THIS is an autobiography of a civil servant, who begins his career armed with an “ambition to achieve something beyond the constraints of my environment” despite becoming “materially too inadequate and spiritually too immature.” The author winds his way through a hazy path, struggling to realise the iconic image of a dream world and finally succeeds in his mission as an ambassador.
Das is brought up in Kurwar, a small village town in Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh and enters the Indian Police Service in 1948 though his heart is set on joining the Foreign Service. In the year 1960, all state governments were directed by the Central Government to nominate IPS officers for foreign assignments and he gets selected and posted to Moscow as First Secretary where he finds that maids are deputed to spy on the diplomats. Here he talks of his difficult interactions with Ambassador Subimal Dut, but at the end of the latter’s career he becomes very good friend.
Das has a special word of praise for India’s Ambassador KPS Menon, posted to Russia, for his reports to Nehru as these “were pieces of literature, with deep understanding of the minds of Soviet leaders.” He adds, “In the historical perspective, no one contributed more towards the growing relationship between India and the Soviet Union than Menon.”
Das talks of the Cuban episode when Soviet ships are sent to instal nuclear warheads in Cuba. The Americans threaten to intercept these vessels and a nuclear war is feared to break out, but President Kennedy and Khruschev are in touch behind the scenes and the war is averted. He calls it “the worst moment of our lives – that of facing a nuclear threat. My own feelings cannot be expressed in words.”
The author has a long tenure in Bhutan as Special Officer and so describes his frequent meetings with the king who seeks funds from the Indian Government for Bhutan’s development. He asks, “Where does an Indian diplomat get an opportunity to participate in the development of a country, graduating from the 16th to the 20th century, galloping over centuries of backwardness?”
The book has been written in simple, everyday language and holds the reader’s interest throughout, despite being confined essentially to Bhutan and Sikkim, where the author spent the major part of his life in service.
(Tata McGraw Hill Education Private Limited, 7, West Patel Nagar, New Delhi-110 008)