Wings of Fire

Abdul Kalam’s Perspective

Abdul Kalam was one of the most distinguished scientists of India. He was an aerospace engineer, professor and Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology.

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On top of this, he also served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. During his tenure as President, he was known as the People’s President.

He was responsible for the development of India’s first satellite launch vehicle, SLV-3. Kalam is famous as India’s Missile Man for developing ballistic missile and space rocket technology.

Kalam also played a key role in India’s Pokhran-2 nuclear test in 1998, the first since India’s initial nuclear test in 1974.

He also received honorary doctorates from thirty universities and three of the country’s highest civilian honors – Padma Bhushan (1981), Padma Vibhushan (1990), and Bharat Ratna (1997).


Wings of Fire is the former President of India. Abdul Kalam’s autobiography. As a humble boy in South India, Kalam developed India’s nuclear weapons and became President.

Through this autobiography, the reader gets a glimpse of pre-Partition India. Kalam also exposes the readers to positive thinking and ideas that helped him achieve such success.

This is the story of Kalam’s rise from obscurity and his personal and professional struggles. It is also the story of independent India’s struggle for technological self-reliance and defensive autonomy.

Cultivation of Kalam

Kalam begins the book early in his life. He was born in Rameswaram, India to a well-to-do middle-class Tamil family.

His father owned a boat, which is a sign of wealth. Rameswaram was a great environment to grow up in, as there was a tight-knit community where everyone supported each other.

People were willing to talk openly about religion and spirituality. From childhood, Kalam developed respect for other religions. His father also worked as an imam in a local mosque.

Kalam grew up believing that faith was an essential part of being human. All the family members encouraged Kalam to work hard and excel in school.

Kalam’s family talked a lot over dinner about the latest advances in science and new groundbreaking literature. These conversations formed the foundation for the passion for education that Kalam developed.

Kalam was close to his parents and considered his mother more like a friend than a parent. He also introduces readers to his closest friend Ahmed Jalaluddin.

Kalam developed intellectual and spiritual maturity from an early age as Ahmed was about 15 years older. They often visited the mosque together and talked about Islam.

Learning the hard lessons in high school

To fulfill his dream of learning about the most advanced technology and science, Kalam left his hometown to attend Schwartz High School in Ramanathapuram.

Initially, Kalam thoroughly enjoyed his time at school. However, one day a new teacher arrived. This teacher named Rameswaram Shastri saw Kalam sitting next to a Hindu student.

He tells Kalam that this is not allowed and decides to send Kalam to the back of the class. This was an early example of the beliefs people had during the partition of India.

After this experience, Kalam decided to stop the spread of the poison of prejudice instead of spreading it himself. He continued to be open to all religions throughout his life, including during and after the partition of India.

When Kalam was a small boy, he sold newspapers to help his brother ease the financial struggle. In the book, Kalam praises the demand and support of friends and family as the cornerstone of his success in life.

Kalam’s first experience with engineering

Kalam continued to excel throughout high school and took a special interest in science. After completing B.Sc. In physics, Abdul Kalam noted.

That they need to join engineering to realize their dreams. So, he chose to apply for an engineering course at the Madras Institute of Technology.

He said, despite coming from a relatively wealthy background, the entrance fee was still too expensive for him.

Fortunately, his older sister saw his potential and was willing to help him get a place. She supported him financially during the early stages of his time at the Madras Institute of Technology.

learning to fly

This generosity encouraged Kalam to work as hard as possible to get a scholarship.

His hard work finally paid off and he took some of the financial burden off his elder sister. Along with academic success, Kalam was working to live his dream.

He had always dreamed of flying an aircraft. So, it makes perfect sense that Kalam decided to choose aeronautical engineering as his major in university.

Kalam advises future engineering students. In particular, he says, ‘when they choose their specialty, an essential point to consider is.

or whether the choice articulates their inner feelings and aspirations.’ Kalam decided to pursue aeronautical engineering as it aligned with his passion.

Kalam suggests that future engineers and all future professionals should choose a role that is compatible with their dreams. This is the most crucial factor.

Looking for work

After graduating from university, Kalam had to choose between two passions. His first option was to join the Air Force. His other option was to get a job in the Directorate of Technical Development and Production.

Inevitably, the latter would involve working for India’s Ministry of Defence. Kalam applied for the Air Force to fulfill his dream of flying, but was ultimately rejected.

Kalam was initially deflated. Desperate, he trekked to nearby Rishikesh, where he met spiritual teacher, writer and yoga guru Swami Sivananda.

