MY JOURNEY TRANSFORMING DREAMS INTO ACTIONS ENGLISH PDF
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My Journey_ Transforming Dreams Into Actions - Kalam a p j Abdul - Download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online. my journey. There were about a thousand literate people in the town. both in English and Tamil. The agency that. My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions The book had easy and fluent English and I was so eager in reading the complete book at once, it was so . Reignited - Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future - A. P. J. Abdul resourceone.info Book which is very My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions. My Life: An .
My father had a boat-building business. Additionally, we also owned a small coconut grove some four miles away from our house.
That was where my father would be headed for in the early morning hours. His walking circuit was well established and he rarely deviated from it. First he would step out into Mosque Street, where our house was located.
It was a small, predominantly Muslim locality not too far from the Shiva temple that has made our town famous for centuries. He would then walk through the narrow lanes of the town, on to the more open roads leading to the coconut groves, and finally wind his way through the groves to his patch of land. Today I try to imagine him walking on those quiet roads, long before the day made its many demands on him.
Ours was a large family and I am sure there were many pressures on him to see to our needs. But at that hour, I think of him listening intently to the sea, to the ever-present ravens and other birds that swooped and flew all around, woken up by the rising sun like him.
Perhaps he said his prayers to himself as he walked, or thought of his family with a calm, uncluttered early morning mind. I never did ask him what went through his mind on this long daily walkfor when does a young boy really have the time to reflect in this way about his father? But I was always sure that the morning walk added something to his personality, an element of calm that was apparent even to strangers. My father was not a person with much formal education; neither did he ever acquire much wealth in his long lifetime.
Yet, he was one of the wisest, truly generous men I have had the fortune of knowing. Our mosque was the focal point of the locality, and my father was the man everyone turned to in their hour of need.
They believed that he was truly connected to God. I remember going to the mosque to say my prayers with him. He made sure we never missed any of our prayers and neither did it enter our minds to shirk this duty. After saying our namaz, when we would step out on to the road, groups of people would inevitably be there, waiting to talk to him and share their worries with him. What did these men and women see in him? He was not a preacher, nor a teacher. He was just a man who lived by his convictions and the tenets of his religion.
What did he give them? I now think that it was his mere presence that calmed them and gave them hope. He said prayers for them, and many people would offer him bowls of water. He would dip his fingertips in them and say a prayer, after which the water would be taken away to be given to the sick. Later, many of these people would come to the house and thank him for having cured their near and dear ones.
Why did he do this? And where did he get the peacefulness and generosity of heart to talk to people, comfort them and pray for them, in the midst of the busyness of his own life? He was a humble boat owner. Life was certainly not easy for him, what with finding the best ways to make ends meet in a tiny temple town cut off from the mainland.
Yet, never once did I see my father turn away anyone who wanted to unburden himself by talking to him. Without doubt, he was a deeply spiritual man with some kind of connection with God. I believe his spirituality came from being a learned man. He knew the scriptures and could bring out their essential truth to even the youngest enquiring mind. When I asked him questions, he would always reply and attempt to explain in simple, straightforward Tamil.
Once I asked him, 'Why do these people come to you? And what do you really do for them? Whenever they are in trouble, they look for someone to help them Every recurrent anguish, longing and desire finds it own special helper. For the people who come to me in distress, I am but a go-between in their effort to ward off demonic forces with prayers and offerings. He said to look for help outside is never the final answer.
Adversity always presents opportunities for introspection. I travelled far, far away from life in Rameswaram. My journey took me to places I had never imagined visitingfrom the cockpit of a fighter jet to the highest office in the nation. Yet, it was always his words that came back to me. If we open our minds and let it, it will guide us to our true place.
Release yourself from the bindings that limit you and let that power overtake your mind, and that's when you will be on the road to true happiness and peace. I am now eighty-two years of age. Like him, my day, even today, begins with a walk.
Every morning I savour the sight of the new sun, the benign light in the sky before the sun appears, the cool breeze and the sweet call of the birds. I understand how this short time of the day binds us to nature. Each morning is different in the way the elements come together for that day. It is a little drama nature puts up only for us, and I can't stop marvelling at it. Unlike him, I often find myself in different cities and towns in the mornings because of my travels, but the early morning peace and calm is the same everywhere.
Wherever I am, I can find a tree that is great with age, where birds dwell and go busily about their day with the new dawn, whose leaves wave gently to me in the morning breeze.
It may be a warm day or a bitterly cold misty morning when my breath fogs the air in front of me, but this time away from the cares and worries that the rest of the day will invariably bring means so much to me. At my home in Delhi there is a grand old Arjuna tree. Somehow my feet always pull me towards it when I walk in my garden.
It is usually laden with honeycombs and is home to hundreds of birds, especially parrots. The dignity, beauty and stature of this tree brings memories of my father to mind and I even have silent conversations with it. Once, I wrote this poem, where I imagined what the tree would say to me if only it could: Oh my friend Kalam, I crossed age hundred like your father and mother. Every day morning, you walk an hour, I also see you on full moon nights, Walking with a thinking mood.
I know, my friend, the thoughts in your mind, 'What can I give? In my mind's eye I see a simple man, who, even when he was of a great age, continued to walk every morning to his coconut grove. As I see him, I imagine how it's been almost an hour since he set off, and the caretaker of the grove is also up and going about his day. When my father walks into his plantation, the men hail each other with warmth. Perhaps Jainulabdeen sits down somewhere awhile.
The other man climbs a coconut tree. He chooses half a dozen coconuts and cuts them down with a swing of his knife. They fall with a thump to the ground.
