Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review : ( What Can I Give? : Life Lessons from My Teacher, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam ) ; Reviewed By Niilesh A Raje

A man who will always be.
A legacy that will continue forever.
Presenting a tribute to the nation’s most loved President and teacher
Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam

on his first death anniversary.

It’s matter of pride to see Penguin Books India announcing the launch of one of the most prestigious books this year namely, What Can I Give? : Life Lessons from My Teacher, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam authored by Srijan Pal Singh.

The author Srijan Pal Singh studied at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, where he won a gold medal for the best all-rounder student and was also the Head Student Council. The book is a tribute by the author to his teacher, Dr. Kalam who through the medium of this book brings alive some rare, personal and unheard of anecdotes from Dr. Kalam’s life.  

Author Srijan Pal Singh had the opportunity to work in synergy and also got the chance to spend a lot of time with Dr. Kalam and also travelled far and wide with him. He was also Dr. Kalam’s adviser during the post Presidency years, as well as his closest student.

The author had the opportunity to co-author three books with Dr. Kalam. One of his key observations being Dr. Kalam had a voracious appetite for knowledge and paid attention to the minutest details. Dr. Kalam would insist on revisiting each sentence multiple times and refining it till he was satisfied. No wonder they came up with as many as twenty drafts for any important speech which needed to be delivered by Dr. Kalam. Even before going up on the stage minutes before he would say, ‘Srijan, what are the new things we are going to talk about in this lecture? He was always looking to improve and was eager for the next version.

Libraries and reading rooms took the maximum space in the house of Dr. Kalam located at 10, Rajaji Marg. Books were seen scattered all over his bedroom and even in the garden. Dr. Kalam never set out on a journey without a couple of books in his bag.

The author has shared so many interesting anecdotes chapter wise that it keeps the readers totally engrossed. What touched author the most of Dr. Kalam was his humility. He always introduced people as friends whether they were his secretaries, his driver, his gardener, his cook or even a stranger he might have met while ago. Dr. Kalam viewed everyone in this world as truly flat – there was no place for hierarchies and ranks. 

While the author was in the middle of his second year at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad something really interesting happened. The students had the opportunity to participate in a course and the co-faculty for this course was none other than Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam – the eleventh President of India. Author being the general secretary of the student union and the student coordinator for this course had the privilege of accompanying his professor to the airport to welcome Dr. Kalam in the campus. That was the first brush the author had with Dr. Kalam.

Till he, Srijan Pal Singh graduated from IIMA in 2009 he was in touch with Dr. Kalam over email and sometimes over phone call. Once the results were out Srijan passed out with flying colors and got the coveted KVS Gold Medal which is highly prized at IIMA. It was then again author states he contacted Dr. Kalam requesting for his time to meet him at his New Delhi residence as he was equally keen to show him the medal that was awarded to him in person. Within two hours he received a positive reply from Dr. Kalam asking him to come down to meet him next week at his New Delhi residence.

The author distinctly remembers his first meeting with Dr. Kalam at his New Delhi residence. He says Dr. Kalam said, “Srijan, let me tell you something from my own experience. Every talent has a responsibility. Each achievement comes with an expectation. Medals come with the weight of duty. Don’t be scared . . . but be aware".

Dr. Kalam, as is known to all, was extremely fond of children and one of his dreams was that all children should get education. Taking his vision ahead, Srijan pal Singh has decided to donate all the royalties from the book to the charitable cause of providing free education to underprivileged children through an initiative called The Kalam Library Project.

This book is dedicated by his student Srijan Pal Singh, who worked closely with him, right till the last day of his life. Recollecting his mentor’s values, oaths and messages to the youth, Srijan beautifully hares the lessons Dr Kalam taught beyond the classroom. Giving us a peel into his daily routine, travels, reflections on various national and international issues, anecdotes and quips, this book helps readers get up-close and personal with the greatest Indian of contemporary times.

In the true sense we can say the author Srijan Pal Singh knows the man behind the legend whom the world knew as Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The stories anecdotes covered in this book are beautifully told. This memoir is indeed a delight for all the Kalam fans and anyone who wishes to be reignited with his invaluable insights on life and the world around us.

Book Title   :         What Can I Give? : Life lessons from My Teacher, Dr. A.P.J.    Abdul Kalam (English)

Author        :         Srijan Pal Singh

Language    :         English

Binding       :         Paperback (Non Fiction)

Publisher    :         Penguin Books India 

Price           :         Rs 250 /-

ISBN           :         9780143334262, 0143334263

Edition        :         2016