Review: My Journey

BY Amogha IN A, Memoir, Non-fiction NO COMMENTS YET Abdul Kalam

By A.P.J Abdul Kalam. Grade A

“Little drops of water and little grains of sand make a mighty ocean and a pleasant land.” This popular proverb above has long since stood to indicate how little things contribute to make us who we are – be it the kindness of an old stranger you vaguely remember, a long lost childhood friend who shared his toys when you had broken yours or maybe something even as little as the memory of a bird’s nest your mother showed you amidst the rose bushes. Invariably, all of these impact your thinking and unknown to you have the capability to mould you into a person you are.  If such seemingly little things could have so much impact, what about the people who have strived for your good, have held your hand and walked you through the crevices of darkness through their strength and wisdom?

Dr. Abdul Kalam, India’s most loved former President, a brilliant scientist, a visionary and an inspiration to the millions of children across the length of the country, through his latest book “My Journey”, provides an insight into his past particularly about the things that has made him the person he is today.

My Journey

From a small boy growing up in Rameswaram, to becoming the country’s eleventh President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s life has been a tale of extraordinary determination, courage, perseverance and the desire to excel. In this series of anecdotes and profiles, Dr Kalam looks back on key moments in his past—some small and some momentous—and tells the reader how each of them inspired him profoundly. With warmth and affection, he talks about the people who left a deep impression on him as he was growing up and as an adult, and the lessons he drew from his interactions with them. He describes those who have been the closest to him—his father with his deep love of God, his mother and her great kindness, his mentors who helped shape his thoughts and outlook. There are heart-warming accounts here of his childhood years spent in a small town by the Bay of Bengal and the many struggles and sacrifices made on the path to becoming a scientist and then the President of India. Dr Kalam also writes about the times when failure and dejection nearly overtook him and how he prevailed over those obstacles by drawing strength from books and spirituality.
Nostalgic, honest, and deeply personal, My Journey is the story of a life as rich as it is unusual—and the beautiful lessons to be learnt from it.

The Author:
Born on 15 October 1931, at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam specialized in Aeronautical Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology. Dr Kalam is one of the most distinguished scientists of India and has been awarded the Padma Bhushan (1981), the Padma Vibhushan (1990) and India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna (1997).
Dr Kalam became the eleventh President of India on 25 July 2002. His focus and greatest ambition remains finding ways that will transform India into a developed nation.

In this book, Dr. Kalam has shown the readers the true spirit of India, the wisdom of simple Indians who inspire and motivate a young boy to dream big and achieve his dreams. His writing is uncomplicated and tender, sprinkled with his essence of simplicity which unfailingly touches your heart. He shares his life experiences, his values, his life lessons through the twelve thought-provoking stories spanning his childhood, teenage and adulthood.

Starting off with ‘My Father’s Morning Walk’, he talks of his father who instills the values of equality, perseverance, patience in young Abdul. The stories ‘The Boat’, ‘A Working Boy At Eight’ talk of his first brush with engineering, his inquisitiveness and his efforts to contribute to his household despite being just eight years of age. The underlying tone in all these chapters is of how as children, we pick up lessons not just from school but from the simple people who surround us.

‘Three Great Hearts Resolve a Problem’ is one of my favorites and probably has the biggest lesson that our country can pick up. We are shown that despite the communal riots that tore apart the harmony of civilians in other parts of the country, the three religious heads of Rameshwaram managed to upkeep the peace of the town. The head priest of the temple, the head of the mosque (Dr. Kalam’s father) and the priest of the Christian parish not only maintained their friendship despite the difference in their faiths but they also inspired the people from their respective faiths to live harmoniously. We can see from the anecdote how deep an impact the three men had on Dr. Kalam which resonates highly in his personality.

‘My Mother And My Sister’, tells us about the two women who molded Dr.Kalam. While simple sacrifices that mothers make for their children go a long way in shaping the future of a child, the love of siblings, especially a dear sister’s selflessness, greatly contributes a person’s success. Dr. Kalam’s tender memories of his mother and sister will definitely touch the reader’s heart.  ‘My First Memoir: Ahmed Jalallauddin’ is a eulogy to Dr. Kalam’s first mentor Ahmed Jallauddin, a person who set him on his path of science. Dr. Kalam expresses his gratitude for the man who most probably played the pivotal role in nurturing him.

While ‘When I Failed’ talks of his apparent failures but illustrates to the reader how failure eventually carves out a stepping stone to success; in ‘My Favorite Books’ the reader becomes aware of Dr. Kalam’s love for literature and its impact on his thinking.  ‘A Brush with Fire’ manages to convey Dr. Kalam’s gratitude to his friend and colleague who put Dr. Kalam’s life above his own. ‘My Mentor: Dr. Vikram Sarabhai’ is a tribute to another visionary who carved a niche not only in Indian scientific circles but in mentoring budding scientists like Dr. Kalam as well. ‘A Life in Science’ exemplifies his love for science and the key position it holds in his life.

All of Kalam’s stories have one thing in common – like all good stories, they make the reader pause, take a step back, and reassess. They make us think about life, success, failure, and the people behind the scenes who make us who we are. The book is merely not a collection of his experiences but a befitting tribute to all those people who have molded him.

A must-read for everyone who adores the Missile Man, or is looking for a lift in his life. While this might not be classic Self-Help the likes of Robin Sharma/Deepak Chopra, these honest words would go further as an impetus.

Someone who stumbled into the enchanting world of words at an early age and lives in it ever since. While not reading, writing, dreaming or travelling, busy making a list of all the books to read and all the places to visit.