Summary of Wings of Fire


Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, (born October 15, 1931 in Rameswaram, India – died July 27, 2015 in Shillong), was an Indian scientist and politician who was instrumental in developing India’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes. He served as India’s president from 2002 until 2007. He was a visionary who is constantly brimming with ideas for the country’s progress.

Wings of Fire is the autobiography of Dr. Abdul Kalam, India’s former President. Dr Kalam rose from humble beginnings in South India to create India’s nuclear weapons and eventually become President. The reader receives an insight of pre-partition India through this autobiography. Additionally, Kalam introduces readers to the positive thinking and ideas that aided in his accomplishment. This is the story of Kalam’s ascent from obscurity to prominence, as well as his personal and professional hardships. Additionally, it is a story of independent India’s battle for technological self-sufficiency and defence autonomy.

Kalam’s Upbringing

Kalam begins the book with an account of his upbringing. He was born into a solid middle-class Tamil family in Rameswaram, India. His father possessed a boat, which is considered to be a sign of riches. Rameswaram provided an excellent atmosphere for growing up, as it was a close-knit community where everyone supported one another. Individuals were willing to openly discuss religion and spirituality. Kalam developed an early appreciation for other religions. Additionally, his father worked as an Imam in a nearby mosque. Kalam grew up believing that faith is a necessary component of human existence.

All family members urged Kalam to work diligently and achieve academic success. Over dinner, Kalam’s family discussed numerous scientific breakthroughs and new pioneering books. These discussions laid the groundwork for Kalam’s passion for academia. Kalam was close to both of his parents and referred to his mother as a friend rather than a parent. He also presents his best friend, Ahmed Jalaluddin, to the readers. Kalam attained intellectual and spiritual maturity at an early age as a result of Ahmed’s approximately 15-year seniority. They usually met at the mosque and discussed Islam.

Learning Difficult Lessons at High School

Kalam left his birthplace to attend Schwartz High School in Ramanathapuram to pursue his passion of studying about cutting-edge technology and science. Initially, Kalam relished his time in school. However, a new teacher arrived one day. This teacher, Rameswaram Shastry, observed Kalam seated next a Hindu pupil. He informed Kalam that such behaviour was not permitted and chose to relegate Kalam to the rear of the class. This was an early manifestation of the views prevalent during India’s partition. Following this incident, Kalam resolved to prevent the spread of prejudice rather than to propagate it himself. Throughout his life, he remained receptive to all religions, including during and after India’s division.

When Kalam was a small child, he sold newspapers to assist his brother in alleviating their financial difficulties. Kalam credits his life’s triumphs to the demands and support of friends and family in the book.

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Kalam’s First Experiences With Engineering

Kalam maintained his academic excellence throughout high school and maintained a strong interest in science. Abdul Kalam recognised that he needed to engage in engineering to make his dreams a reality after completing his B.Sc. in physics. As a result, he applied to the Madras Institute of Technology for an engineering course. Having said that, despite his relative riches, the admittance fees were still too pricey for him. Fortunately, his elder sister recognised his ability and was eager to assist him in securing a position. She financially supported him throughout his early years at the Madras Institute of Technology.

Learning to Fly

This generosity motivated Kalam to work as diligently as possible in order to secure a scholarship. His diligence eventually paid off, and he relieved his elder sister of some financial problems. Along with academic accomplishment, Kalam was pursuing a lifelong dream. He had always wished to fly an aeroplane. As a result, it is very understandable that Kalam chose aeronautical engineering as his university major.

Kalam offers tips to aspiring engineers. Specifically, he states, ‘When people select a speciality, the critical factor to evaluate is if the selection reflects their inner thoughts and desires.’ Kalam chose aeronautical engineering as a career path since it matched his interests. Kalam advises young engineers, and indeed all future professionals, to pursue careers that match with their ambitions. This is the decisive factor.

Looking for Work

Kalam was forced to choose between two passions upon his graduation from university. His initial thought was to join the Air Force. His second choice was to apply for a position in the Technical Development and Production Directorate. In essence, the latter would entail employment in India’s Ministry of Defence. Kalam applied to the Air Force in order to pursue his ambition of flying, but was ultimately turned down.

Kalam’s original deflated state. He travelled down to adjacent Rishikesh, where he encountered Swami Sivananda, a spiritual teacher, author, and yoga master. Kalam regards this interaction as one of the defining moments of his life. Sivananda taught him that he ought to accept his fate and continue living. It is pointless to ruminate on the past. Rather than that, Kalam was better off proceeding. This is precisely what Kalam accomplished. He might continue to pursue his interest for aviation engineering by working as a Senior Scientific Assistant for the Directorate of Technical Development and Production.

