A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s My Journey: A Humble Review
Book Title: My Journey – Transforming Dreams into Actions
Author: A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
Publication: Rupa Publications
Genre: Non Fiction/Autobiography
I can hear my father tell me,
‘‘I know you have to go away to grow. Does the seagull not fly across the sun, alone and without a nest? You must forego your longing for the land of your memories to move into the dwelling place of your greater desires; our love will not bind you, nor will our needs hold you.”
When this book came into my hands I knew almost immediately that I held a treasure of knowledge. Now, now. Do not presume that this book is about general knowledge that many amongst us were forced to read as kids. The book is instead a plethora of emotions and thoughts tied together like in a bouquet. It is life described from the layman’s point of view.
The narrative hits you where it should – the heart. And, any presumptions that may have been lurking in the crevices of stereotype thoughts are put to rest once one begins reading the book.
- What stands out about this book is that A.P.J. Abdul Kalam does not permit either his fantastic career as a former scientist or an ex-President to derail him from his track of introspection, realization and sharing.
- What stand out are his beautiful memories that take the readers on a whirlwind tour through time.
- What stands out is his unassuming narrative which makes no attempt whatsoever at disguising poverty, impoverishment, failure, hurt, dejection – all which went a long way in shaping the persona of the man we see before us today.
The book, My Journey – Transforming Dreams into Actions neither gives you the heady feeling that an autobiography does replete with accomplishments and the like nor does it pale into insignificance with its description of life in general. It is divided into 12 chapters , small ones that aid you in remembering the significant moments in your life be it a stroll with your father, your first job, the acknowledgement of the love of parents and siblings in your life, your inspiration, your acceptance of failure and the need to carry on in life whatever the loss.
“Joy is fleeting, whereas true happiness and calm come to us only after intense pain, when we have confronted ourselves in the mirror of our souls and understood the self.”
On the professional front he talks about the value and sacrifice of any great work.
“When grand plans for scientific and defence technologies are made, do the people in power think about the sacrifices the people in the laboratories and fields have to make? Political rhetoric alone does not build a nation unless it is backed by the power of sacrifice, toil and virtue. That is true nation building.”
Tiny incidents in his life make you understand that he is just like all of us – not a dominating personality of goodness out there to make us feel any less for being an ordinary person. In fact, it is his identification with the ordinary things in life that make us bond with him more through this book. I was touched for instance when I read about the part where he writes about his agony of ‘mortgaging’ a book he held close to his heart during his IIT days in Chennai because he did not have enough money to buy a train ticket to go home to Rameshwaram.
On teachers he says:
“That day I learnt two lessons: a teacher who has his or her student’s progress in mind is the best possible friend, because the teacher knows how to make sure that you excel. And second, there is no such thing as an impossible deadline.”
About his dear mother he writes oh! So lovingly:
“Yet, within that, she served everyone and God with utmost devotion, selflessness and piety. It is this lesson that I have carried from her life – that it does not matter how large or small your sphere of activity is, what counts finally is the commitment that you bring to the job that has been ordained for you in this life.”
On work ethics which he learnt at the grand young age of 8 he writes:
“Mostly, I learnt that to be a working man meant you had to be up and ready to face the day, whatever else may happen to you. Homework, tuition, prayers, all carried on, but the Madras-Dhanushkodi Mail would not wait for me – I had to be present at the station at the correct time and at the correct point to catch the bundles as they came flying in.”
The anecdotes in this beautiful book never fail to astonish me in their simplicity and striking messages as well as in the stark philosophical and practical reality that they reflect.
To simply describe the author whom we all already know very well, I quote him from his book:
“This is described in the Bhagwad Gita: ‘See the flower, how generously it distributes perfume and honey. It gives to all, gives freely of its love. When its work is done, it falls away quietly. Try to be like the flower, unassuming despite all its qualities.’”
Do not miss the book whatever your genre of interest may be. The book is simply beautiful in its simplicity and is truly inspiring.