The man quickly makes his way down. Then he proceeds to tie them up together into a neat bundle. Now the two men sit companionably for a while. They discuss the state of the trees. They peer up at the sky, talk about rains and pests and other matters of the soil. Finally Jainulabdeen picks up his bundle of coconuts, says goodbye and begins his walk back home. He will give away a few coconuts to neighbours and others.
The rest will find their way into curries and chutneys prepared by my mother. I still remember sitting down to those simple meals and enjoying immensely the smooth, creamy coconut chutney my mother placed on the leaf plate. It is a taste that has lingered in my mouth even years later, made sweeter still knowing that it contained the love of my parents and their honest hard work.
Its tides, the lapping of the waves, the sound of trains passing on the Pamban Bridge, the birds that always circled the town and the salt in the air are sights and sounds that will always remain linked with my memories of childhood. Apart from its sheer presence around us, the sea was also a source of livelihood for our neighbours and us. Almost every household had some connection with the sea, whether as fishermen or as boat owners. My father, too, operated a ferry that took people back and forth between the islands of Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi, which is about twenty-two kilometres away.
I still remember the time when he got the idea for this, and how we built that boat. Rameswaram has, since antiquity, been an important pilgrimage destination. Rama is believed to have stopped here and built the bridge to Lanka when he was on his way to rescue Sita.
The temple of Rameswaram is dedicated to Shiva, and houses a lingam fashioned by Sita herself. People visiting our town would go to Dhanushkodi as part of their pilgrimage.
A bath at SagaraSangam here is considered sacred. The sangam is the meeting place of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Dhanushkodi is now connected by road and vans take pilgrims there, but way back when I was a child, a ferry was also a good way of reaching the island. My father, looking to supplement his not very substantial income, decided to start a ferry business. He started building the boat that we needed for this himself, on the seashore.
Watching the boat come to life from pieces of wood and metal was perhaps my first introduction to the world of engineering. Wood was procured and Ahmed Jalalluddin, a cousin, arrived to help my father out.
Every day, I would wait impatiently till I could go to the place where the boat was taking shape. Long pieces of wood were cut into the required shape, dried, smoothened and then joined together. Wood fires seasoned the wood that made up the hull and the bulkheads. Slowly the bottom, then the sides and the hull began to form in front of our eyes. Many years later, in my work, I would learn how to make rockets and missiles. Complex mathematics and scientific research would be the bedrock of those engineering marvels.
But that boat coming up on a seashore, which would take pilgrims and fishermen back and forthwho is to say it was not as important or momentous in our lives then? The building of the boat was an important influence for me in another way. It brought Ahmed Jalalluddin into my life. He was much older than me, yet we struck up a friendship. He recognized the inherent desire within me to learn and question, and was always there to lend a patient ear and give words of advice. He could read and write English, and spoke to me about scientists and inventions, literature and medicine.
Walking with him in the streets of Rameswaram, or by the seaside, or by our boat as it took shape, my mind began to form ideas and ambitions. The boat business was a great success.
My father employed some men to operate it, and groups of pilgrims would use the service to reach Dhanushkodi. There were days when I would slip in among the crowd and sit with the crew as they steered the boat to and from Rameswaram. I heard the story of Rama and how he built the bridge to Lanka with the help of his army of monkeys; how he brought back Sita and stopped at Rameswaram again, so that they could perform penance for having killed Ravana; how Hanuman was told to bring back a large lingam from far up north, but when he took too long, Sita would not wait and fashioned a lingam with her own hands to worship Shiva.
These stories and many others washed around me in different tongues and shapes, as people from all over India used our ferry service. A little boy among so many was always welcome and there would be someone or the other willing to talk to me, share the story of his life and his reasons for making the pilgrimage.
And so the years went by. My school, teachers, Ahmed Jalalluddin and others taught me so many things. But the boat and the people who sailed in it were no less important. In this way, among the waves and the sands, laughter and stories, the days flew by. Then one day, disaster struck.
The Bay of Bengal is hit frequently by cyclones. The months of November and May in particular are dangerous in this regard. I still remember the night of that terrible cyclone vividly. The wind had picked up speed for days, till it became a howling gale. It screamed and whistled in our ears and pulled and hacked at the trees or anything that stood in its way. Soon torrential rain started. We had retreated into our houses much earlier.
There was no electricity in those days, and the lamps barely managed to stay alive. In that flickering darkness, with the wind working itself into a frenzy, the sound of the rain lashing down outside, we huddled together and waited for the night to pass. My thoughts travelled again and again to the open seas. Was anyone trapped there? What was it like to be in a storm such as this without your mother's comforting presence close by?
The next morning, after the storm died down, we saw the unbelievable destruction that had been wrought all around us. Trees, houses, plantations were uprooted and devastated. The roads had disappeared under water and debris flown in by winds that had come in at speeds of over miles an hour. But the worst news of all was the one that hit us like a punch to the stomach.
Our boat had been washed away. Now when I think of that day, I realize that perhaps my father had known this would happen the night before, while we waited for the storm to pass. In his life he had already witnessed so many storms and cyclones. This was just one of them. Yet, he had tried to calm us children down and had made sure we went to sleep without infecting us with his worries. In the light of the morning, seeing his drawn face and the worries lining his eyes, I tried to gather my thoughts.
In my mind I mourned our lost ferry boat fiercely. It felt as though something I had made with my own hands had been gathered up and tossed away thoughtlessly. Yet, my father's stoicism is what saw us through this crisis too. In time another boat came, and business resumed. Pilgrims and tourists returned. The temple and the mosque filled with worshippers and the markets bustled with men and women, buying and selling once more. Cyclones and storms struck us again and again.
I even learnt to sleep through them. Many years later, in , when I was no longer living in Rameswaram, a massive cyclone struck. This time, it carried away a part of the landmass of Dhanushkodi. A train that was on Pamban Bridge at the time was washed away, with many pilgrims inside.
