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Thoughts of Dr A.P.J.

Abdul Kalam

Compiled & Edited By

G a u t a m S o m a n


u r a l t
N e N e

Thoughts for Youth
The biggest problem Indian youth face, I feel, is a lack of clarity of vision, a
lack of direction. What I want to say is that no one, however poor, unprivileged
small need feel disheartened about life. Problems are a part of life. Suffering is
essence of success.

I will not be presumptions enough to say that my life can be a role model
for anybody; but some poor child living in an obscure place, in an
underprivileged social setting may find a little solace in the way my destiny has
been shaped. It could perhaps motivate such children liberate themselves from
the bondage of their illusory backwardness and hopelessness. Irrespective of
where they are right now, they should be aware that God is with them and when
He is with them, who can be against them?


There is no doubt that childhood inspirations laid the foundation of my

life. I was born in Rameshwaram Island. The great ocean, its mighty waves and
the enormous sky that enveloped everything that you can see did cast their magic
spell on me. Nature is the greatest source of inspiration for mankind. As a small
boy, I never got tired of sitting on the sandy beach and gazing at the sea for hours
on end. I would imagine that the ocean told me many things. Sure it did and
every time a new thing! The many moods of the ocean, its untiring waves, the
gentle breeze on the seashore, the high and low tides, and the sea's joyous swell
on the full moon night - all these, I thought, closely reflected the humans' life
pattern in its many perspectives.

All human beings get inspired by seeing, hearing or reading something

that strikes a spark in them. The source of inspiration can be a person, a book, a
word, an object, even an animal or a bird. In order to retain the impact of an
inspiration and convert it into an accomplishment, however, we have to make a
conscious effort. When we get inspired, an idea is imbibed in us and we try to
expand and embellish that idea. Man saw the bird and was inspired by its flight.
Man's sustained inquest after the inspired thought led him to realize the flying
machines. Inspiration is the very basis of human endeavor that has spawned
with time an exponential trait in the advancement of mankind. The pace of
human progress in the early centuries could not have been comparable to what
has been possible in the recent times. It was because of the combined and
cumulative effect of the achievements that were behind him and the continually
evolving scientific temperament with which man looked at every thing that
inspired him. Moon has been an attraction ever since the first man gaped at it.
When it became possible for man to realize the rocket engine to propel himself
up, he lost no time to land on its surface. It is a timeless mission of the inspired!

My Moment of Truth

My ambition was to become an Airforce pilot. I went to attend interview at

Airforce Selection Board at Dehradun. When I was not selected, I was deeply
disappointed. For a minute, I thought, my only ambition and only opportunity
slipped through my fingers. After trekking to Rishikesh, I met Swami Sivananda.

I was struck by his irresistible look, almost child-like smile and gracious
manner. I told him my name and he asked why I felt sorrow. I told him about my
unsuccessful attempt to join Indian Airforce and my long cherished desire to fly.
He smiled, washing away my anxiety almost instantly. Then he said, in a feelable
but very deep voice, “Desire when it stems from the heart and spirit when it is
pure and intense, and possess awesome electro magnetic energy. This energy is
released into the ether each night, as the mind falls into the sleep state. Each
morning it returns to the conscious state reinforced with the cosmic currents.
That which has been imaged will surely and certainly be manifested. When the
student is ready, the teacher will appear. Accept your destiny and go ahead with
your life. You are not destined to become an Air Force pilot. What you are
destined to become is not revealed now but it is predetermined Forget this
failure, as it was essential to lead you to your destined path. Search, instead, for
the true purpose of your existence Become one with yourself, my son! Surrender
you to the wish of God," Swamiji said. How true! Here was the teacher to show
the way to a student who had nearly gone astray! I took a different path with
strong desires to lead my life.

I fully involved myself in my work, with a strong desire to achieve

wherever and whatever work I did. Desires brought forth dreams and dreams
brought them into reality. Looking the way back, I feel now how true it is.
Desires drive us to achieve the things we wanted to have. We are all born with a
divine fire within us. When the desire is pure and intense, the fire gets ignited by
the desire. The light which comes out of the fire will energize us and dispel the
darkness and we all should strive for keeping up the light for achieving greatness
for ourselves and our country.

