A.P.J.Abdul Kalam - his quotes and poems from his book Wings of Fire.

This is a small attempt to see him as a poet and presents his own quotes and describes how he enjoyed the poetic lines and quotes of others in all walks of his life to share his happiness, emotions, sorrows, depressive mood etc., The quotes are from his own experience shared by his near and dears and also many of his reading books.


The great rocket scientist A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has left us with much legacy on many fields and one can see him in different kinds from their own angle. His book Wings of fire not only showing his biography, his achievements and thoughts as rocket scientist but also as a phiolosopher, poet, visionary, leader etc.,

Following are such quotes and poems and shows a poet in him.

Khalil Gibran

'Your children are not your children. They are all sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. You may given them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts.'
This he has quoted when his father consoled his mother at the time of sending him for further studies to other town.
In another occasion, he quoted when he talks about full involvement of doing anything with heart and said, Gibran's quotes are always full of wisdom.
'Bread Baked without love is a bitter bread that feeds but half a man's hunger'.

Related to his near and dear ones

When he asked about prayer to his father during his childhood, he quoted the below as his father's reply to his question.
'When you pray, you transcend your body and become a part of the cosmos which knows no division of wealth, age, caste or creed
At a later stage when Indira Gandhi's sudden demise happened, he recalled his father's saying
'Good and bad people live together under the sun as white and black thread are woven together in a cloth; when either one of the black or white thread breaks, the weaver should look into the whole cloth and he should examine the loom also'.

At the time of his father's death at the age of 102, he felt the following lines at the time of death of Yeats by his friend Auden, were written for his father's death.

Earth receive an honoured guest
William Yeats is laid to rest
In the prison of his day
Teach the free man how to praise

Also he has quoted an inspiring aphorism in Qu'ran when he went to pray after his mother passed away

'Your wealth and children are only a temptation, where as Allah! With him is an eternal award'

Also in one place, he describes how his own people lived happily without possessing any valuable things

On the coast of Coromandel
Where the earthly shell blows
In the middle of the sands
Lived some really rich souls
One cotton lungi and half a candle
The old jug without a handle
These were all the worldly possessions
Of these kings in the middle of the sands.

He also wondered when people mistook spacecrafts with astrological planets but he admired of earth only and to this situation he thought of the following lines from John Milton's Paradise Lost

….What if the sun
Be centre to the world and other stars
The planet earth so steadfast through she seems
In sensibly three different motions move?

Quotes at the time of success as well as failures

At some point when he describes about success with the following lines from an unknown poet

God has not promised
Skies always blue
Flower-strewn pathways
All our life through
God has not promised
Sun without rain
Joy without sorrow
Peace without pain
But God has promised
Strength for the day
Rest for the labour
Light for the way.

In similar line, he quoted the verse of another President of our country, Venkataraman who encouraged him in his project

'What you imagine is what you transpire, what you believe is what you achieve'.

He has quoted verses even on a depressive mood and his seniors commented when his project GEM could not materialized easily and recalled Wright brothers that they have turned out flight after a trial and error on bicycle for seven years.

One such occasion he recalled, John Trowbridge's satirical poem on Wright Brothers

………with thimble and thread
And wax and hammer, and buckles and screws
And all such things as geniuses use
Two bats for patterns, curious fellows!
A char-coal-pot and a pair of bellows.

When the same hovercraft which was not materialized earlier in implementing has been remodeled later and christened as Nandi and again faced many problems and even at that time he recalled what Pakshi Lakshman Sastri, his father's friend in Rameswaram said,

'Seek the truth, as the truth shall set you free'
And even equalizing this with the saying of Bible
'Ask and you shall receive'.

After these experimentations, he was called for interview in Bombay INCOSPAR but felt that he did not prepare anything due to short of time, he consoled himself that a voice of Sastri was echoed with a quote from Bhagawad Gita.

All beings are born to delusion….overcome by the
Dualities which arise from wish and hate …. But those
Men of virtuous deeds in whom sin has come to an end
Freed from the delusion of dualities, worship Me
Steadfast in their vows.