It altered the geography of the area, and Dhanushkodi became a ghost town, never really recovering its former character. Even today, remnants of buildings stand there as monuments to the cyclone. My father lost his ferry boat once more in that storm. He had to rebuild his business yet again.
I could not do much to help him practically, for I was far removed from that world. But when I struggled to give shape to the Satellite Launch Vehicle SLV rocket, or the Prithvi and Agni missiles, when countdowns and take-offs were disrupted, and our rocket launch sites situated by the Bay of Bengal in Thumba and Chandipur were rained upon, I always remembered the look on my father's face the day after the storm.
It was an acknowledgement of the power of nature, of knowing what it means to live by the sea and make your living from it. Of knowing that there is a larger energy and force that can crush our ambitions and plans in the blink of an eye, and that the only way to survive is to face your troubles and rebuild your life. During my travels abroad I like to stay in touch with news from India, which I do by going online to read news articles and editorials in different magazines and papers.
The wealth of information now available at the click of a finger amazes me. As a person closely involved with engineering and science, the march of technology should not surprise me, but when I juxtapose our lives today with what it was like seventy years ago, in a small south Indian town, the difference is startling even for me. I was born in the year Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, and despite the Indian Congress's opposition, India too, as a British colony, was involved in the war.
India's war effort saw a record number of Indian soldiers being deployed in various warzones around the world. Daily life, however, remained fairly unaffected initially, particularly for us in the southern tip of the country. As I have mentioned, Rameswaram in the s was a sleepy little town that came alive with the arrival of pilgrims. The inhabitants were mostly tradespeople or small businessmen. The town was dominated by the temple, though there was a mosque and a church too.
The inhabitants went about their way fairly peacefully, and other than the normal altercations that break out in any town or village, nothing much of importance happened. The only source of information about the outside world was the newspaper.
The agency that distributed newspapers was run by my cousin Samsuddin. Along with Jalalluddin, he was a big influence in my early life. Though he could read and write, Samsuddin was not well travelled nor highly educated.
Yet he had such affection for me and encouraged me in so many ways, that he became a guiding light for me. These men understood my deepest thoughts and feelings before I could articulate them. To me they were adults who could reach out beyond the narrow confines of their daily lives and businesses and see the larger world.
Samsuddin's newspaper distribution agency was the only one in Rameswaram.
There were about a thousand literate people in the town, and he delivered newspapers to all of them. The papers carried news about the Independence Movement that was heading towards a crescendo at the time.
These news items would be read and discussed with great gusto among everyone. There would also be news from the war front, about Hitler and the Nazi army. Of course, there were many mundane matters too, like astrological references or bullion rates, which were consulted with utmost interest. The Tamil paper Dinamani was the most popular of all these papers.
The way the papers reached Rameswaram was quite unique. They came by morning train and were kept at Rameswaram station. From there they had to be collected and sent to all the subscribers. This was Samsuddin's business and he managed it effortlessly. However, as World War II raged, we no longer remained isolated from the world, and it affected my life and the newspaper delivery business in a strange new way. The British government had placed a number of sanctions and rations on goods.
Something like a state of emergency now prevailed in the country. Our large family felt the difficulties acutely. Food, clothes, the needs of the babies of the household, all became difficult to procure and provide for. In our family there were five sons and daughters, as well as my father's brothers' families. My grandmother and mother had to stretch every resource to the utmost to keep everyone fed, clothed and in good health.
As the difficulties of the war started affecting us, Samsuddin came up with a proposal that excited and delighted me tremendously. One fallout of the conditions was that the rail stop at Rameswaram station had been done away with.
What would happen to our papers then? How were they to be collected and then distributed to all the people of the town who were looking forward to their daily dose of news? Samsuddin found a way out. The papers would be kept ready in large bundles. As the train chugged down the RameswaramDhanushkodi track, they would be flung out on to the platform. And that is where I came in. Samsuddin offered me the enjoyable job of catching these bundles of papers being thrown from the moving train and then taking them around town for distribution!
My enthusiasm knew no bounds. I was only eight, but I was going to contribute in a meaningful way to the household income! For many days I had noticed the amount of food on my mother's and grandmother's plates becoming lesser and lesser as they divided the portions between all of us.
My Journey_ Transforming Dreams Into Actions - Kalam a p j Abdul
The children were always fed first and I don't remember any of us ever going hungry. Obviously, the women were compromising on their nutrition for us. I agreed to Samsuddin's offer with alacrity. However, my new job had to be fitted into my regular routine. My studies and school had to continue as before, and the delivery business had to be accommodated amidst all these other activities. Among my siblings and cousins, I had shown an early aptitude for mathematics.
My father had arranged for me to take tuitions from our mathematics teacher. However, my teacher had a condition that I, along with the four other students whom he had accepted, needed to reach his home at dawn after having taken a bath.
So for a year, which was the duration of the tuition, I started my day while it was still dark outside, with my mother shaking me awake. She herself would have risen before me and got my bath ready.
She would then help me bathe and send me on my way to my teacher's home. There I would study for an hour and return by 5 a. By then my father would be ready to take me to the Arabic School nearby, where I learnt the Koran Sharif. After my lesson on the Koran Sharif was over, I would sprint away to the railway station. There I would wait, hopping from one leg to the other, eyes and ears keenly open for signs of the oncoming train.
Surprisingly, unlike most trains these days, the MadrasDhanushkodi Mail was rarely delayed! Soon, the engine smoke would be visible in the distance. The horn would be tooted loudly and with a thunderous roar, the train would pass through the station.
