A few months after Dr Kalam became the President of India, a number of books about him hit the bookstands. I read most of them with considerable interest. Of course, they were extremely informative. But, there was something amiss. Though Dr Kalam has been regarded as a lover of children, none of these books were written specifically for children.
I began to feel an urge to narrate the achievements and greatness of Dr Kalam to children, by writing a book. But I was faced with a dilemma. Writing a book for children seemed a preposterous idea. So far, my writings have been in the form of news reports about aviation and space issues in my capacity as the Special Correspondent for The Times of India.
But still I decided to take my thoughts further. As a first step, I decided to assess children's interest and curiosity about Dr Kalam. I began to talk to my daughter Rimanika and her classmates about Dr Kalam. Despite their young age, they showed a tremendous interest in him, his role in making rockets and space flight in general.
Appropriately, the idea began to take on a serious shape when my wife, Usha and I were buying books from our friend, Mrs Saloochana Gulati, who promotes books for children. Her collection included several biographies on scientists written for children, but we spotted none on Dr Kalam. I casually mentioned this to Saloochana and she suggested that I write one.
There is yet another reason. I am a space buff and I have always envied those sitting in a mission control room, monitoring the flight of a rocket. Since that did not work out, I chose to take up a career in aerospace writing. This choice has given me a chance to meet many men of science and also visit important research centres. Ever since the eighties I have had a few opportunities to meet and interact with Dr Kalam. These occasions helped me in knowing the man at close quarters so that when I began this biography, a recall of those meetings provided valuable inputs in my work. Still, while writing this book I had to frequently refer to Wings of Fire, Dr Kalam's autobiography, and also to two of his other books India 2020, and Ignited Minds and Raj Chengappa's Weapons of Peace.
I am indebted to the following for sparing their valuable time to recall their association with Dr Kalam : former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, K. Kasturirangan, its present Chairman, G. Madhavan Nair, former Director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, R. Aravamudan, former Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Vasant Gowarikar, former Director Light Combat Aircraft project, Kota Harinarayana, Director Nehru Science Centre, G. Rautela, Ms. Kavita Gadgil of the Abhijit Air Safety Foundation, V. Shankar of the South Indian Education Society, S. Suryanarayan of Aerospace Engineering department at Mumbai IIT.
I am thankful to the following institutions for providing references of pictures for rendering the illustrations in the book. Indian Space Research Organisation, Bangalore, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, MIT- Aerospace Engineering, Chennai, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai, Dr Anil N. Suchak, Mumbai, Janmabhoomi Press, Mumbai and Anandalaya High School, Anand.
As it is my first attempt at writing a book, I acknowledge the tremen-dous help given by the staff of Navneet Publications. Thanks to my father, R.K. Laxman, who finally agreed to do the cover design for the book despite his poor health; my mother, Kamala, Usha and of course my daughter Rimanika, for providing me the encouragement.
Many books have come out in recent years, up to now ten, on the life of Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India. The book most widely known is Wings of Fire, his autobiography which became a best seller. There are several other books : India 2020; and Ignited Minds written by him. However, all of these are for adults.
This book is for children. His interaction with the young has always given Dr Kalam great delight. He never misses an opportunity for this. Of all the Presidents of India, he is the one who can aptly be referred to as the `Children's President'. It is very appropriate to have a book on his life that children will enjoy; and I am sure he will enjoy it too.
The book is written in an easy style for children to follow. Particularly attractive are the large number of illustrations which would endear it to children. Shri Prabhakar Wairkar needs to be congratulated for the quality of these which bring out so pithily the message of the text. I certainly prefer this to photographs for such a book.
When I was young I read two books each with a caption in the title: "Log Cabin to White House", there were additional words in the title to clarify who these books were about. The two books described how President Abraham Lincoln and President Garfield rose from small beginnings to become Presidents of the United States of America. In this respect our record in India is pretty good. Our Presidents have by and large come from humble beginnings to rise to the highest constitutional office in the country. President Kalam is no exception.
Dr Kalam rose to his present position through sheer hard work, dedication and a commitment to the objectives he had set himself. The book brings out how from success and failure he battled his way upward. This will have a significant influence on young minds, on how they can also succeed if they really try hard. On a larger scale that is also the message for the country.
I am privileged to write this Foreword for this first attempt at writing a book by Srinivas Laxman. The title 'Dreams To Reality' is something that I have quoted in many talks; for the great Nobel Prize winning scientist Pierrie Curie, when asked what was his motto, had remarked "to make of life a dream and to turn the dream to reality".
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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