I present for your entertainment an excerpt from the book From Powerless Village to Union Power Secretary, an autobiography by P. Abraham. I first thought the author was a Kerala Christian, but it turns out he’s from Andhra Pradesh. He was brought up in a rural backwater, a village without electricity, and gained entry to the IAS through hard work and determination. For me, the interesting parts of the book are where he describes his childhood and boyhood in the village of his birth. Later, the book gets enmeshed in the bureaucratic red tape of IAS politics. This excerpt is from the time of his IAS training. I have fixed up the language a bit.
Our director in the academy was Aditya Nath Jha of the Indian Civil Service (ICS), who belonged to the 1937 batch of the ICS. Being the son of the famous Indologist Pandit Ganga Nath Jha, and brother of Amar Nath Jha, a scholar of the English language and its literature, and a former vice-chancellor of the University of Allahabad [CB: put like this, it’s unclear who the vice-chancellor is], Aditya Nath Jha was a great scholar himself. His command over the Sanskrit language and its literature was matched by his command over the English language and its literature. He was also very proficient in French, and as he himself once narrated in the academy, his French, both in choice of words and intonation, was that spoken in Parisian high society.
Right, now that Jha has been introduced, let’s move on to the burden of this post.
Aditya Nath Jha used to take only a few special classes with the probationers, and his lectures, on any subject — be it public administration or any other subject of general interest — were simply delightful to hear. One learnt a lot from his lectures and wished he could take more classes. One day, a fellow probationer asked him why he was not taking more classes, as he knew such a lot on a variety of subjects. Jha replied with his usual wit that he was the captain of the ship of the training academy, and if the captain of the ship was seen to be working vigorously when the ship was afloat on the high seas, obviously an impression would be created that the ship was in danger!!
There was also a story current in the academy about Jha’s (who was very tall but grossly overweight even in his youth) appearance before the interview board of the ICS. He was asked whether, because of his enormous bulk, it would be difficult for him to do horse riding, which was compulsory for ICS trainees. Jha, with his characteristic wit, asked if the interview board was worried about his ability to ride the horse or about the poor horse! Members of the board burst into laughter. Naturally, Jha was apprehensive about the result, but when they were announced, he was at the top of the merit list.
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