Monthly Archives: July 2015

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s Remarkable List of Achievements and Awards

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s Remarkable List of Achievements and Awards

Abdul Kalam will remain one of the finest human beings to have ever lived. He lived an illustrious and successful life, and his legacy will continue to inspire people around the world in the coming years. Below is a list that tries to do justice to his numerous achievements:

  • After graduating from Madras Institute of Technology in 1960, Mr Kalam joined the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). He designed helicopters for the Indian Army, but he always said he didn’t feel at home at the DRDO.
  • In 1969 he got the Government’s approval to expand the programme by including more engineers and scientists.
  • After he was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Mr Kalam worked as the project director for SLV-III, India’s first indigenous satellite launch vehicle.
  • SLV-III successfully launched satellite Rohini to orbit on July 1980. From then, Mr Kalam expanded India’s space programme.
  • In the 1980s he led India’s missile programme. Under his leadership, India became a major military power after the successes of Agni and Prithvi.
  • He was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of Defence Research and Development Organisation from July 1992 to December 1999.
  • In 1998, along with cardiologist Dr.Soma Raju, Kalam developed a low cost Coronary stent. It was named as “Kalam-Raju Stent” honouring them. In 2012, the duo designed a rugged tablet PC for health care in rural areas, which was named as “Kalam-Raju Tablet”.
  • In 1998, the Pokhran-II tests cemented India’s nuclear prowess. Mr Kalam played the pivotal role in the project. He firmly told the international community that such arms were only to deter other nations from trying to subjugate India, and were only to be used as “weapons of peace”.
  • In a rare show of unity, all political parties unanimously voted for Mr Kalam in 2002 as the 11th President of India.
  • As President, Mr Kalam personified dignity and optimism throughout India and abroad. His stirring speeches at the UN and the European Parliament are among the best ever delivered. His simplicity in oration and action were applauded and made him dear to all.
  • After the completion of his term as President, Mr Kalam became a visiting professor, wrote extensively and launched many initiatives for youth development. “Wings of Fire” and “India 2020” are modern classics, and have motivated millions of Indians.
  • His books envision his dream of India as a superpower, with Indians as innovative and unique in their thinking. His speeches, books, works – all are the legacy of a man who spent all his life trying to make the world a better place.
Year Name of award or honour Awarding organisation
2014 Doctor of Science Edinburgh University,UK
2012 Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) Simon Fraser University
2011 IEEE Honorary Membership IEEE
2010 Doctor of Engineering University of Waterloo
2009 Honorary Doctorate Oakland University
2009 Hoover Medal ASME Foundation, USA
2009 International von Kármán Wings Award California Institute of Technology, USA
2008 Doctor of Engineering

(Honoris Causa)

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
2007 King Charles II Medal Royal Society, UK
2007 Honorary Doctorate of Science University of Wolverhampton, UK
2000 Ramanujan Award Alwars Research Centre, Chennai
1998 Veer Savarkar Award Government of India
1997 Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration Indian National Congress
1997 Bharat Ratna Government of India
1994 Distinguished Fellow Institute of Directors (India)
1990 Padma Vibhushan Government of India
1981 Padma Bhushan Government of India
Advertisements

Book Review: Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam

Book Review: Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam

Introduction

APJ Abdul Kalam is a renowned Indian scientist who went on to become 11th President of India (2002-2007). He is very well known across India and is a recipient of India’s three highest civilian awards – Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Bharat Ratna. Wings of Fire is an autobiography of APJ Abdul Kalam written jointly by Arun Tiwari and Abdul Kalam. It covers Kalam’s life before he became president of India and in 2013 another autobiography titled “My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions” was released.

Book Review: Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam

Wings of Fire is an autography of APJ Abdul Kalam covering his early life and his work in Indian space research and missile programs. It is the story of a boy from a humble background who went on to become a key player in Indian space research/Indian missile programs and later became the president of India. The book has been very popular in India and has been translated into multiple languages. I recently picked up a copy and read it in a couple of days. It was very engaging initially, but tended to drag a bit towards the end with lot of technical details and procedural information of his space research and missile projects.

I loved the initial chapters of Wings of Fire since it gives a vivid picture of our country during 1930 – 1950s. Kalam was born in Rameswaram, a southern religious town in Tamilnadu. The initial chapters provides an interesting glimpse of religious harmony which existed before India’s partition,

The famous Shiva temple, which made Rameswaram so sacred to pilgrims , was about a ten-minute walk from our house. Our locality was predominantly Muslim, but there were quite a few Hindu families too, living amicably with their Muslim neighbours.

……

The high priest of Rameswaram temple, Pakshi Lakshmana Sastry, was a very close friend of my father’s. One of the most vivid memories of my early childhood is of the two men, each in his traditional attire, discussing spiritual matters.