Results from Experiences

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a girl hailing from Maharashtra.
An IAS aspirant from a very poor family, this girl was supported by her teacher to
travel to Delhi. She borrowed two decent dresses for the visit and made a
gruelling search to locate a distant relative where she could get shelter. What
made her to call me? She said she read the Marathi translation of my book 'Wings
of Fire' that dared her to dream and solace and strength to endure her struggle. I
felt satisfied in the sense that a few souls could identify themselves with book.
They find my life resonating with their own. Poverty is a curse. Forty percent of
our people live below poverty line and unless our GDP gallops to double digits,
we will remain a land of isolated islands of prosperity and affluence in an ocean
of misery and hardships.

What can change the present cast where we appeared to have been trapped
as a society? Technology is the only tool that can free us from our shackles – both
physical and psychological. The advent of information technology can be seen
across the entire cross-section of our lives. Similar spread of technological
transformation is needed in the area of healthcare and value-added production.
This is the only way to become a developed nation. Fortunately we have all
components of technology to succeed – people, material, skills, and
infrastructure. The time has come when we come out from our mindset of a
suffering civilization and strive for our destiny to be a developed nation. This is
the idea that seems to be knocking on our door. Why don't we open it?

Empower the Leader

I still remember after selecting me as the Project Director, Chairman ISRO

stated, "I will now on work for the Project Director." Hence the whole
organization works for the Project Director. It remained true for the Missile
Project too. During the Missile Development Programme a new generation of
team leaders emerged – Project Directors, Technology Directors, System
Managers, and Group Heads. These young scientists were made explicitly
responsible and empowered to develop missile systems in a multi-organizational
environment where traditional boss-subordinate hierarchy will not work. These
leaders had to deal with officials much older and experienced in their respective
fields. We instilled in them full financial and administrative authority to take and
implement decisions. They would chair the Project Management and Design
Review meetings and I would join them as a member, as and when required.
After nearly two decades, I can very confidently tell you that unless you identify a
person, declare him a leader, empower him, and shield him until he delivers,
things will not move much differently. The fear psychosis of Big Brother Is
Watching, peers-leg-pulling, and adverse publicity would only lead to more
intrigue and shell locking; creating a generation of play-safe, puritans rather than
mission driven zealots for who end drives means. Hence empower the leader and
protect him while he is facing adversity. Stand by him in the difficult times.

Interview with Dr Kalam

How would you define a developed country?

Everyone in the country has to be well above the poverty line. There should be
plenty of employment opportunity for all, including women and those in rural
areas. There has to be basic self-reliance in strategic defence systems, so that
external policy is not umbilical connected to countries through the weapons
business. Self-reliance is the only answer in the defence sector. Health, education,
employment too should reach one and all. There has to be effective action for old-
age care. Above all, the nation should have a standing commensurate with its
billion people.

Can India become a developed country?
It can and it should .It has the potential and basic capabilities. Thrust
towards basic food security, self-reliance in strategic areas, speedier economic
growth, and the new thrust we see in information technology are steps in the
right direction.

What are the main hurdles to India becoming a technological power?

The problem is our 'native ' mentality. We're afraid of celebrating our
people's success in various fields. Above all, there is a mind-set for propagating
love for foreign goods and equipment by the well-to-do the rich, and
professionals. For the nation to prosper, I still like to put forth what is said in the
famous mural by Thiruvalluvar two millennia ago:
If those who think to achieve
Have a firm and focused mind
They will realize what they thought of
And ever as they have thought of

How can we keep the best technological minds of India from emigrating to US?
I'm not worried about brain drain. Who cares? People will leave for obvious
reasons. Who can stop them? It's the process that will continue. We can keep
them by creating more challenging opportunities in the country and by
recognizing best talent and performance. The nation should have a vision. It
ignites the minds of the people and attracts the best.

Should we concentrate on core areas of research rather than all? Can you
identify some?
The nation definitely needs to focus on specific areas and not spread its
butter too thin. I can identify five areas which should be of absolute importance-
InfoTech, agricultural science, infrastructure, health and education. Research in
these sectors needs to be a never-ending process. And that's imperative for the
nation's all –round growth.

Where do we balance expenditure on defence and that on development?

Indian defence expenditure as a percentage of GNP is one of the lowest in
the world. If self-reliance in technology enters the mind of the well-to-do and
highly educated, a beautiful balance will occur between income and defence
expenditure as we live in an environment of dual technology: what's developed
for defence also has many peaceful applications.

