When Dr. Kalam penned ‘Wings of Fire’, the book fired the imagination of millions of our countrymen. His latest political biography, ‘Turning Points’, is also inspirational; this book chronicles the life of a non-political man in the political realm. ‘Turning Points’ is the saga of Kalam’s tryst with politics.
The book refers to ‘Seven turning points of my life’. The first was when Kalam was assigned the task to design the first Hovercraft, in the early sixties. Kalam also narrates how a phone call from Vajpayee made him the Presidential nominee of India: “It was like any other day on the Anna University campus in Chennai. I had delivered a lecture ‘Vision to Mission’ and the session got extended from one hour to two. I had lunch with a group of research students and went back to class. As I was returning to my rooms in the evening the vice- chancellor, Prof. A. Kalanidhi, fell in step with me. Someone had been frantically trying to get in touch with me through the day, he said. Indeed, the phone was ringing when I entered the room. When I answered, a voice at the other end said, “The prime minister wants to talk with you … Some months earlier, I had left my post as principal scientific adviser to the government of India, a Cabinet-level post, to return to teaching. Now, as I spoke to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, my life was set for an unexpected change.”
The book recounts Kalam’s stint at Rashtrapati Bhavan, as he reflects on several crucial decisions he had to take, while upholding the Constitution. Lifting the suspense on the conspiracy theory when the UPA came to power in 2004, former President A P J Abdul Kalam has revealed that he was ready to swear in Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister, without the slightest hesitation – despite intense lobbying against the Congress Chief. Dr. Kalam had even kept a letter ready, to invite her to form the government – but reworked it after she nominated Manmohan Singh.
Rather deliberately, Dr. Kalam has restrained from revealing controversial political details. His humility is evident at every ‘turning point’. As Dr. Kalam says in an interview quoted in the book: “Don’t pretend to be a candle, be a moth.” The triumph of Dr. Kalam is that, despite the political tribulations of his public life, he remains a humble philosophical scientist at heart. And the most popular President – a people’s President