……

One day when I was in the fifth standard at the Rameswaram Elementary School, a new teacher came to our class. I used to wear a cap which marked me as a Muslim, and I always sat in the front row next to Ramanadha Sastry, who wore a sacred thread. The new teacher could not stomach a Hindu priest’s son sitting with a Muslim boy. In accordance with our social ranking as the new teacher saw it, I was asked to go and sit on the back bench. I felt very sad, and so did Ramanadha Sastry. He looked utterly downcast as I shifted to my seat in the last row. The image of him weeping when I shifted to the last row left a lasting impression on me. After school , we went home and told our respective parents about the incident.

Lakshmana Sastry summoned the teacher, and in our presence , told the teacher that he should not spread the poison of social inequality and communal intolerance in the minds of innocent children. He bluntly asked the teacher to either apologize or quit the school and the island. Not only did the teacher regret his behaviour, but the strong sense of conviction Lakshmana Sastry conveyed ultimately reformed this young teacher.

Kalam in younger years wanted to be an officer in air force, however he couldn’t clear the interview. He met Swami Sivananda after this failure and I found his words to Kalam interesting and in a way prophetic,

Accept your destiny and go ahead with your life. You are not destined to become an Air Force pilot. What you are destined to become is not revealed now but it is predetermined. Forget this failure, as it was essential to lead you to your destined path. Search, instead, for the true purpose of your existence. Become one with yourself, my son! Surrender yourself to the wish of God,

In the book we learn how Kalam started his career in Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and was involved in the design of a hovercraft. Later he moved to Indian Space Research which was the brain child of Vikram Sarabhai. In 1963, Kalam went to NASA facility in Maryland(USA) as part of a training program on sounding rocket launching techniques. There he came across a painting which depicted Tipu Sultan’s rocket warfare against the British,

Here, I 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 the most commonplace thing at a Flight Facility, but the painting caught my 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, my curiosity got the better of me, drawing me 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. I was happy to see an Indian glorified by NASA as a hero of warfare rocketry.

The book covers a lot of “behind the scene” information and technical details about India’s satellite and missile program (SLV-3, Prithvi, Agni, Thrisul, Akash and Nag). This might interest technically inclined readers but is sure to put off readers who bought the book to get to know Kalam or to know his principles/ideas. Space and missile programs are huge complex projects and managing them is extremely challenging. The book does give a glimpse of the participatory management technique adopted by Kalam, but at the same time it doesn’t go into details.

Wings of fire covers Kalam’s personal life only briefly which is strange for an autobiography. For example, we don’t know why he decided to remain single or his activities outside space research (even though we can conclude in the end that he was married to science and technology).

Kalam is a poet and is a huge fan of poems. The book contains many of his own poems and his favorite poems. Here is an example,

Do not look at Agni
as an entity directed upward
to deter the ominous
or exhibit your might.
It is fire in the heart of an Indian.
Do not even give it
the form of a missile
as it clings to the
burning pride of this nation
and thus is bright.

Through Wings of Fire, we come across some brilliant people who worked behind Indian space research  such as Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Brahm Prakash. The book also contains about 24 photos and I found the ones from the early days of Indian space program very interesting. This alone is worth the price of the book!

One of the things that stands out throughout the book is Kalam’s positive thinking. He held many high ranking positions in various organizations. Yet in the book he rarely mentions anything about lethargy/corruption of bureaucracy or politicians. The secret to his success seems to be his ability to ignore negative things around him. The book also gives a clue to his popularity in India. Kalam is a simple, secular, inspiring humanitarian.

 

List of books written by late APJ Abdul Kalam

List of books written by late APJ Abdul Kalam

Wings of Fire
An Autobiography: APJ Abdul Kalam With Arun Tiwari
2020 – A Vision for the New Millenium
APJ Abdul Kalam With YS Rajan
Envisioning an Empowered Nation
Technology for Societal Transformation: APJ Abdul Kalam With A Sivathanu Pillai
Ignited Minds
Unleashing The Power Within India: APJ Abdul Kalam
My Journey
APJ Abdul Kalam
Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technology
R Narasimha and APJ Abdul Kalam
The Luminous Sparks
A biography in verse and colours: APJ Abdul Kalam
The Life Tree
Poems: APJ Abdul Kalam
Painting illustrations by Manav Gupta
Mission India
A Vision for Indian Youth: APJ Abdul Kalam with YS Rajan
Children Ask Kalam
Children and APJ Abdul Kalam
Guiding Souls
Dialogues on the Purpose of life: APJ Abdul Kalam with Arun K Tiwari
Inspiring Thoughts
by APJ Abdul Kalam