Imagine a young IAS officer in his twenties being left in the middle of a State that’s as alien to Indians as it is to foreigners.
From following the District Commissioner everywhere to taking midnight trips to procure liquor in an area known for insurgents, C Balagopal’s three-year stint as an IAS officer in the then-remote Manipal, is humourously documented in his new book, On A Clear Day You Can See India.
The Kerala-based former entrepreneur, who quit civil services to build a business, found time to pen his experiences in the North East in between wrapping up his final few years at his bio-medical company.
“It took me just three months to finish writing the book. That was nearly three years ago. I got a lot of rejection letters from publishers and I had to focus on finishing up at work too. It was sheer luck that my friend gave the book to someone he knew and so on. Out of the blue, one day, I got a call,” says the now-retired Bala, who is in the city for a discussion about his book at the Loyola Institute of Business Studies.
Though he completed his book at lightning pace, it was his wife Vinita and his numerous friends who picked up on his penchant for good storytelling, who pushed him to get started on it.
“We’d be sitting around, having a drink and I’d be regaling them with a story from back then. Ever so often someone would say that I had to put it all down on paper,” he says with a smile.
The book is a curious mix of amusing anecdotes, the politics of identity in Manipur and the issue of governance and insurgency – all woven in smoothly. “People think that just because some of them are fighting for something, all of them do. Not all Manipuris want to break away from India. They just want to be treated with dignity, and like an Indian citizen,” says the author.
Though there is plenty on Manipur in the book, Bala insists that the book is more about its people. “Not just of ethnicities in a sociological sense, but as flesh and blood people. Some of my best memories from the three years I spent are associated with the people I worked with. They are wonderful and they’re all in the book,” he says.
Bala is busy promoting his book, but the storyteller in him is urging him to write one more.
“The next one will be about my three subsequent years in Kerala. It will be similar to On A Clear Day… but it will talk about different things,” he says.
On A Clear Day You Can See India is published by Harper Collins.