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Santosh Kumar Mamgain

By Arun Kumar
Year 2015, pp. 495, Rs. 495.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

Reading the recently launched Hindi translation of the book A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: A Life by his close associate and friend Arun Kumar, the tone and intention of the author becomes very clear early in the text. The book is worked out as a hagiography of a person who had achieved a status comparable to a saint, maybe even more than that, in his lifetime. The work is not meant for critical understanding. You need to read it in a particular way in order to appreciate the contents of the book. The book is lucid, easy on the eyes, although unevenly paced, especially in its latter part. It could have been cut by 200 pages to make it more compact. Also, literal translation diminishes the contextual meanings and appeal of the text, e.g. translating ‘strange fellow’ as ‘ajeeb aadmi’ or ‘no free lunch’ as ‘koi free lunch nahi’. Though Kalam donned many hats through his long life: aeronautical engineer, missile man of India, President of the Republic of India, author, philanthropist, educationist, the work focuses on his spiritual side, and thus all the achievements and events merely become a vehicle or side story to the meta narrative of his spiritual and philosophical world. Divided into 6 segments only sections 2 and 3 deal with his life as a scientist even though it corresponds to a large part of his professional life. A majority of the text is devoted to discussing his interactions and the dilemmas, epiphanies and insights he got from those interactions. A considerable portion of the text deals with his visits to different places during and after his tenure as the President. Kalam is hardly ever seen as a man of flesh and blood. There are internal dilemmas which are mostly spiritual and which exemplify his character. There are external problems but hardly any moments of ambiguity where his conduct came under scrutiny— apart from an event, where his decision to dismiss the Bihar Vidhan Sabha on the recommendation of the State’s Governor in 2005, which was later overruled by the Judiciary and which Kalam took as a personal failure. This is one of the rare incidents in the long text where we see him as a normal human being. There are elaborate discussions on his views on an array of subjects from god to politics, education and technology. More than once (in fact many times) he and his philosophy ...

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