I had worked out the best spot from which to keep an eye out for the flying newspaper bundles. Like clockwork, they would be tossed out on to the platform. The train would then huff and puff away, Samsuddin's person in the train would wave out to me and as the train receded, its whistle growing faint, my job would begin. I then picked up the bundles, divided them up into batches according to the neighbourhoods in which the papers had to be distributed and off I went.
For about an hour I tore around Rameswaram, delivering the papers to everyone. Soon I began to identify people by the papers they read. Many would be waiting for me, and there would be always be a friendly word or two. Some would tell me to hurry back home so I would not be late for school! I think most enjoyed being handed their papers by a cheerful eight year old.
Our town being on the east coast, by the time the work was over at 8 a. Now I headed back home, where my mother waited with breakfast. A simple meal would be served, but how hungry I was usually! My mother made sure I ate every morsel before sending me off to school. But my work did not end there. In the evening, after school was over, I would do the rounds of Samsuddin's customers again, collecting dues. Then I would meet him, so he could work out the accounts of the day. At that time, sitting somewhere near the sea, with the breeze blowing in, Jalalluddin or Samsuddin would finally open up the day's paper.
All of us would pore over the black type of the Dinamani. One of them would read aloud the news items, and slowly the larger outside world would enter our consciousness. Gandhi, Congress, Hitler, Periyar E. Ramasamy, their words and exhortations would hang in the evening air. I would trace the photos and words with my fingers, wondering what it must be like to be out there in the larger world with all of them.
What would I say if I ever got to meet people like Gandhi and Nehru? But such thoughts were soon interrupted by the calls of my playmates, and then for dinner. There was homework to be done, and even an eight year old has only that much energy to spend. I would be fast asleep, as the next day more studies and the life of a working man lay in store.
This routine continued for about a year. In that one year of running around with the papers, I grew taller and browner. I also learnt that I could now judge quite accurately the distances I could cover at a sprint with a bundle of papers in my hand, and hence could time my arrival at various localities at the same time every day.
I could calculate in my head the amount owed to Samsuddin by each of his subscribers, and could reel off the names of those who had not paid up that day. Mostly, I learnt that to be a working man meant you had to be up and ready to face the day, whatever else may happen to you.
Homework, tuition, prayers, all carried on, but the MadrasDhanushkodi Mail would not wait for meI had to be present at the station at the correct time and at the correct point to catch the bundles as they came flying in. It was my first brush with taking up a responsibility and seeing to it that I kept my word to my cousin Samsuddin, no matter what. It was also a most enjoyable time and I loved every moment of it, notwithstanding the intense tiredness every night.
My mother often fretted at my taking up this additional work and the toll it was taking on me, but I shook my head and smiled at her. Knowing that my earnings were somehow helping us all, and that she was secretly proud of me for having taken on the role of a working man at the age of eight, kept me going with a smile on my face.
Its highest spot is the top of a hill called Gandamadana Parvatham. Standing there, you could see the whole of Rameswaram stretched out around youlush green coconut palms swaying everywhere, the sea in the distance and the looming gopuram of the Ramanathaswamy Temple presiding over the skyline.
It was a quiet town then. The people made their living from either fishing or coconut farming, and from the tourism that occurred due to the presence of the temple. Rameswaram is one of the holiest pilgrimage spots for many Indians, and the town was almost always full of pilgrims and tourists. The small local population consisted of mostly Hindu households, with a sprinkling of Muslims like us, and Christians too.
Each community lived in healthy contentment next to the other. The divisions and vicissitudes of the outside world rarely made their way here. The daily papers brought news of upheavals and communal fault lines being drawn elsewhere, but here, life continued at its age-old leisurely pace. This quiet harmony had been in place for generations.
My father loved to tell us the story of our great-great-grandfather, who once saved the idol of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. The story went that on a certain festival day, the vigraha, or idol, would be taken out of the sanctum sanctorum and carried in a procession around the temple precincts.
The temple has a number of tanks dotting it, and the idol was taken around the periphery of these tanks too. During one such procession, in a sequence of events no one remembers clearly any more, the vigraha fell into the tank. What a calamity that was! People stood rooted in horror, imagining the wrath of the gods falling upon them very soon.
One person, however, did not lose his presence of mindmy great-great-grandfather. He leapt into the tank and retrieved the idol in no time. The gratitude of the priests and other temple officials was overwhelming. Yes, he was a Muslim. And yes, caste and religious purists would be horrified at the most sacred element of the temple being handled by someone not authorized to do so, but none of these feelings were articulated. Instead, my great-great-grandfather was treated like a hero.
The temple also made a proclamation that from now on, at the festival, the temple would give Mudal Marayadai to him. This was a rare honour for anyone, let alone for someone from a different religion.
It meant that on each such festival day, the temple would first honour, or give marayadai to my great-great-grandfather. This tradition went on for years and years and the marayadai would be given to my father too. This sense of harmony continued into later years. Like I have mentioned in another chapter, my father had a ferry business in which pilgrims were taken to Dhanushkodi.
Our ferry service was used by the temple too. My father was the imam of the Rameswaram mosque. He was a deeply devout man with complete and utter faith in the Koran.
He inculcated all the habits of a good Muslim in his children and indeed in his entire family. For the people of the town, he was a philosopher and guidesomeone they could turn to with their problems, whether spiritual or otherwise. Sastrygal was not only the priest but also a very learned man, well versed in Vedic knowledge. I still remember his visage perfectly. He was always dressed in the traditional attire of a temple priest, in his dhoti and angavastram.
