Nothing Official About It !


Available on Amazon at <> Published by AuthorsUpFront/ Paranjoy, New Delhi.

This is my latest book which has just been released on the 11th of September, 2023. Its contents are, in a manner of speaking, my memoirs, but more my memories of a life well spent (I hope!), of a beautiful state which I now call home, and of a dubious career dedicated to the public (dis)interest ! I felt that these tales and reflections needed to be told, if only to give the lie to the common impression that bureaucrats lead dull and uneventful, or cosy and corrupt, lives.

The IAS just has to be the most interesting and varied service in the world. Its canvas is like no other’s- it can take you from the remotest village in Himachal, four days’ trekking from any road, to the United Nations building in New York, the centre of the political universe, as it were. Trust me, I’ve been to both! To a probationer in Mussoorie, looking at the 35 odd years ahead of him in the service of the nation, there is no more exciting prospect than being a District Magistrate, and no happier dream than becoming the Cabinet Secretary some day. At least, that’s how it looked to me on a bright, sunny day in July of 1975, as I alighted from the taxi and entered the gates of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration for the first time. For every IAS probationer is a potential Cabinet Secretary, and it is only much later that he will realise that we all rise to our own levels of incompetence!

And not for a minute have I been disappointed, even though I missed the Cabinet Secretary’s slot by a mile! Some dreams have come true, many have not, but there has never been even a hint of regret. Only memories- lots of them, most happy, some sad, but all precious and worth sharing, if only to prove that the IAS is more than files, meetings, lathi charges and reemployment.

Many retired officers write books on the IAS, but they are usually about the “official” side of their service, analyses of what’s wrong with the IAS and how to fix it. That is certainly not my objective in this book. For the IAS is not just another job- it’s a whole way of life, determining how you dress, who you meet, which clubs you can join, how you socialise, which schools your children go to, how you express yourself publicly, and so on. It is a collection of unique experiences which no other service can offer.

It is these experiences that are narrated in the pieces in this book, in anecdotal form, broad-brushed with humour, irony and even a dash of sarcasm at times. Originally published in my blog over a period of seven or eight years, I have compiled them in book form at the suggestion of friends and family in a semi-autobiographical mode, so that no one is left in any doubt about why I failed to become Chief Secretary or secure the mandatory re-employment!

To give the reader an idea of the book: the blogs recount some aspects of life in the Academy, my experiences as a probationer , reflections on my first D.C. , the misadventures involved in bringing my new bride to Mandi, the critical and highly competitive relationship between a D.C. and his S.P., interesting tales about some rest houses I’ve stayed in , and more in a similar irreverent vein.

There are a few pieces in the nature of requiems, remembering some close friends and colleagues (Mortalities and Memories,  The Small Town Boy), a few of the remarkable politicians I had the pleasure and good fortune to serve with (The Political Gentlemen and Remembering G.S.Bali). The varied cast of characters one meets in the IAS, and their wide spectrum, would do justice to any of the novels of Charles Dickens, or even a P.G.Wodehouse. You can judge for yourself in this book.

The I.A.S. has its own arcane language, rituals and culture, not unlike a Masonic Lodge or even the Mafia! These have been revealed in a risible way in pieces like The IAS and its Ten Commandments, Rules of the Game, A Brief Guide to Official Dinners, The Language of Governance, and so on. And of course, I have not missed out on the opportunity to sermonise a bit about some of the ills affecting our hallowed tribe- the generic weakness in the spinal column, the yearning for reemployment , the skirmishing involved in postings and transfersThe old habit of lecturing and hectoring is not easy to dispense with, even if no one is listening!

  There is nothing official about this book ! It is a compilation of memories but devoid of regrets, and that is how it should be when you’ve just crossed the average life expectancy age! It has been a wonderful journey so far, and it’s not over yet…….

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