Dr. Kalam’s earlier book, the hugely popular Ignited Minds, has a slew of invigorating ideas and messages for young readers. On realizing their dreams through hard work and integrity. On acquiring self-confidence. On building a strong nation through an inclusive sense of patriotism. On fuelling the country’s progress with the latest advances in medicine, science, and education… Although Reignited is not a sequel to Ignited Minds (despite the similarity in names), it is also about the building of a better India. And, as always, the driving force behind Dr. Kalam’s words are visionary ideas grounded in practical experience, and his firm belief that everyone must dream big.
In Reignited, the focus is on empowering young people by firing their enthusiasm for careers at the cutting edge of science and technology, such as robotics, aeronautics, space science, neuroscience, material science, pathology and palaeontology. The book provides a roadmap of the exciting new options now available to students in these areas. Here, well-researched facts are interspersed with inspirational life stories of pioneers in these fields and some of the early developments; conversations with experts; an action plan for specializing in a chosen discipline (what to study in school and college, the qualities the student should cultivate to succeed, and so on); connected exercises/experiments at the end of each chapter; and a personalized oath that students can take (this will also serve as a recap of their goals and aspirations). Parents too are very much a part of the picture. Each chapter tucks in a special section for them on the latest trends in the field, long-term prospects, and career options. A thoughtful add-on indeed, with pointers on how to nurture their children’s aptitude and interests, and pique their curiosity.
The book’s ‘reader-friendly quotient’ has definitely benefited by its lively Q&A format. (We even have some unexpected questions such as these! “Can one burn calories by thinking hard? Why do we remember certain things and forget others? What is the difference between a humanoid and a robot? How is a spacesuit made?”) No wonder then that it appeals to its target readership. When I asked a few high school kids who had read the book what they liked about it, they promptly responded, “There’s tons of useful information… and it’s easy to read.” It was also a thumbs-up for the unfussy illustrations and clearly labelled diagrams, which expand the text while complementing the simple, no-frills writing style. The quirky design of the chapter titles with the letters transformed into shapes specific to that discipline – for instance, the ‘P’ in Pathology also looks like a microscope – was clearly a hit with them as well!
The cons. Granted that the book is the result of solid scientific research on serious subjects… still, as it is meant mainly for younger people, its tone could have been a tad more playful. Besides, readers need not have been exhorted quite so doggedly, in chapter after chapter, to cultivate healthy habits, pay attention to their diet – include more protein, chomp on green, leafy vegetables, avoid junk food, and so on. But then, my take on this might be totally skewed. Who knows, with the kind of rock star status that Dr. Kalam enjoyed, even if a child had read some random chapter of the book, it might have provoked a welcome spurt in methi-palak consumption! The kids I spoke to didn’t quibble about it – not about the advice on staying healthy, nor its persistent reiteration. So who am I to crib, especially when the book offers such a vast array of information – and inspiration – for anyone planning a career in science? In fact, it would be a good move to pick up a copy or two of the book. They’ll come in handy as gifts for preteens and teens who are wondering what to study, or gearing up to make career choices.
By Veena Seshadri
REIGNITED: SCIENTIFIC PATHWAYS TO A BRIGHTER FUTURE
Authors: A.P.J. Abdul Kalam & Srijan Pal Singh
Illustrator: Kashmira Sarode
Penguin Books, 2015
Subject Category: Contemporary/Non-Fiction