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August 22, 2010

Page: 24/38

Home > 2010 Issues > July 22, 2010


APJ Abdul Kalam: A fascinating life dedicated to country’s progress

By MV Kamath

Dreams to Reality: A biography of Dr APJ Kalam; Srinivas Laxman; Navneet Publications Ltd, Mumbai; Pp 112 (PB), Rs 100.00

Moonshot India; Chandrayaan-I; The Mission Complete; Srinivas Laxman; Navneet Publications, Ltd., Mumbai; Pp 111 (PB); Rs 100.00

IF one were to ask any educationist which two books should be recommended as must reading to, say, teenagers between thirteen and eighteen, what, one would think, they would suggest? They may be in a genuine quandary. The standard answers could be religion-based or text-book based. A religiously oriented teacher might suggest a book like the Bible, the Geeta or the Koran and some other book reflecting ethical standards and one can hardly blame him.

Let me, in their place, suggest two titles: and they are the ones reviewed here. Srinivas Laxman, their author, is primarily a science journalist of great distinction and has worked for The Times of India in that capacity. His record is unbeatable. His attention has been largely focused on the aero-space sector and not only has he covered practically every major rocket launch, interviewed every important aero scientist, but has had the pleasure of interacting with personages like Neil Armstrong, the man who landed on the moon and astronauts like Kalpana Chawla and the first Indian cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma. And may it be said, he has often met and discussed matters with APJ Kalam-Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, space scientist and 11th President of India. The biography of this great man, written by Srinivas, is a gem of a book. Written primarily for youngsters, it is so inspirational that should be recommended reading not only to the young, but for their elders as well. To say that this is an extraordinary work is to under play its significance.

Can one imagine a boy, brought up in austere living conditions in the temple town of Rameswaram, attending a primary school of no particular distinction, steadily making up his way on the educational ladder, helped by a sister who wanted him to get a degree in science and succeeding beyond her imagination? How Abdul Kalam got into the aerospace field, made his mark as a graduate in aeronautical engineering, went on to design a successful hovercraft and then to make rockets, is such an incredible story that it takes one’s breath away. In his long journey, Kalam had his occasional failures-who wouldn’t -but when Srinivas writes about the successful launch of SLV-3, one feels like standing up to applaud Kalam, with patriotic tears rolling down one’s eyes. That one flight was to make Kalam internationally famous.

There was the occasion when Agni, the missile with a range of between 1,500 km to 3,000 km was launched on May 22, 1989. The way Srinivas describes it, makes one’s hair stand on end. As he said: "As Agni rose higher and higher, its designer regarded it as one of the greatest moments of his life". No wonder. Srinivas doesn’t give much space for Kalam as President. That part of it has nothing to do with science. In any event his success not just as President, but as a human being, wishing always to meet students and give them a vision in life, is only too well-known. But it is his record as a scientist that is so soul-stirring and which makes one think that this is a book for all Indian children to read.

The story of Chandraayana-1, written by Srinivas, is no less inspiring. There was a time in pre-independence days when India even had to import safety pins from abroad: that was the state of our industrial development. If anybody had said then that India would be sending a satellite to the moon, it would have been met with derisive laughter. Fancy, then, this country sending a satellite to the moon in 2008! India had made it.

What Srinivas has done is to record the story for posterity. There has been no attempt of its kind before. But here, in Moonshot India Srinivas tells us a story that should make any Indian proud. It should again act as a inspiration to the young, which is why the original point was made that this is a book to be strongly recommended to the young to make them proud of India and their scientific heritage. Few other books can ever make them feel so. To read and re-read Srinivas is to say: Jai Hind! Jai Bharat.

(Naneet Publications (India) Ltd, Bhavni Shankar Road, Dadar, Mumbai-400 028;

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