the book

A.P.J Abdul Kalam, A Life


the story

Dr. Kalam was laid to rest in Rameswaram on July 30, 2015, with full state honours. I travelled with his mortal remains in the gigantic C-130 Hercules aircraft of the Indian Air Force and returned to Delhi around midnight. The next day, I decided to go to Meerut and spent few days with my mother. When I was near Noida, P.M. Sukumar, the CEO of HarperCollins, called me and asked me to stop by at his office. Their Chief Editor, V.M. Karthika, was also there. We had all worked very closely in the last few months to publish ‘Transcendence’. 

Sukumar convinced me to drop all my other work and write an authentic biography of Dr. Kalam for posterity. I consented and for the next ninety days, worked about 16 hours every day to write this book. In the process, I was introduced, over the telephone, to Carl Harte, an Australian living in Pondicherry with his Indian wife, and working as a freelance editor for publishing houses. We would talk every day, and he indeed raised my writing to another level even without meeting him. (We met later in Hyderabad after the book was published).

I had been blessed to live a full thirty-three years of my life in the shadow of the giant that Dr. Kalam indeed was. I worked with him as a missile scientist, co-authored five books with him, assisted him in over 300 speeches and traveled with him extensively. Therefore, writing about his work was not an issue. The difficulty I faced was how to sum up his legacy. I sat with my young colleague, S.G. Prasad, who was working with me at CARE Foundation since 1996 and who had spent a good time with Dr. Kalam on several occasions with me. Together, we zeroed in on three fundamentals and their three derivatives that Dr. Kalam stood for in his life, and that could conclusively be called as his legacy.

The three divine foundations of Dr. Kalam’s life were imagination, piousness and faith in God. Without these, a life lived is indeed a life wasted. It is from these three divine foundations that one later derives the three modes of living with righteousness, integrity and courage. These cannot be garnered by a mere intellectual understanding. Righteousness, integrity and courage emanate only from the divine endowments of imagination, a personal discipline of piousness, and unwavering faith in God in all situations and circumstances. Just as these three principles shaped Dr. Kalam’s life and drove his quests for developing India and making our planet more liveable, they would bring enduring happiness and prosperity to our own lives. This is the legacy of Dr. Kalam. 

I found in Dr. Kalam, a true rishi of modern India. I saw, in his birth at Rameswaram, Rishi Agastya; in his leadership of the country’s missile development, Rishi Vishwamitra; and in his grasp of eternal spiritual truths, Rishi Kapila. In following his example and heeding his words, may we come to live with principle as he lived, act with faith as he acted and pursue our dreams as he exhorted us.

The book has been translated into Hindi, Tamil and Marathi.


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