Wings of fire

8 August 2016

Wings of Fire: An Autobiography of APJ Abdul Kalam (1999) is an autobiography of A P J Abdul Kalam,[1] former President of India. It was written by Dr. Kalam[2] and Arun Tiwari. [3] Kalam examines his early life, effort, hardship, fortitude, luck and chance that eventually led him to lead Indian space research, nuclear and missile programs. Kalam started his career, after graduating from Aerospace engineering at MIT (Chennai), India, at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and was assigned to build a hovercraft prototype.

Later he moved to ISRO and helped establish the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and pioneered the first space launch-vehicle program. During the 1990s and early 2000, Kalam moved to the DRDO to lead the Indian nuclear weapons program, with particular successes in thermonuclear weapons development culminating in the operation Smiling Buddha and an ICBM Agni (missile). Wings of Fire unfolds the story of A P J Abdul Kalam from his childhood in the following seven sections: Preface Acknowledgments Introduction Orientation Creation Propitiation Contemplation Epilogue Creation

Section ‘Creation’ traverses seven chapters, from chapters four to chapter ten; and covers Kalam’s life and work for 17 years, from the year 1963 until 1980.

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It begins with his recollection of works at the Langley Research Center, NASA, in Houston, Virginia,U. S. , and at other facilities in the USA, including the Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island in East Coast of the United States, Virginia. At a NASA facility, he remembers to have seen a painting, prominently displayed in the lobby. The painting depicted a battle scene with rocket flying in the background.

On closer examination, he found that the painting depicted Tipu Sultan’s army fighting the British. Kalam felt happy to see an Indian glorified in NASA as a hero of rocketry warfare. His association with Thumba and Satellite Launch Vehicle and related projects are vividly presented in the section ‘Creation’. During the period covered under ‘Creation’, Kalam, in the year 1976, lost his father who lived up to 102 years of age. Kalam took the bereavement with courage and remembered these words written on the death of William Butler Yeats by his friend Auden, and his father:

Earth receive an honoured guest; William Yeats is laid to rest: In the prison of his days Teach the free man how to praise. The period covered in the section ‘Creation’ also brought Kalam national recognition. A pleasant surprise came in the form of conferment of Padma Bhushan on the Republic Day,1981. Propitiation Section Propitiation covers the period 1981 to 1991, and contains five chapters, from chapter 10 to chapter 14. This section covers the scientist’s journey towards becoming the “Missile Man of India”.

In this section, his excellent leadership qualities as taking up the responsibility of shaping up the Guided Missile Development Program, are clearly visible. In this phase of the life, Kalam was responsible for the development of the five missiles – Prithvi, Trishul, Akash, Nag and the most awaited one Agni… Pictures The book has 24 plates with photographs associated with the life and work of Kalam: Ramanathapuram, from where Kalam had completed his high schooling. Plate 8 shows his teachers at Schwartz High School. Plate 9 shows Nandi, an indigenous hovercraft prototype.

Plate 10 shows the picture of a Church in Thumba, a place which was donated by the local Christian community to the India’s Space Research Centre. Plate 11 shows him with Prof. Vikram Sarabhai. Plate 12 shows an SLV-3 review meeting. Plate 13 shows presentation of members of SLV-3 team. Plate 14 is the first plate with a colour photograph and shows Prof. Brahm Prakash inspecting SLV-3 in its final stage on integration, and plate 16 shows a colour photograph of SLV-3 on the launch pad. Plate 15 shows him with Prof. Satish Dhawan and the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Plate 16 shows SLV-3 launch. Plate 17 shows him receiving Padma Bhushan. Plates 18 shows successful launch of Prithvi, now a part of India’s surface-to-surface weapons system. Plate 19 shows Kalam standing by the side of Agni, standing on its launch pad. Plate 20 shows a cartoon by renowned cartoonist R. K. Laxman. Plate 21 shows another cartoon on the failure of Agni Missile. Plate 22 shows him after successful launch of Agni Missile. Plate 23 shows Kalam receiving the Bharat Ratna from the President, K. R. Narayanan.

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