Does the fact that your inventions include instruments of mass destruction
bother you?
It does. But at the same time, I know that the same technology which
produces the missile also helps develop an instrument used to clear blocked heart
arteries. Some of the best defence-related technologies have done wonders in
medical science in India. Don't forget the weapons business is a beautiful
business. It's a business where if you are successful, you can also influence others

Being a Vedic scholar, how are the Vedas relevant in this day and age?
I read the Vedas, I read the Gita, I read Ramayana and I read Bible. And
often when I read a religious and spiritual book, I see a beautiful linkage that is
the real Indian culture. For a nation with vision and having a basic prosperity for
its entire people, religious will become a part of the individual and fulfill his
personal needs.

Apart from science and technology, what else interests you?

Poetry and music. I have this big library at home and my favourite poets
are Milton, Walt Whitman and Rabindranath Tagore. I write poetry too. My book
of poems, Yenudaya Prayana, has now been translated into English. It is called
My Journey. You must read it.
I also enjoy Carnatic music and play the veena.

What is your favourite raga?

The Shri raga.

When can I sing a Song of India?

Recently, I was addressing a Youth meet of India at Ahmedabad. About

3000 youth from all over the country were participating. At the end of the
address one girl who is in the 10+2 came to me with certain hesitation and said
“Uncle, Can I ask a question to you? I said go ahead Lady. She said I have an
elder brother studying in USA; he came home last summer and almost sang a
song of USA. He says, "America is beautiful, America is rich, America is clean
and they are hard working. Even Indians who go to USA become hard working
and rich". Please tell me uncle, when can I sing a song of India?”. Billion people
of our nation are a big resource. Vision for the nation ignites the minds. In
ignited India, our children will sing the song of India. Friends, let us jointly work
to make at least our growing children sing the song of India.

The Road Ahead
It is a long way from the first freedom movement, from the sacrifices and
struggles, from the bondage, that India became independent and has grown in all
spheres. India is a nation of one billion people with vast human and natural
resources, with multi lingual and multi religious people spread in so vast area.
When I go from North to South and East to West, I find the whole world
contained within India, with different climate, people and culture. Since our
Independence, what India could achieve in the field of Agriculture is marvelous.
Green Revolution is India's commendable achievement. Secondly, what India has
achieved in the field of Science and Technology is remarkable. When we have
achieved good progress in Science and Technology, why should we remain a poor
country – this is the question very often I am asked by the youth. I strongly feel
that this fire from the ignited minds, will call for change, for a better life. In fact,
we are in the process of realizing the full impact of our technological
advancement to get transformed as tool for uplifting the poor. We struggle hard
to come out with economic independence. There is poverty and illiteracy, which
has cursed so bitterly a section of our population. There is another problem that
of surging population, and we should contain such a population growth by all
means – and can we call it as our strength with our present rate of one billion
population? Certainly yes, provided we remove poverty with greater accelerated
growth and give dignity to every one down the strata with good education.
Education should be up to a point from where one does not merely recognize
letters but can shape his or her destiny out of education.

It appears to be a dream to remove poverty, illiteracy and bring forth a better

life to our people. All through my life, I never worried about realizing my dreams.
Whenever my hopes, dreams and goals are shattered, out in that rubble, I always
find a golden opportunity is hidden behind. Most of our problem persists and
multiplies because we generally do not relate ourselves with our country. Before
Independence, varied people united together with the common objective, and
won our freedom. Such a unifying common cause is again and ever required for
this Second National Movement for Developed India. From the history of
Developed Countries, what we can see as important factors contributed to their
success are – sincerity to work and loyalty to country. Whenever I talk to the
youth, I find there is an unuttered promise in their thoughts and actions. They
crave for a better life and want to progress. I believe the youth have a big role in
this National Movement, for without children what is a family? I look forward
and my path leads me to my cherished destination – Developed India. I have a
goal to reach in 20 years. I have one billion desires and dreams to guide me! My
journey is our journey. Transforming India with a developed nation is the
greatest Vision for all. Your ignited minds are the greatest resources for seeing
such a vision in reality.

Excerpts From
(Autobiography of APJ ABDUL KALAM)

*A basic aspect of a person’s working style is how he plans and organizes tasks.
At one extreme end is the meticulous planner, who carefully spells out each step
before making any move. With a sharp eye for what can possibly go wrong, he
tries to cover all contingencies. At the other end is the fast mover, who weaves
and dodges without a plan. Inspired by an idea, the fast mover is always ready for

Another aspect of a person's working style is control- the energy and

attention devoted to ensuring that things happen in a certain way. At one extreme
is the tight controller, a strict administrator with frequent checkpoints. Rules and
policies are to be followed with religious fervor. At the opposite end are those
who move with freedom and flexibility. They have little patience for bureaucracy.