On his head he sported the mandatory tuft of the Brahmins, the kudumi. He was one of the kindest, most gentle men I knew. There was a third person who was as important in the spiritual life of our little community and that was Father Bodal, the priest of the lone church in the town. He was as involved in the welfare of the churchgoers of Rameswaram as my father and Sastrygal, and as concerned about the need for harmony and peace in Rameswaram. The memory of these three learned men is still etched in my mind.
I can still see themone in his turban and imam's cloak, another in his dhoti and the third in his cassock. They met every Friday evening, at around four-thirty, and discussed matters of religion and the happenings of the town.
Sometimes people came to visit them at that time with specific issues to be resolved, or the three men kept each other apprised of anything that could potentially threaten the peace among the people and together, they tried to work out ways of clearing miscommunication or scotching rumours before they assumed dangerous proportions. The fundamental requirement for peaceeffective communication among sections of the peoplewas always kept alive by these three patriarchs.
Sea waves. I have not eaten sambar that balances the tart and the spicy tastes as delicately as hers did. Later that night. Amma will never say no to you. Such was the Indian concept of hospitality once upon a time. My father had his own small business besides being the imam of the mosque. My mother. Providing for everyone was always a stretch on the resources. My mother and grandmother did their best to tide over those days. It was not a time of plenty for anyone.
I picked up my banana leaf plate and walked away to wash up. I sat at my place on the floor and ate with great relish as she rolled out one fresh chapatti after another. Almost daily. When I had finally had my fill. We ate off banana leaves. One of my earliest memories is of eating with my mother.
Now that I think about it. Ours was a middle-class family. In these circumstances. We had a good steady income from my father's businesses—his coconut groves and ferry business—but that just about covered our expenses.
I was a hungry little boy after all. I feel that she cooked and served for as many—if not more—guests as there were members of the household. They kept coming and I kept eating.
I stared uncomprehendingly at him. Our family consisted of my siblings and I. She had a large family to look after and that was where most of her energy went.
I wrote a poem called 'My Mother'. Mine was a happy. Her realm of work remained the home and the family. I left home fairly early in life. I have described how I took the job of a newspaper delivery boy. Before I could stop them. My eyes were still closed. When I had to leave. I remember I fell asleep with my head in her lap.
Early in the morning. I was in the thick of building the SLV-3 rocket. I cried to myself. When I once questioned her. She never once asked me to stay back. I knew that many times my mother decreased her own share so that I could have enough. Her fingers ran tenderly through my hair. My father lived to the age of But she did not stop her caresses.
His passing away affected me deeply. She did not make a career in the way we think of it nowadays. When he passed away. Should I have done so? Should I not have been so preoccupied with my work. You have so much to do all through the day. What a lesson that was for me to never forget the needs of those around me! Her love drove her to share her food with me without a second thought. She sat quietly. She knew exactly what was giving rise to those tears—the extreme tiredness of a boy suddenly trying to be a man.
Among all my siblings. But her generosity and caring spirit stayed in my heart always. I could not remain my mother's little boy for too long. It is this lesson that I have carried from her life—that it does not matter how large or small your sphere of activity is. After I received the news of her passing. My mother saw me off and would be waiting for me to come back an hour or two later.
I could never again eat without making sure there was enough to go around—especially for my mother and grandmother. Unknown to me. They dropped on to my folded knees and seeped into my mother's sari. I have asked myself this. It was perhaps fitting that she would not live long alone. This simple lady. In all this. As a result. This is what mothers look out for. My mother passed away soon after my father did. She did not step out of the house and take part in the affairs of the town.
I came home from my work at Thumba and sat by my mother for a long time. As I went from place to place during the daytime. I was always given precedence in taking a place by her. The two people who had created me.
My day began well before dawn. It was perhaps because I was a bit of a dreamer even then. But I knew one could not have lived long without the other. Zohra had married Jalalluddin.
I was not as boisterous as my companions. Jalalluddin recognized the fact that I would soon outgrow the school in Rameswaram. He indulged my curiosities and did his best to find answers to the questions I asked. Nothing would stop her little brother. My parents had saved and got some pieces of gold jewellery made for her. My life took its course. In the intervening years.
There was always a tree to climb. My sister. How could they afford to pay the sum of that was the admission fee at MIT?
While today this may seem like a very small amount. I would have to live out the rest of my life without their guidance. Zohra looked out for me as much as she could so that the soft innocence of her little brother was not destroyed. Like my mother. The azaan from that mosque once used to bring all of us together—our parents leading all the children in the prayers.
Now it is a sweet reminder of a beautiful childhood. We were a happy bunch of children—squabbling and then making up. He had studied up to middle grade.
In fact. He came like a breath of fresh air to the tiny community. Zohra was determined that I give wings to my aspirations and Jalalluddin remained my mentor. Besides my own brothers and sisters. Our household was still dependent on the earnings from the businesses started by my father.
That was when I saw the true grit in my sister. He discussed with my father the need to send me to Ramanathapuram. I was always full of questions about the things I saw around me—why do birds fly. Jalalluddin took a great liking to me. She went to school and studied. He stayed close by and became a part of the daily life of the family very quickly. The bond of mother and daughter changed into that of friendship as they toiled for the family.
When I was quite young. The two of them were the biggest supporters of my dreams and ambitions. She grew up as many girls in her circumstances did. This woman is a person who cannot be cowed down too long by her circumstances. I was deeply touched by her gesture. She kept faith in my abilities—that I would qualify as an engineer. She was as efficient. Indian households. Where are her own dreams. Her gold bangles and chain were mortgaged.
At the time of need Zohra had the solution to the problem. Zohra lived out her life in Rameswaram. Without a moment's further thought. She knew that her brother would work hard. I eventually did do so by studying hard and earning a scholarship. It was one of the most selfless things anyone had ever done for me. I vowed at the time to release her jewellery from mortgage as soon as I started earning.
