Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam: Book Review

Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari

First Published: 1999

Publisher: Universities Press

Genre: Autobiography

Plot Synopsis:

This is the story of Dr. Kalam’s rise from obscurity and his personal and professional struggles. A man who was honored by the highest civilian award of India, the Bharat Ratna. A person who served as the 11th President of India in the year 2002.

One who grew in scarcity to become a defense scientist. As chief of the country’s defense research and development program, he demonstrated great potential for dynamism and innovation.

This is a story about hope, dream, and vision. It is not about only his personal triumphs and tribulations but of the successes and setbacks of Indian Science and Space research. It is also the story of India, struggling to establish itself at the technological forefront.

He was a visionary Indian scientist who worked 18 hours a day, to create India’s awesome weaponry.

Independent India’s struggled for technological self-sufficiency and defensive autonomy. His innovations led to technological endeavors and strengthened the country’s economic and technological supremacy in the world.

Economic and technological supremacy is equated with political power and world control. Being technologically strong made India come out as a world leader.

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About APJ Abdul Kalam’s Early Life:

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born in 1931 in Rameswaram, Tamilnadu.

His father (Jainulabdeen) was a boat owner. He was not much educated. Also, could not make enough wealth for the family.

Through his dad’s words of wisdom, he understood the importance of offering prayers to god. He also learned honesty and maintain self-discipline from his father.

His mother (Ashiamma) was filled with generosity and kindness. She offered food and help to others whenever possible.

Ahmed Jalaluddin was a dear friend to him. He had an endless conversation about God and spirituality with him.
Ahmed Jalaluddin was 15 years older and later became his brother-in-law.

Ahmed spoke about educated people, scientific discoveries, contemporary literature, and the achievements of medical science. So, this encouraged Dr. Kalam to read all he could. He often visited Ahmed’s home to borrow books.

Another person who greatly influenced his boyhood was his first cousin, Samsuddin. Kalam was able to make his very first earning because of him by distributing newspaper in Rameshwaram.

All the time spent with his family and friends perhaps contributed most to the uniqueness of his childhood.

The atmosphere of Rameswaram, with its flocking pilgrims, made him understand spirituality. Early from childhood, he learned to be spiritual and grateful.


Dr. Kamal had his share of childhood struggle and yet did not succumb to the situation. There were setbacks, disappointments, and distractions, but he fought against all the odds of his life.

He continued his study did his schooling, got a B.Sc. degree. Later his did Aeronautical Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology.

Later, he got the chance to work with the engine overhauling team at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited(HAL) in Bangalore.


The very first dream of Dr. Kamal was to fry. His desire to fly kept him going and learning. His dreams shattered when he could crack the interview in the Air Force.

However, he got the offer letter to join the Directorate of Technical Development and Production, DTD&P(Air), at the Ministry of Defence.

He soon understood the fact and followed the divine path shown by God. Even if he was not flying airplanes, he was at least helping to make them airworthy.

So, He decided to join DTD&P(Air), at the Ministry of Defense.

He got endless opportunities to work as a great Indian scientist and immensely contributed to the growth of Indian space technology.

India’s first rocket launch took place on 21 November 1963. It was a sounding rocket, called NikeApache, made at NASA.

The leader of the Indian space program Prof. Sarabhai had shared the dream of an Indian Satellite Launch Vehicle. He took the challenge of giving physical dimensions to this dream with the help of the Indian space scientist.

Rocketry was reborn in India. With the technological vision of Dr. Kalam and the resilient team, this was made possible.

My Thoughts & Recommendation:

This book is not just an autobiography but an inspiring story. It will touch the hearts of every reader who aspires to become great in life.

It also the means to devise awareness about Indian History and the story of Indian science.

India’s search for scientific self-sufficiency and technological competence is a parable for our times.

Know the story of Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul, and Nag – missiles that have become household names in India. The creation of these missiles led our nation to rise internationally and be remarkable in the missile power sector.

About the Author:

Arun Tiwari is an Indian missile scientist, author, and professor. He worked under Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam for over a decade in the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad.

He is currently Director, Cardiovascular Technology Institute, Hyderabad, where he is pursuing Dr. Kalam’s vision of developing cost-effective medical devices using indigenous defense technology.

He transcribed the bits and pieces of Dr. Kalam’s story and converted them into a fluent narrative.

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Quotes From The Book:

“We are all born with a divine fire in us. Our efforts should be to give wings to this fire and fill the world with the glow of its goodness.”

“He who knows others is learned, but the wise one is the one who knows himself. Learning without wisdom is of no use.”

“All beings are born to delusion . . overcome by the dualities which arise from wish and hate . . But those men of virtuous deeds in whom sin has come to an end, freed from the delusion of dualities, worship me steadfast in their vows”- Bhagawad Gita


Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam
Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam

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