the interacting intelligence of many. This book in interwoven with Dr. Kalam’s deep involvement with India’s first Satellite Vehicle SLV-3 and Agni Programmes, an involvement which eventually led to his participation in the recent important national event related to nuclear tests in May, 1998. he had the great opportunity and honour of working with three scientific establishments – Space, Defence Research and Atomic Energy. He found, while working in these establishments that the best of human beings and the best of innovative minds were available in plenty. One feature, common to all three establishments is that the scientists and technologists were never afraid of failiures during their missions. Failiures contained within themselves the seeds of further learning which could lead to better technology, and eventually, to a high level of success. These people were also great dreamers and their dreams finally culminated in spectacular achievements. Dr. Kalam felt that if they take the combined technological strength of all these scientific institutions, it would certainly be comparable to the best found in the developed world. Above all he had the opportunity of working with the great visionaries of the nation, namely Prof. Vikram Sarabhai, Prof. Satish Dhawan and Dr. Brahm Prakash, who have all greatly enriched my life.
Compiled by Arun Tiwari it is a story that is as much about politics, personalities, success and failure, as it is about science. The book is interwoven with Dr. Kalam’s deep involvement with India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle SLV-3 and the Missile Programme. He feels that one should never feel small or helpless and lose hope. His message to all of us is that we should give wings to the divine fire we are all born with and have within us, and this will “fill the world with the glow of its goodness.” He also believes that we often merely analyze life instead of dealing with its difficulties and problems God gives us the opportunity to grow. So when ones dreams and goals are dashed, one should search among the wreckage, one may find a golden opportunity hidden in the ruins. With characteristic modesty Kalam ascribes his achievements to the influence of his parents, mentors and teachers. Memories of his teacher who once caned him, professors who gave impossible deadlines, lecturers who gave intricate lessons on difficult subjects, Kalam’s life is filled with incidents that one can learn from.
His life has been most selflessly devoted to his country, and rewarded most deservingly. The book also goes beyond biography, and serves as an excellent practical guide to R & D management, on how to design and build institutions, mentor and inspire men, to success and fulfilment. Dr. Kalam’s well meaning advice to all students is that when they choose their specialisation, the essential point to consider is whether the choice articulates their inner feelings and aspirations. He also describes the role of visionary geniuses such as Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Dr. Brahm Prakash and many others and their contributions to independent India’s struggle for technological self-sufficiency and defense autonomy. This is also the story of his dreams that came true after incessant struggle — Agni, Prithvi,
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