She will think of her father. Many times she thinks of the ambitions of her husband. She will have to worry and compromise.
I wonder? Zohra announced that she would use the pieces as guarantee with a moneylender and borrow the sum required for my admission. My father was a pious man who followed every rule of worship—not just outwardly but as a deeply felt need within him. Our first halt would be the Shiva temple. For him. The town would be busy at the time. What I remember most distinctly from the time are our walks around Rameswaram town. As we made our way with the pilgrims and I watched them perform their rituals.
We would talk about the boat.
Seeing the respect with which he was treated by the townspeople. It could not be. Our conversations gradually took other turns. As days turned into years and both of us grew older. But I also secretly wondered if my friend had a special connection that allowed him to see God everywhere.
Saying the namaz and every other form of prayer was as much a part of his being as breathing or eating. Amongst these people. I know what I would do. Our relationship took on more depth. God was almost like a friend.
Jalalluddin's relationship with God was slightly different from the one I was used to seeing in my father. Jalalluddin became my brother-in-law—he married my sister Zohra. We would set out almost every evening starting from Mosque Street. I too wanted to be like him and study as much as possible. But he was also among the few in Rameswaram with some knowledge of the English language. When I was still a young boy.
Jalalluddin was not very highly educated. From there an unusual friendship grew between me—a little boy—and Jalalluddin—a much older. I found it harder and harder to tear myself away from that place by the beach where the boat was being built. As each plank of wood was slotted into its place and the outline of the boat became clearer. I was fascinated with the way the boat was taking shape. They are like the sun that warms the face and the winds that embrace. He talked to God. To these mentors I am always grateful and remember them more and more each day.
Unlike the other adults. One such person in my life was Ahmed Jalalluddin. As they said their prayers.
I was convinced that the one who heard everyone out was a common entity. Was it possible that in this serene atmosphere of Rameswaram the prayers of so many of the faithful. He had been able to complete his education till the eighth standard only.
On his part. I would spend time in remembering these people who shaped my life. I missed my family. Jalalluddin was among the first to encourage me to break away from the confines of Rameswaram.
They could then draw these out from within me and help me set my life's goals. He would tell me that I needed to control these emotions in order to fulfil my desires for a better education. In those days I had an insatiable interest to learn more about everything.
Whenever I felt homesick and sad. I now think that Jalalluddin not only held my hands and taught me to walk tall in this world. They were men who saw only the good in me and had implicit faith in my following the correct path always. I was overcome by my sentiments and my love for them and tears filled my eyes. I grew into a man with my own ideas and creative thought processes under his influence—an influence that remained with me even when I moved far away from him and my family.
My trepidation about travelling abroad was reflected in their anxiety about being in a big city like Bombay. How can I forget the day when he and Samsuddin accompanied me to Bombay now Mumbai. Jalalluddin and Samsuddin saw me off at Santa Cruz airport. I plied him with more and more queries and he would answer me as patiently as he could and with as much knowledge as he had gathered. I have often pondered the question: How much does the environment play a part and how much of it is inborn? If I look back at my life.
At that time it was Jalalluddin who instilled in me the power of positive thinking. When I wanted to continue my studies in a bigger school in a different town. They were not sophisticated.
For a boy who had not known life outside the place where I had grown up. I recall seeing them at the airport gate. At every stage of my life. They often knew my questions and ambitions even before I had been able to articulate them to my own self. As I grew up. We shall always be proud of you. And from my closest friends—Jalalluddin and my other cousin. Through the mist of the tears I held on to them.
I thought of him and his words. Samsuddin—I learnt to recognize the fact that every human carries something special within himself. These men were the ones who saw a spark in me and encouraged and nurtured me. From my parents I learnt honesty. He opened my eyes when he talked about so many things that lay outside the purview of our daily lives—nature.
He picked me up when I faltered. I can put a finger on specific qualities that were transmitted to me from those closest to me. The grief of losing his son-in-law seemed to have shifted something within him. I met my father. He brought about change and shaped the minds of those around him with the sheer power of his love.
We will go when our time will come. He has made the night for us to rest. I felt that he had really aged. We put our dear friend and son to rest. Jalalluddin was not of the age for this. When I got the news I was dumbstruck. I made preparations to leave for Rameswaram.
And the whole time I could not find the tears to shed at his going. Finally I gathered myself together. With Jalalluddin. He could have made them constant. When I closed my eyes. For the first time I noticed that he. I felt myself to be completely alone. After the burial. In my shock I remember speaking words that made little sense.
With her was my little niece Mehboob. I could not think. It was as if I was walking in a daze. He said to me. Had it been His will. How could this have happened? How could we all be alive.
Death is not something to be afraid of. I saw him walking with me on the sandy shores of our little town. But He makes the sun their guide. It was a deep shock for me. Gone forever was the boy who needed to be guided.
I was lucky that I found him so near to me and that he chose to grasp my hands when he did in order to make me the man I would become one day. As I travelled back home. There are such remarkable men in every city and village in this country. Perhaps there comes a time in each of our lives when we finally leave our childhood selves behind—and this was mine.
My friend Ahmed Jalalluddin was an ordinary man for many. I reached home to find my sister grieving piteously. Nothing happens that has not been ordained by Allah and in Him we will have to keep our trust and faith. But my friend and mentor Ahmed Jalalluddin was also a remarkable man. Then he straightened up and smiled. I have been part of ventures that have contributed to the growth of our nation in the field of science and technology.
This is dismal work and I am disappointed that someone with your talent has come up with work like this. These lessons are well worth recounting and remembering. I sensed a presence in the room. Then patting me on the back. I stood by. Where earlier the components of my design were floating in my head. I want to see a flawless configuration drawing by Monday evening. While I was putting my final touches to it. I was in charge of coming up with the aerodynamic design.