*To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal.
Such individuals are called "workaholics". The term is misleading because it
implies a pathological condition or an illness. If i do that which I desire more
than anything else in the world and which makes me happy, such work can never
be an aberration.

*Total commitment is a crucial quality for those who want to reach the very top of
their profession. The desire to work at optimum capacity leaves hardly any room
for anything else. Total commitment is the common denominator among all
successful men and women.

* The difference between an energetic and a confused person the way their minds
handle their experiences.

* Man needs his difficulties because they are necessary to enjoy success.

* All of us carry some sort of super-intelligence within us. Let it be stimulated to

enable us to examine our deepest thoughts, desires and beliefs.

* FLOW is a sensation we experience when we act with total involvement. There

is no hurry, there are no distracting demands. The past and future disappear. So
does the distinction between self and activity.

* Work as hard as you can at something that presents a challenge and is

approved by your heart.

*The trouble is that we often merely analyse life instead of dealing with it. People
dissect their failures for causes and effects , but seldom deal with them and gain
experience to master them and thereby avoid their recurrence.

This is my belief: thru difficulties and problems God gives us the opportunity to
grow. So when your hopes and dreams and goals are dashed, search among the
wreckage, you may find a golden opportunity hidden in the ruins.

* One of the main driving forces is: Motive. It is the force which is internal to the
individual and forms the basis of his behaviour in the work environment. Most
people posses a strong drive for growth, competence, and self-actualization. The
problem is the lack of a work-environment that stimulates and permits them to
give a full expression to this drive.

*Quite honestly, I have never understood the reason behind the great importance
attached by people to astrology. As an art , I have nothing against it, but if it seeks
acceptance under the guise of science, I reject it. The highly complicated
calculations manipulated around the precise movements of celestial bodies, to
derive highly subjective conclusions, appear illogical to me. As I see it, the earth
is the most powerful and energetic planet.

*Everything solid contains great space within and everything stationary contains
great movements within. It is as though as the great dance of Shiva is being
performed on Earth during every moment of our existence.
Desire, when it stems from the heart and the spirit, when it is pure and intense,
possesses awesome electromagnetic energy. This energy is released into the space
each night, as the mind falls to sleep. Each morning it returns to the conscious
state reinforced with the cosmic currents. That which has been imaged will be
surely and certainly be manifested. You can rely, young man, upon this ageless
promise as surely as you can rely upon the eternally unbroken promise of sunrise.
Accept your destiny and go ahead with your life. Forget this failure, as it was
essential to lead you to your destined path. Search for your true purpose of your

* As the process of confronting and solving problems often requires hard work
and is painful, we have endless procrastination. Actually, problems can be the
cutting edge that actually distinguishes between the success and the failure. They
draw out innate courage and wisdom.
The kingdom of God is within you, in the form of internal power to help you
achieve your goals and realize your dreams. There are many different types and
levels that turn this internal power reaction critical. Sometimes, when we are
ready , the gentlest contacts with him fill us with insight and wisdom. This could
come from an encounter with another person, from a word, a question, a gesture,
or even a look. It could come thru a book, a conversation, a line from a poem, or
the mere sight of a picture. Without the slightest warning, something new breaks
into your life and a secret decision is taken, a decision that you may be completely
unconscious of , to start with.

* Most of the time, communication gets confused with conversation. In fact, the
two are distinctly different. A conversation full of pleasantries is often devoid of
any useful information, whereas the communication is meant only for the
exchange of information.

* Your willingness to invest your own inner resources to invest your life, esp your
imagination, will bring you success. When you undertake a task from your own
uniquely individual standpoint, you will become a person.
Anyone who has taken the responsibility to lead a team can be successful only if
he is sufficiently intelligent and powerful in his own right to become a person to
reckon with. This is also the path to individual success in life. What can one do to
strengthen oneself?
First , by building your own education and skills. Knowledge is a tangible asset,
the most important tool in your work. You must have the most up-to-date
information. A leader should keep abreast of all that is happening around him. To
lead, is to engage in continuing education.
Second, develop a passion for personal responsibility. Work for the things you
believe in.

* Performance dimensions are factors that lead to creation. They go beyond the
competencies such as skills and knowledge of a person. They exist at various
levels of human personality. At behavioural level, the outermost ring, we can
observe skills and measure knowledge. Social roles and self-image form the
intermediate level. Motives and traits exist at the core level. If we can identify
those performance dimensions that are most highly co-related, with a job, we can
use them for outstanding performance.

