I am not an Autobiography person. Having made that statement, let me tell you in this piece how much I fell in love with this autobiography and how close the book became to my heart. This book wasn’t written. It was weaved. The most intricate parts of life, like family, attachments, career, ambitions, purpose of life and the people in your life; they are all placed together in just the right patterns, weaved together and then presented.
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s narrative will make you feel like you are walking beside him while he shows the streets where he grew up in, the places of work that took him across the country and at times even the world, the miles he travelled and the people he encountered.
Let’s begin by remembering his father who was more a man of wisdom than a man of wealth. From quoting Khalil Gibran to his wife to accepting the harsh reality of people half his age passing away right in front of him, he displayed a deep-rooted spirituality, that laid the foundation to Dr Kalam’s perception of life. While Dr Kalam had to leave the small island town of Rameshwaram to a bigger city for education, he fondly said that one’s dreams belong to tomorrow and no one can encapsulate that in a physical place or in today. He also told his wife that children come through them and they don’t really own them, nothing or no one does.
To quote from the book
“Does the seagull not fly across the sun alone and without a nest? You must forego your longing for the land of your memories to move into the dwelling place of your greater desires; our love will not bind you or nor will our needs hold you”
These awe-inspiring moments will keep you entangled to the story and even give you goosebumps at times. Another interesting take away I had from this book is the light thrown on science vs development.
Being a scientist would mean that science is your canvas. This is a very vast, unending canvas and you get stuck with the nuances of it than actually establishing something out of it. This is why he emphasised the importance of thinking like a developer. When you are in the process of developing something, you have deadlines to keep up to and well-defined goals to achieve. This is how you move onto one project from another and fill your life with a new mission every time you have accomplished one.
Failures. He faced a lot of them. From looking at his dad’s ship get ripped into pieces as a 6-year-old to looking at missile launches go wrong in the n-th moment, he saw failures in ways one can not fathom. Seeing repeated trouble with the missiles and launches, the only thing that happened is more determination and the will to accomplish. The greater the difficulty was, the more it looked like they’d fail, the more they were ready to work.
Before starting out his career and having an opportunity at two places, The Indian Airforce and the DTD&P, he gets notified of not having made through the air force interview. This devastated him and got him paused for a while. During this conundrum, he met a Swamiji coincidentally and expressed what he had just faced.
This was the reply he got.
“Dezire, when it stems from the heart and spirit when it is pure and intense, possesses electromagnetic energy. This energy is released into the ether each night as the mind falls into a sleep state. Each morning 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 his ageless promise as surely as you can rely upon externally unbroken promise of sunrise and spring.”
This was his way of saying that we must dream on and let life take its course.
Dr Kalam also brings out the unity he felt with science and god. While studying lessons on sub-atomic physics, he is taught about radioactive decay of substances. He can’t help but draw an inference as to how we all need to strive with diligence because decay is inherent in all compounded things. This is where he says that he found science as a way for spiritual enrichment.
I have cherry-picked special moments from the book hoping that you rejoice them as much as I did. This narrative is incomplete if I do not introduce you that moment in the book that the title has been leading up to.
“We are born with a divine fire in us. Our efforts should be to give wings to this fire.”
This is specifically aimed at the youth of today who seem to be losing sight of their life purpose at times and not taking enough steps in bringing the best version of themselves. This is to tell them that we have the spark inside of us and we should light it and let it lead us.
From the bottom of my heart, I hope that you give wings to the fire within you and it takes you all the places you are meant to go.