Kalam considers this meeting as one of the most important events of his life. Sivananda taught him that he had to accept his fate and move on with his life.

It is not right to dwell on the past. Instead, Kalam had better move on. Kalam did exactly this.

He can still exercise his passion for aeronautical engineering by working for the Directorate of Technical Development and Production as a Senior Scientific Assistant.

Kalam experienced considerable shock in this role. He thoroughly enjoyed the freedom he was given to design his aircraft. He designed an indigenous hovercraft named Nandi.

Kalam worked hard and used innovation to design this hovercraft. The new ministry rejected his design for an imported hovercraft.

Essentially, Kalam was told that his work was not good enough. Again, his aeronautical dreams were dashed, but Kalam remained positive.

He remembered what Sivananda had taught him: some events in life may be beyond your control, and you should not take them personally.

Kalam’s fortunes change

Although Kalam’s design, Nandi was initially rejected, this was not the end of his story. The design has already created interest and buzz.

Then, as if fate were knocking, the Indian Space Research Council invited Kalam for an interview. He was going to his interview for the post of rocket engineer.

In this meeting, he was the father of the Indian space program, Prof. Met Sarabhai. Kalam got a job and worked as a rocket engineer for several years.

Therefore, a large part of this part of the book is academic. Kalam outlined the various space stations and institutions located in India. After his initial shock, Kalam excelled in rocket science.

He received the Padma Bhushan Award after the successful launch of one of his rockets, SLV-3. The Padma Bhushan is the second highest civilian award of the Republic of India.

He then moved to rocketry at the Defense Research and Development Organization. Kalam successfully launched the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program for the development of five different missiles.

Kalam received the Padma Vibhushan for the successful launch of India’s missile programme. Kalam believes that failure is the seed of learning and believes that India can become a technological leader despite repeated failures.

He Prof. Also learned many valuable management and leadership lessons from Sarabhai.

In the early stages of his career, Kalam believed that a free exchange of ideas was more desirable than giving direction. Kalam also learned that leaders exist at all levels.

Kalam’s approach to work

Although Kalam had a tight schedule, he spearheaded the project. First, he would enter the office and clean his desk.

This created an environment for Kalam where he could work effectively. After clearing his table, he prioritized the papers that needed immediate action.

While doing this, he would remove everything except those papers from his sight. His focus allowed him to take immediate action when he identified work that needed to be done.

This was especially true for time-critical tasks that could affect or make it memorable. Kalam’s general work attitude was courageous.

With a persistence for perfection. In his eyes, perfection requires one to make mistakes in the past and learn from them. Therefore, he advocated allowing mistakes as part of the learning process.

He decided to take this approach because mistakes are inevitable. But can usually be managed.

Kalam suggests that you create your own learning by developing skills that can correct your mistakes. Based on this theory, Kalam received three of India’s top civilian awards.

Namely, he was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1997, Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and Padma Bhushan in 1981. He was also awarded honorary degrees from more than 30 universities around the world.

Death of Kalam

Although not covered in this book, Kalam’s death follows the kind of person he was. Notably, Kalam died of cardiac arrest while giving a speech to scientific students.

He devoted his life to advancing the scientific and technological understanding of India.

The Three Mighty Forces

To succeed in life and achieve results, you need to master and understand three powerful forces.

  1. desire
  2. belief
  3. expectations

These were the most important forces that led Kalam to success. He wanted to transform India through science and technology.

Kalam also believed in his ability and God to guide him towards these desires. This belief was strong and not shaken by shocks.

Like when he was rejected from the Air Force. Instead of giving up, Kalam accepted that his life was guiding him down a different and more fulfilling path.

Finally, Kalam explains that you need to have expectations for your life. Expectations allow you to set goals and react accordingly.

Without expectations, you will have no success or failure. Importantly, expectations allow you to recognize failure and learn from these experiences.

Final summary and review of Wings of Fire

Wings of Fire covers the life of one of the most influential figures in Indian history. Abdul Kalam had great political influence in his homeland.

But he also influenced the scientific world. The message you can take from this book is to use desire, belief and expectation to achieve your goals.

Wings of fire quote

“Dreams are not what you see while you sleep; It’s something that doesn’t let you sleep.” – Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire

“When learning is purposeful, creativity flourishes. When creativity flourishes, ideas arise. When the idea comes out.

Then knowledge is fully revealed. When knowledge is spread, the economy grows.” – Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire

“If you fail, never give up because failure means the first attempt to learn. The end is not the end, in fact END means effort never dies.

If you get no as an answer, remember Small Means Next Opportunity.” – Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire

Wings of Fire

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