After successful launch of two rockets Rohini and Menaka, and he was about to meet Prof. SarahBhai at New Delhi for a defence project, he quoted from Bernard Shah which was quoted in a book of management he was browsing while waiting to meet Prof Sarah Bhai.

The quote goes,
'All reasonable men adapt themselves to the world; only a few unreasonable ones persist in trying to adapt the world to themselves; All progress in the world depends on these unreasonable men and their innovative and often non conformist actions'.

Also he has quoted another quote of General George Patton from the same book

'that a good plan violently executed right now if far better than a perfect plan executed next week'

And when the defence project finalized for him along with another Major Narayanan, he described his emotions through a quote of little known poet of 19th Century

'For all your days prepare
And meet them ever alike
When you are the anvil, bear
When you are the hammer strike'
After he was working with Narayanan and inspired with his attitude of working style, he has quoted specially for him from the quotes of T.S. Eliot's Hollow Men
'Between the conceptions
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the shadow'

When he thinks of his another architect of his life, Dr.Brahma Prakash, he compared his sayings of advice with Emerson's Poem

'If the red slayer think he slays
Or, If the slain think he is slain
They know not well, the subtle ways
I keep and pass, and turn again'

Whenever he feels happy out of depressed mood in service, he recalled Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poems and they are

'Day after day, day after day
We stuck, nor breath, nor motion
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean'
'Swiftly swiftly flew the ship
Riding gently the oncoming tide'

At the time of receiving great awards

Padma Bhushan has made his colleagues mixed reaction and hence he recalled the lines of Lewis Carroll

'You may change me with murder –
Or want of sense
(We are all of us weak at times)
But the slightest approach to a false pretence
Was never among my crimes'

Padma Vibushan, he wanted to share with his near and dear ones but could do only in writing and that goes

'Away! Fond thoughts, and vex my soul no more
Work claimed my wakeful nights, my busy days
Albeit brought memories of Rameshwaram shore
Yet haunt my dreaming gaze!'

After the launch of Agni

Do not look at Agni
As an entity directed upward
To deter the ominous
Or exhibit your might
It is fire
In the heart of an Indian
Do not even give it
In the form of a missile
As it clings to the
Burning pride of this nation
And this is bright.

His writing during his visits

With his thankful emotion when others have made arrangement for his personal trip to Rameswaram from New Delhi after a busy working schedule, he wrote on the back of his boarding pass

'Who never climbed the weary league
Can such a foot explore
The purple territories
On Rameshwaram shore'

He describes about a Crystal Cathedral Built in San Francisco by Robert Schuller and he describes about the Built and quote of the author Robert Schuller.

Crystal Cathedral Built is all glass, four pointed, star shaped structure and is more than 400 feet from one point to another. The glass roof which is 100 feet longer than a football field seemed to float in space. This has been built by donation of many millions of dollars organized by Schuller.

He is writing the quote of him as

God can do tremendous things through the person who doesn't care about who gets the credit. The ego involvement must go; Before got trusts you with success, you have to prove yourself humble enough to handle the big prize'

During the project of SLV, he had written two quotes viz

Beautiful hands are those that do
Work that is earnest, and brave and true
Moment by moment
The long day through

If you want to leave your footprints
On the sands of time
Do not drag your feet

Also he recalled a school poem when there was no adequate attention towards project due to technical reasons
Don't worry fret and fainthearted
The chances have just begun
For the best jobs haven't started
The best work hasn't been done

At the end of the book when he describes about him in two quotes

My worthiness is all my doubt –
His merit – all my fear –
Contrasting which my quality
Does however – appear
I am a well in this great land
Looking at its millions of boys and girls
To draw from me
The inexhaustible divinity
And spread his grace everywhere
As does the water drawn from a well.


Guest Author: Vaishnavi01 Sep 2020

What a great and positive thinking Dr Kalam sir had. He is immortal in every Indian's heart. A salute to him with great respect.

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