the book

Guiding Souls
Dialogues On The Purpose Of Life


the story

I wrote three books in the self-help format – ‘Managing Sadness: Scientific Insights to Seek Inner Solutions’ (Ocean Books, 2002), ‘Broken Brains’ (Ocean Books, 2003), and ‘Inner View: The Psychology of Dreams’ with Dr. B. Anand (Ocean Books, 2005), primarily to help myself out of my personal turmoil.

After becoming the President of India, Dr. Kalam assumed a larger-than-life persona of an inspirational leader. I would travel with him and see first-hand, his charm that brought smiles to millions of children’s faces and lit up their eyes. This book emerged in the dialogue form when we tried to understand how people receive inspiration and aspire to live superior lives.

Dr. Kalam explained, “In a process that is akin to a seed germinating suddenly, certain spiritual guideposts appear showing the way, or the right path. I would call these spiritual guideposts Guiding Souls, endowed with a mission to steer human lives in the affairs of this world.”

 Who inspired Dr. Kalam and in what manner? His answer formed the main body of the book. Dr. Kalam named 15 people, including historical figures, philosophers and scientists. He called them his guideposts. The list started with Emperor Ashoka, and moved through saint-poet Thiruvalluvar, Aryabhata, Caliph Umar, Guru Nanak Dev, Thomas Alva Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Srinivasa Ramanujan and C.V. Raman.

To the question that who, among all the people, left the deepest imprint on him, Dr Kalam answered crisply, “My mother! And I suppose this is true for all of us.” Did you miss her? Dr. Kalam said, “I never lost her.” What did he feel had the most profound impact on his soul? Dr. Kalam said, “The devotion of my parents for each other — the mutual respect.” When I asked the awkward question if there was any other woman whom he had admired, Dr. Kalam said with childlike simplicity, “I have always admired with respect, M.S. Subbulakshmi. She was an extremely traditional and conservative woman of her generation. I bathe my soul in her music.” Amongst those whom Dr. Kalam interacted with and was influenced by, he named Prof. Satish Dhawan, President Nelson Mandela, Dr. Verghese Kurien and Dr. Kakarla Subbarao.  

I used this book to declare Dr. Kalam as my guiding soul. When he asked me to explain the reason, I answered, “You see things as they are. You can see through the beautiful appearance of things, which are, in reality, ugly. The ugly appearance of those things, which are, in reality, beautiful, does not deter you from dealing with them. You keep showing me each thing as it is and its true colour, lest I fall into a snare and be ever-errant.”

The book has been translated into Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Konkani and Chinese.

“Extraordinary authors, extraordinary book”

– The Hindu


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