Kalam faced tremendous setbacks in this job. He relished the creative flexibility afforded him in designing his aircraft. He created the indigenous Nandi hovercraft. Kalam worked diligently and creatively to design this hovercraft. His idea for imported hovercrafts was rejected by the new ministry. In essence, Kalam had been warned that his effort was inadequate. Again, his aeronautical ambitions were dashed, but Kalam maintained his optimism. He recalled Sivananda’s teachings: Certain situations in life are beyond your control, and you should not take them personally.

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Kalam’s Destiny Changes

Despite Kalam’s design, Nandi, was initially rejected, its tale was far from over. Already, the design had generated curiosity and buzz. Then, as if by divine intervention, Kalam was invited for an interview by the Indian Committee for Space Research. They were going to conduct an interview with him in order to hire him as a Rocket Engineer. He met Prof. Sarabhai, the founder of India’s space programme, during this interview. Kalam was hired and spent several years as a Rocket Engineer. As a result, a significant percentage of this section of the book is instructive. Kalam discusses India’s several space stations and agencies. Kalam excelled in rocket science following his initial setback. He won the Padma Bhushan award following the successful launch of SLV-3, one of his rockets. The Padma Bhushan is the Republic of India’s second-highest civilian award. He then proceeded to the Defence Research and Development Organization to work on rocketry. Kalam established the Integrated Guided Missile Creation Program, which resulted in the development of five distinct missiles. Kalam was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for successfully launching India’s missile programme. Kalam believes that failures are fertile ground for learning and that India can be a technology leader despite repeated setbacks.

Prof. Sarabhai also taught him numerous valuable business and leadership concepts. During his early career, Kalam believed that a free interchange of ideas was more beneficial than guidance. Kalam also discovered that leaders exist at all levels of society.

Kalam’s Approach to Work

Kalam maintained a rigorous schedule, despite the fact that he was leading initiatives. To begin, he would enter the office and wipe down his desk. This enabled Kalam to cultivate an environment conducive to effective work. Following a thorough cleaning of his desk, he prioritised the documents that required immediate attention. While he was doing this, he would block out everything else in his field of vision except those documents. His attention enabled him to act quickly when he identified tasks that needed to be completed. This was particularly true for time-sensitive jobs that had the potential to leave an impression or make him memorable.

Kalam’s general work ethic was courageous, with a relentless pursuit of perfection. Perfection, in his opinion, necessitates that an individual make mistakes in the past and learn from them. As a result, he advocated for accepting mistakes as a necessary part of the learning process. He chose this strategy because errors are unavoidable but generally tolerable. Kalam argues that you construct your own education by honing the abilities necessary to correct your errors.

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Kalam was granted India’s top three civilian awards, the Bharat Ratna in 1997, the Padma Vibhushan in 1990, and the Padma Bhushan in 1981, based on this principle. Additionally, he received honorary degrees from more than 30 universities worldwide.

Kalam’s Death

Although not discussed in detail in this book, Kalam’s demise is consistent with the type of guy he was. Kalam died as a result of heart arrest while delivering a speech to a group of scientific students. He dedicated his life to the advancement of India’s scientific and technological knowledge.

The Three Mighty Forces

To attain success and outcomes in life, you must master and understand three great forces.




These were the primary forces that propelled Kalam to success. He desired to impact India positively through science and technology. Kalam also had faith in his talent and in God’s ability to guide him toward his goals. This conviction was unwavering and unaffected by setbacks, such as being rejected from the Air Force. Rather than giving up, Kalam understood that his life was only directing him into a more compatible path. Finally, Kalam emphasises the importance of having expectations for one’s life. Expectations enable you to establish objectives and respond appropriately. Without expectations, there is no way to know whether you will succeed or fail. Significantly, expectations enable you to recognise and learn from failure.

Final Summary and Review of Wings of Fire

Wings of Fire chronicles the life of one of India’s most significant figures. Abdul Kalam exerted enormous political influence in his native nation, but he also had an impact on the scientific community. The concept this book conveys is to employ desire, belief, and expectancy to accomplish your goals.

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam’s Message

My message, especially to young people
is to have courage to think differently,
courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This is my message to the young people.

Wings of Fire Quotes

“Dreams are not that which you see while sleeping; it is something that does not let you sleep.” — Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire

“When learning is purposeful, creativity blossoms. When creativity blossoms, thinking emanates. When thinking emanates, knowledge is fully lit. When knowledge is lit, economy flourishes.” — Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire

“If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means first Attempt In Learning. End is not the end, in fact E.N.D. means Effort Never Dies. If you get No as an answer, remember N.O. means Next Opportunity.” — Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire

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