The concentrated work I put in seemed to brush away all the cobwebs of the mind. We were all keen to impress our professors with our project. I still remember the way his eyebrows crinkled as he looked at the paper spread out in front of him.
The professor shook his head some more and told me that I had to redo the entire design. I didn't know how long he had been standing there. I was working like a man possessed. Without it I would have to stop my studies.
They kept an eye on the progress and after a few days. The scholarship was the only way I could afford to be in college. Then he straightened up and his next words stunned me. He looked critically at my work for many minutes. We worked very hard for weeks. He turned stern eyes on me and continued. If you are unable to do so. I firmly believe that unless one has tasted the bitter pill of failure. To my amazement. I agreed shamefacedly.
My own ambitions. Then he broke the next bad news. Since our other course work was over at the time. When I showed it to him. It was unthinkable that the future could turn so bleak with a few words spoken by my professor. I skipped dinner and remained at the drawing board through the night.
There are many achievements to look back upon—some of my own doing and some where I had the privilege to be part of teams. Not only was I supposed to do the work again. I had to finish it in three days! One of the earliest such episodes from my life happened when I was a student of aeronautics at MIT. I took a short break to eat and freshen up.
I had always been the star pupil in any class and had never ever been pulled up by a teacher for anything. I have seen great heights of success. By the next morning. This feeling of embarrassment and shame was a new experience for me. It was the professor. My design teacher there was Professor Srinivasan. My teammates were designing all the other components.
Professor Srinivasan asked to see the design I had created. I got to work right away. I have also had the privilege of occupying the highest office in the country. By Sunday evening. I have seen both sides of the coin and have learnt life's toughest lessons when I have stared into the pit of despair that failure brings with it. As your teacher. And second. I had wanted this job for so long and so deeply that I was determined yet anxious.
I realized that along with qualifications and engineering knowledge.
Little did I know that even tougher lessons were to follow. I still remember the ache in my heart as I attempted to make sense of what had happened.
Finally the results were announced. I was confident and the interview was an easy one. I received interview calls from both. When I emerged as a graduate aeronautical engineer from HAL. As I made my way from Madras to north India for the interviews. I had to push you to your limits so that you could recognize your own true potential.
I did this by trying to communicate with different people from all kinds of backgrounds. That day I learnt two lessons: My first close sight of an aircraft had been at MIT. By now I was very sure that I wanted a career in flying. After MIT. When a. When I had first moved from Rameswaram to the bigger cities for my studies.
I had failed to realize my dream of becoming an air force pilot. I have worked on many tough assignments. I had chosen aeronautical engineering as my area of study because of my fascination for flying. I got two job opportunities. I started my working life. The first was in Dehra Dun and the second in Delhi. I should mention that at the time. They represented for me man's ability to think beyond his boundaries. I had to work hard to develop some assertiveness in my personality. I was just beginning to understand how to conduct myself in the wider world.
I gave it my best. I set an impossible deadline—yet you have met it with work that I can only call outstanding. I was a shy. I played this dream over and over again in my mind. To return to my interview at the Air Force Selection Board. I set forth with great hope in my heart. There were only eight places available.
Physical fitness and an articulate manner were what they were seeking. They had held a special fascination for me. There I learnt a lot about aircraft and their design and technology. I was finally on the threshold of becoming a pilot! The journey from Tamil Nadu to Dehra Dun was a long one—not just geographically but also in terms of the distance I would travel from my humble origins to the prize that lay in the foothills of the Himalayas—a place in the air force as a pilot.
Over the years I had nurtured the hope to be able to fly. I had stood ninth in a batch of twenty-five. It was not easy and there were many moments of frustration and disappointment. I walked around for a while till I reached the edge of a cliff. I ruminated long about this as I went back to Delhi. I only fleetingly wondered how he knew about my sadness before I embarked on an explanation of the recent developments in my life. I reached Rishikesh the next morning. I am sure almost every person who sets out with a goal has had to face unexpected obstacles.
His next words were some of the most profound I had ever heard. Sadhus were seated all around. I had been told about the Sivananda Ashram that was located a little way up a hill. You are not destined to become an air force pilot.
We only need to find them and move on with our lives. Like me. I was granted an audience with Swami Sivananda himself. I understood now that there was plenty of other work to be done. My being a Muslim did not affect him in any way. I gave up my dream of making a career out of flying. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realize that these resources were always there within us.
He listened calmly and then washed away my anxieties with a smile of deep peacefulness. I decided to go to Rishikesh for a few days and seek a new way forward. I could not bear to be indoors after seeing the result. What you are destined to become is not revealed now but it is predetermined. I hoped that one among them would be able to answer the questions that troubled me and soothe my worries.
Plans needed to be changed and priorities reassessed. I had to go out for air and be in the open. We've had to rethink our goals. His feeble yet deep voice still resonates when I think of them: I was sure. I walked there. When we tackle obstacles. Each setback teaches us a new facet of life and something about our own personalities. As I entered I felt a strange vibration.
I stood there looking down at the shimmering waters of a lake and wondered what I should do next. In this way I started my working life. Forget this failure. I took a dip in the Ganga—a river I had heard so much about. This failure. The place where I went for all such transactions was called More Market in Madras.
My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions
One person in particular who helped me out once by not buying a book comes to mind. Walter Scott and Thomas Hardy. I am invariably asked one question: Even though modern life has changed many of our habits. He had introduced me to many writers and helped me become a voracious reader by providing me with many interesting and uplifting books.