Each individual creature on this beautiful planet is created by God to fulfill a
particular role. Whatever we achieve, is thru His help and as an expression of His
will. We are all born with a divine fire within us. Our efforts should be to give
wings to this fire and fill the world with the glow of its goodness.


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APJ Abdul Kalaam's speech in Hyderabad


I have three visions for India.

In 3000 years of our history, people from all over the world have come and
invaded us, captured our lands, conquered our minds.
From Alexander onwards, The Greeks, the Turks, the Moguls, the Portuguese,
the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us, took over
what was ours. Yet we have not done this to any other nation. We have not
conquered anyone. We have not grabbed their land, their culture, their history
and tried to enforce our way of life on them. Why? Because we respect the
freedom of others.
That is why my first vision is that of FREEDOM. I believe that India got its
first vision of this in 1857, when we started the war of independence. It is this
freedom that we must protect and nurture and build on. If we are not free, no one
will respect us.
My second vision for India is DEVELOPMENT. For fifty years we have been
a developing nation. It is time we see ourselves as a developed nation. We are
among top 5 nations of the world in terms of GDP. We have 10 percent growth
rate in most areas. Our poverty levels are falling. Our achievements are being
globally recognized today. Yet we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a
developed nation, self- reliant and Self-assured. Isn't this incorrect?
I have a THIRD vision. India must stand up to the world. Because I believe
that unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. Only strength
respects strength. We must be strong not only as a military power but also as an
economic power. Both must go hand-in-hand. My good fortune was to have
worked with three great minds. Dr. Vikram Sarabhai of the Dept. Of space,
Professor Satish Dhawan, who succeeded him and Dr. Brahm Prakash,
father of nuclear material. I was lucky to have worked with all three of them
closely and consider this the great opportunity of my life.

I see four milestones in my career: ONE: Twenty years I spent in ISRO. I

was given the opportunity to be the project director for India's first satellite
launch vehicle, SLV3, the one that launched Rohini. These years played a very
important role in my life of Scientist.
TWO: After my ISRO years, I joined DRDO and got a chance to be the part
of India's guided missile program. It was my second bliss when Agni met its
mission requirements in 1994.
THREE: The Dept. Of Atomic Energy and DRDO had this tremendous
partnership in the recent nuclear tests, on May 11 and 13. This was the third
bliss. The joy of participating with my team in these nuclear tests and proving
to the world that India can make it, that we are no longer a developing nation
but one of them. It made me feel very proud as an Indian. The fact that we
have now developed for Agni a re-entry structure, for which we have developed
this new material. A Very light material called carbon-carbon.

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FOUR: One day an orthopaedic surgeon from Nizam Institute of Medical
Sciences visited my laboratory. He lifted the material and found it so light that
he took me to his hospital and showed me his patients. There were these little
girls and boys with heavy metallic calipers weighing over three Kg. each,
dragging their feet around. He said to me: Please remove the pain of my
Patients. In three weeks, we made these Floor reaction Orthosis 300 gram
callipers and took them to the orthopaedic centre. The children didn't believe
their eyes. From dragging around a three kg. Load on their legs, they could
now move around! Their parents had tears in their eyes. That was my fourth

Why is media here so negative? Why are we in India so embarrassed to

recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We
have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them. Why?
We are the first in milk production. We are number one in Remote sensing
satellites. We are the second largest producer of wheat. We are the second largest
producer of rice.
Look at Dr. Sudarshan, he has transferred the tribal village into a self-
sustaining, self-driving unit. There are millions of such achievements but our
media is only obsessed in the bad news and failures and disasters.

I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was the
day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The
Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a
Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert land into an
orchid and a granary. It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The
gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper,
buried among other news. In India we only read about death, sickness,
terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE? Another question: Why are we,
as a nation so obsessed with foreign things? We want foreign TVs, we want
foreign shirts. We want foreign technology. Why this obsession with everything
imported? Do we not realize that self-respect comes with self-reliance?

I was in Hyderabad giving this lecture, when a 14 year old girl asked me for
my autograph. I asked her what her goal in life is:
She replied: I want to live in a developed India.

For her, you and I will have to build this developed India.

Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam , popularly known as the “Missile

Man of India”, is a renowned rocket engineer and a technologist. He is
currently the President of India.

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