This book is on the personal reminiscences and recollections of an IAS officer who worked for 40 years in civil service.
Here are some interesting anecdotes that the author narrates but for the purpose of review, I shall quote only a few. In 1975, when posted to Pondicherry as Secretary, Finance, Planning and Works, the author finds his friend Menon, Law Secretary waiting to meet him. The previous night Nair had eaten fish for dinner and a small bone had got lodged in his gullet, causing pain in his throat and making him look depressed. Menon asks his friend the reason for his long face. The author tells the reason. Menon then relates the story of another friend who too had found a fishbone stuck in his throat. Nair’s immediate reaction is to ask, “How did he get it out finally?”
Menon replies, “No, he couldn’t.”
Nair asks again, “Then what happened?”
Menon replies matter-of-factly, “Nothing. He died.”
So shocked is Nair that he rushes to the bathroom and pushing his whole fist into his throat, throws out and out comes the bone. Seeing a visibly relieved Nair emerge from the bathroom, Menon has the gall to chuckle, “I told you!”
In another incident when the author was serving as Secretary, Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources and Ajit Kumar as Secretary, Planning Commission, a meeting was held. An officer from Nair’s ministry got up to explain that solar energy could be effectively utilised for heating purposes. Ajit Kumar piped in, “Why should we have heating?”
The officer explained, “Sir, in winter we need heating arrangements because of the cold atmosphere.”
Ajit Kumar persisted, “Why do you need heating because it is cold?”
“Sir, in winter when it is very cold, we need hot water to bathe,” the officer replied with utter simplicity.
Nair saw many people squirming in their seats.
Ajit Kumar then asked the billion-dollar question, “Why do you need to take a bath?” He was “sporting a smile that would have done credit to a cat that had caught a rat that had no chance to escape,” says the author.
An officer then got up to explain the importance of a bath in a very riled manner.
The author talks in praise of George Fernandes when the latter was Defence Minister. He says that the Defence Minister’s orders were neatly written in his own handwriting and he “very rarely overruled me in writing.” He never had his own agenda which other ministers had.
At the end of his career, the author served as Secretary to President Dr Abdul Kalam and he has plenty of praise for him.
The book would interest future aspirants to civil service.
(Ocean Books Pvt Ltd, 4/19 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002.)