October 11, 2013

Book Review : My Journey by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

You are pretty much hooked when your grandpa tells you a story; for you know that the story is straight from his heart and might have many anecdotes which might lead to other interesting stories and observations. And this is the feeling when you read Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam's new book "My Journey".

A sequel to his previous books, this book is written the usual candid way, but the author has made this book deeply personal - his father, mother, sister, brothers, temple priests , mentors and many other characters who made an impact during his upbringing - figure in different stories.

As Dr.Kalam states, the book is not a linear account of his life, but events in his life that had a deep impact on him and how they taught him various facets of life and made him understand, appreciate and learn from them. Failures, dejections and death are part of life and Dr.Kalam talks about how he managed to tackle the different challenges that kept surfacing during different stages of his life. Talking about each of the chapters in this review would do no justice to the review or the book, as the stories on their own have a lot to teach to all of us alike. The honesty and the candidness in the stories is something that the author has perfected in all his books and that keeps the reader hooked and turn the pages with anticipation to know more.

It is but natural that you develop a sense of new vigour and energy when father-like figure helps you and shares some of their experiences in their life when you are experiencing tough challenges in life. Dr.Kalam is that elderly person who is all guns out in the support of GenX in realizing their dreams but at the same cautioning them of the various speed-bumps that might arise from time to time and how one needs to learn and rebound from these experiences. When his dreams of becoming a Pilot failed and walls closed in on him, a dip in the Holy Ganges at Rishikesh followed by spiritual enlightenment at Sivananda Ashram made him stronger and carry on with his life. He states:
"Each setback teaches us a new facet of life and something about our own responsibilities. When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realize that these recources are always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives".
A quick read, that can be finished in just a few hours, but I would request you to read each chapter slowly and soak in the enthusiasm and the humility that Dr.Kalam professes. The simplicity reflected in his life is also shown in the book. During the read, sometimes you slip into a state of nostalgia wherein your think about your childhood and that person that helped you learn something very trivial that is helping you a lot now - you credit them for their efforts and this I believe is what Dr.Kalam tries to stress at various junctures. Be it the sea or the boat or the morning walks with his father or the different people appearing in his life, every thing or person has something to teach us and we should always be all ears and eyes open to learn from them and further our life.

Dr.Kalam ends the books with a quick summary of his Journey from being a boy in the coastal town of Rameshwaram to India's top-most office and says ...
"Hard work and piety, study and learning , compassion and forgiveness - these have been the cornerstones of my life"
In Summary : Highly recommended short read.

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