Wings of Fire - An Autobiography

How much do I want to read more? 7/10

An interesting biography. An indian boy starting from scratch, taking the wisdom of his father, and going to be one of the highest distinguished civilian for bringing elite missile technology to his country.

AVUL PAKIR JAINULABDEEN ABDUL KALAM was born in 1931, the son of a little educated boatowner in Rameswaram, Tamilnadu, he had an unparalleled career as a defence scientist, culminating in the highest civilian award of India, the Bharat Ratna.

Preface - Arun Tiwari

I asked him if he had a message for young Indians. His message fascinated me.
He had tremendous vitality and obviously received immense pleasure from the world of ideas.

1 - ORIENTATION [ 1931 – 1963 ]


My father, Jainulabdeen, had neither much formal education nor much wealth; despite these disadvantages, he possessed great innate wisdom and a true generosity of spirit.
However, all necessities were provided for, in terms of food, medicine or clothes. In fact, I would say mine was a very secure childhood, both materially and emotionally.

When I was old enough to ask questions, I asked my father about the relevance of prayer. My father told me there was nothing mysterious about prayer. Rather, prayer made possible a communion of the spirit between people. “When you pray,” he said, “you transcend your body and become a part of the cosmos, which knows no division of wealth, age, caste, or creed.”

He once told me, “In his own time, in his own place, in what he really is, and in the stage he has reached—good or bad—every human being is a specific element within the whole of the manifest divine Being. So why be afraid of difficulties, sufferings and problems? When troubles come, try to understand the relevance of your sufferings. Adversity always presents opportunities for introspection.”

Whenever human beings find themselves alone, as a natural reaction, they start looking for company. Whenever they are in trouble, they look for someone to help them. Whenever they reach an impasse, they look to someone to show them the way out.
This is not a correct approach at all and should never be followed. One must understand the difference between a fear-ridden vision of destiny and the vision that enables us to seek the enemy of fulfilment within ourselves.

Never did I find the slightest trace of resentment in Jallaluddin for his deprivation. Rather, he was always full of gratitude for whatever life had chosen to give him.

He encouraged me to read all I could and I often visited his home to borrow books.

Half a century later, I can still feel the surge of pride in earning my own money for the first time.

Every child is born, with some inherited characteristics, into a specific socio-economic and emotional environment, and trained in certain ways by figures of authority. I inherited honesty and self-discipline from my father; from my mother, I inherited faith in goodness and deep kindness.
But it was the time I spent with Jallaluddin and Samsuddin that perhaps contributed most to the uniqueness of my childhood and made all the difference in my later life.

I knew my father had invested great hopes in my success. My father visualized me as a Collector in the making and I thought it my duty to realise my father’s dream, although I desperately missed the familiarity, security and comforts of Rameswaram.

Jallaluddin used to speak to me about the power of positive thinking and I often recalled his words when I felt homesick or dejected. I tried hard to do as he said, which was to strive to control my thoughts and my mind and, through these, to influence my destiny.