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Monday, August 27, 2007

Book Review: Ignited Minds

Being away, off the cyber world, resulted in my not being able to blog...The following is a book review that I was asked to do while being away from home.....At the outset, it needs to be disclosed that I'm not very good at reviewing books; again, the book that I got to review, fortunately (for me) and unfortunately (for the readers and the stature of the book as well as its author) is Ignited Minds, by Dr A P J Abdul Kalam - one of the finest sons of India. This is the first book review I did and yes, I'm loving it, too.....Read the review and give your valuable feedback....All mistakes and shortcomings are mine and mine only.......

//Born in 1931 in humble backgrounds, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam rose to become the President of India in 2002. The post of Indian President got a new meaning during his incumbency. In many ways, he was a ‘hands-on’ President and thus came to be rightly called the ‘People’s Prez’. It’s not that Presidentship alone is his claim to fame; even before assuming the highest office in the country, he had held several high-profile posts in ISRO and DRDO and was also the Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India, holding the rank of Cabinet Minister. He is the ‘missile-man’ of India and was the driving force behind India’s second nuclear test in 1998. He is also the recipient of the highest civilian award in India, the ‘Bharat Ratna’.

Ignited Minds: Unleashing The Power Within India continues the trajectory of thought taken up in two of his earlier works, Wings of Fire and India 2020: A Vision For The New Millennium. The object of this work, according to him, is to ignite young minds so that India turns into a developed nation by the year 2020. Dr Kalam places enormous trust on the power of India’s youth to make a difference and fulfil his vision of a developed India. The narration is in the first person and the language, simple and lucid for everyone to understand. The book is organized into nine chapters and is peppered with Dr Kalam’s own rich experiences, which makes it all the more delectable.

The book opens with the statements that Dr Kalam makes every youth he interacts with take as a sort of pledge: "Dream, Dream, Dream; Dreams transform into thoughts; And thoughts result in action". In a way, this is the essence of what he wants to convey to his readers and his countrymen at large. He talks about the power of dreams and says that spirituality has to be integrated with education, focusing on self-realization.In the second chapter, he recollects the interactions he had with children in different parts of India. He reiterates the need for the right kind of role models for the youth of India. A role model can provide answers to many questions children have as they grow up.

It is a vision that inspires minds and fires action. In the third chapter, Dr Kalam devotes considerable space to discuss the vision and achievements of illustrious sons of Mother India in fields as diverse as astronomy, mathematics, physics, space science and entrepreneurship. He briefly touches upon the lives of Aryabhatta, Brahmagupta, Bhaskaracharya, Ramanujan, Sir C V Raman, Prof S Chandrasekhar, Dr D S Kothari, Dr Homi J Bhabha and Dr Vikram Sarabhai. He also fondly recalls his association with Prof Satish Dhawan and Prof H A Yefremov and his meeting with the milkman of India, Shri Varghese Kurien. Certainly, all of these personalities have served as role models for Dr Kalam. In this exercise, he shows remarkable awareness about, and respect for all of them. In between, he also shares an interesting anecdote about how he and his team were able to get the necessary space to locate the rocket launching centre at Thumba in Thiruvananthapuram, buttressing the fact that science and religion are not mutually exclusive.

It is then a smooth take-off to the next chapter where Dr Kalam impresses upon the reader, the importance of spiritual development. An important observation he makes here is that the unification of science and spirituality is essential to take the benefits of science and technology to the mankind. He recounts his visits to, and meetings with, Pramukh Swami Maharaj of Swaminarayan Sanstha at Ahemedabad, Dargah Sharif of Sufi mystic Kwaja Moinuddeen Chishti, Mata Amritanandamayi, Ramakrishna Mission, Kanchi Shankaracharya and Sri Sathya Sai Mission and shares his learning and experience from all these visits and meetings. According to him, the vibes and mental peace one gets at these places is one and the same. Dr Kalam says that we must draw upon our heritage and wisdom to enrich our lives.

In the next chapter, Dr Kalam notes that unfortunately for India, historic forces have not given a common memory to all communities by taking them back to their roots a millennium down the ages and that not enough effort has been made in the years since independence to foster that memory. This has led to divisive forces rearing their ugly heads at times. He calls for a patriotic fervor that transcends politics and religion. He cites A R Rahman’s Vande Mataram as an example for this.

In the chapter aptly named ‘The Knowledge Society’, Dr Kalam puts up a strong case for India becoming a knowledge society and regaining the status it had enjoyed in the ancient past. He puts forward the idea of PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) for rural development, which is the need of the hour. In the next chapter, Dr Kalam lays down five areas for integrated action viz., agriculture and food processing, power, education and healthcare, Information Technology and the strategic sector. According to him, action in these five areas, properly integrated, would lead to food, economic, social and national security. The rest of the chapter is about how to align and co-ordinate action in these areas for the nation’s development.

The need for value-addition in the activities performed in our country is very well brought out in the next chapter, wherein Dr Kalam cites the case of beryllium diaphragms. This is relevant in current times too, where the rising Rupee has made the stakeholders realize the need for value-addition in our exports. Again, he calls for integrated efforts in mission mode for rapid development. In the last chapter, as in the first chapter, Dr Kalam urges us to dream and work towards making India a developed country. He prays to God Almighty to give us Indians the willingness and ability to toil hard. He ends the book with a Song of Youth, the theme of which is "Small Aim Is A Crime".

In this book, Dr Kalam laments the fact that despite all our skills, resources and talents, we Indians often tend to settle for mediocrity in everything. He also firmly believes that Indians have the potential and wherewithal to rise and realize the dream of a developed India. He has tried to show a way to fulfil this dream, by taking up different themes and tying them together with success stories to serve as motivation to everyone. Through this book, we see in Kalam the ideal Indian citizen – one who is proud of India’s glorious past and traditions and works in the present to make the future bright and exciting. Ignited Minds is a book that should be read by all self-respecting Indians, especially the youth who are the future of India and for whom it has been written. Definitely a must-buy!!//