Under my byline


Posted in Books, Living by Rrishi on 12 September 2009


My fellow citizens! Lend me your ears. Of course, you have been doing that for years, but indulge me a little longer. I may have retired after serving as Chief Minister for two terms, but my political life, as is well known, started far from the capital. I owe my initiation into politics, as well as my writing life, to my mentor, M——–ji, a humble but public-spirited man. Few of you, dear readers, will know that I kept a journal throughout my career in public life. I recorded in it some of the innumerable amusing, enlightening, shocking and also routine events and situations in which I and my colleagues found ourselves. Fear not, dear colleagues, I have not selected stories to cause scandals or dismay friends, but to entertain and, I hope, educate ordinary readers. Each anecdote stands alone, but together I believe they convey a picture of the great excitements and responsibilities of a political life…

My fellow citizens! Lend me your ears, and I promise you will be repaid with interest. Only if you invest can you reap rewards, they say — but I have seen that the one who carries the risk gains the most, in business and in life. Today I may be Chairman of a Fortune 500 company, but my career, as many know, had a humble beginning. At age 19, I was hired by G——– Ltd, the FMCG giant, as a sales representative in Uttar Pradesh. I felt very lucky, because I was getting paid to educate myself in business. I travelled constantly, getting to know each town and village like the back of my hand (till today I can identify any north Indian’s native region by hearing his accent). After each day of travel and evening of food, drink and company, before sleep I sat in the hotel to write two pages about interesting or amusing scenes or encounters of the day. Now, 40 years later, this collection of some of those true stories and anecdotes may be of interest to my younger peers and management students, who will not have been so lucky in the matter of their business education…

My fellow citizens! Let me mend your ears. I jest, but without flattering myself I can say that you have been letting me mend your ears for years. Recently the H——– group of super-specialised ENT hospitals, which I founded, had a very successful IPO in a shaky investment climate. I take this as a sign of your trust, which we have worked to earn for 15 years. There is a story to be told about the birth and growth of this amazing health care group, but this book will not tell it. Instead, I offer glimpses from an earlier life, my two decades in government hospitals. There are few better places to learn this profession — and also to undergo a multitude of experiences, good, bad or hilarious. It has been my habit to keep a journal in which I write down happenings from which I have learnt something (it is not always a medical lesson!), and in this book I bring you a selection. Although the setting is a hospital, amid crowds of patients, I assure you that even the healthiest reader will gain something from these stories, if only he or she is patient and turns the page…

There’s tremendous unexplored scope for memoirists in India. I’ve chosen obvious examples, but every well-lived life holds out the promise of a good story. With a simple anecdote model, like the one suggested above, even an indifferent writer can assemble a useful book. It may not be literature, but it will be worth reading.


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