That day. I am reminded of a story about Albert Einstein. From newspapers and magazines to books. But if I were asked to name those that are most dear to me. Then he came up with an idea that was brilliant in its simplicity and solved all my problems! Why didn't I leave the book with him as a sort of mortgage? He would loan me the amount he would have paid me for it.
Max Talmud. When I had the money I could return the amount to him and take back my book. I had recently become interested in Russian literature. I discovered the works of Leo Tolstoy.
When he was twelve. Their words breathe meaning into many situations. I was now able to go home and not lose my book. There was one shop which I always visited. I have also come across many book lovers who have fanned my love of books. They are like friends who have led me by the hand and guided me through life.
Over the years I have read innumerable books. I saw no way out other than selling the book I was reading in order to tide over this monetary crisis.
But what interested me most was a narrow area towards the rear where second-hand books were bought and sold. He could see that I did not want to part with the book. They are also getting educated and improving their ways of thinking and sharpening their powers of understanding. I would mention three. It was a covered shopping area where all manner of goods were available.
Reading helps to build these invaluable qualities and the habit of reading can never be encouraged enough. I discovered some when I was very young.
At the time. He promised not to sell it to anyone in the meantime! My happiness knew no bounds at this sudden change in my fortunes. This happened in Madras many years back. The settings of the stories were completely alien to me.
This book opened the young Einstein's mind to concepts of pure thought and how to explore universal truths. After this I discovered the works of certain philosophers and started taking an interest in reading about science.
I think. Needless to say. It is heartening that with the growth of the literacy rate in India. For me personally. Here is a kural that is particularly dear to my heart: Ulluvathellam uyarvullal matratu Tallinum tellamai nirttut Think of rising higher. I first came across this book in In it. There has hardly been an occasion when the works mentioned in the book have not brought me solace in my hours of sadness.
I was very nervous about the interview and did not know what to expect. After I had worked for a while as an aeronautical engineer in Bangalore. Considered a classic inspirational work. Written by Thiruvalluvar more than 2. The Koran. I consider the book to be my companion. His description of the human body—how it is an intelligent.
To me. Just to illustrate how these texts can provide insight into any aspect of life. I got to work with many people who helped build it and give it shape. When I look at the way the organization has grown and the kind of service it has.
My copy of the book has been bound and rebound so many times that I was delighted when a friend found a new edition and gifted it to me some years ago. If I am ever in danger of being swept away by my own emotions. Even if your object be not attained. India's space programme grew and with it. It is a work that truly elevates the mind. I have studied these and tried to find the answers to questions that have appeared in my mind through my life. The next book that I would like to mention is called Man the Unknown by the Nobel laureate and doctor-turned-philosopher Alexis Carrel.
Religious texts of different religions have influenced me greatly. The first is called Light from Many Lamps.
My connection with the Indian Space Research Organisation goes back right to the time of its inception. The second work that has been influential in my thinking is the Thirukural.
Let it be your only thought. This work talks about almost every aspect of life and is considered to be one of the most important pieces of work in Tamil literature. Lights from Many Lamps contains the writings of various authors. I think this work should be read by everyone. The editor has compiled inspiring stories written by different writers. A colleague. It told me that the passing away of souls is inevitable and the only constant is God: With Him is eternal award.
When I lost my parents within the span of a year. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's words described my state of mind the best: Day after day. We stuck. Till what is wrong be right! And when work was an endless cycle of back-breaking hours. When its work is done. But after some time this line from the Koran came to me.
Let craft. The works of T. In my endeavours in the scientific arena. I am reminded of a shloka from the Gita which says: I have had to work trying to meet impossible deadlines. Till weakness turn to might. Allah guides His light to whom He will. Be quenched in Reason's night. He told me once. Group Captain Narayanan.
Lewis Carroll and William Butler Yeats have played out in my mind over and over again. Till what is dark be light. I remember praying at the mosque in Rameswaram. The words from the Holy Koran ring in my ears when I think of them: Try to be like the flower. As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean Often. I worked with many brilliant and dedicated engineers and leaders.
I once wrote this poem on books that I often read out to young people. They know when to enter my mind. In this age of quick and easy communication. It sums up my feelings for the written word: Books were always my friends Last more than fifty years Books gave me dreams Dreams resulted in missions Books helped me confidently take up the missions Books gave me courage at the time of failures Good books were for me angels Touched my heart gently at the time Hence I ask young friends to have books as friends Books are your good friends.
They are all like old friends—familiar. These are just some of the writers and works that have influenced me deeply. They are also with me in my deepest. They also deeply impact our souls.
The laboratory was now nothing short of an inferno. These were jobs that put the teams and me under immense pressure and the stakes were very high. He broke open the glass window of the payload room with his bare hands. India's first indigenous missile. When that happens. In front of our horrified eyes. SLV-3 failed on its first launch and the Agni project.
In a matter of seconds a fire broke out from the explosion. Before we could react. I believe. We were also working with laboratories around the country in preparing payloads for the sounding rockets. One of my colleagues at the Payload Preparation Laboratory was Sudhakar. Like most days at Thumba.Together they have made me a product of this unique land of ours, a syncretic creation of the best of our diverse traditions.
He had mentioned about the childhood days, about his mentors, his parents and just about everything to what he was actually. In it. How could they afford to pay the sum of that was the admission fee at MIT? Nothing happens that has not been ordained by Allah and in Him we will have to keep our trust and faith. Our household was still dependent on the earnings from the businesses started by my father.
The state government also announced it would name a proposed science city after Kalam. Instances such as my failure to qualify for the Indian Air Force and the other adversities I have been witness to, have all brought home to me the necessity of setbacks in one's life. I understand how this short time of the day binds us to nature. I never did ask him what went through his mind on this long daily walk—for when does a young boy really have the time to reflect in this way about his father?
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