There is a perception that the higher strata of Civil Service in India tends to be impersonal and is committed to rule-worship, treating art and literature as avoidable distractions. But there are fine exceptions to this typology. Irai Anbu, a senior IAS Officer of Tamil Nadu is one such. He refuses to be caught totally in the bureaucratic warp and ventures into the realms of philosophical musings.
Random Thoughts, a collection of 51 essays written by Irai Anbu under a fortnightly column in the Madurai edition of The Hindu Metroplus, bears testimony to the creative sharing of his reflections and experiences encompassing a wide spectrum of subjects.
“Essays” as a borrowed English category is found to be ‘dispensed meditations' by Bacon and is referred to in Samuel Johnson's maiden English dictionary as ‘a loose sally of the mind'. This spirit has been captured and reflected in these essays. Not here the pompous pronouncements, but the sharing of a friend happy and eager to communicate with you. Each essay is not an erudite treatise on the subject, but random reflections hovering around the core subject, much like the alapana of a raga in a concert of classical music.
The subjects covered are encyclopaedic in range. The reader feels as if he is sharing a ringside seat with the author and observing the pageant of life as it weaves itself with a moving tapestry of scenes and figures'.
Nuggets of wisdom
A penchant for alliteration and for the use of somewhat unusual words breathes through the text. A more discreet use of such embellishments would have enhanced readability. There are many profound observations thrown in the text with disarming casualness. We encounter many nuggets of wisdom and original perceptions. I am tempted to refer to a few examples to underline the point. Compassion is viewed as ‘a journey from self to self to drop the self'. Affluence is seen as ‘the affordability to maximise sloth'. Maybe, it is his anguish as a civil servant that comes through in his remark that precedence predominates in decision making. “Hence, every error is repeated and every possibility is throttled.” He sets you thinking with his remark that “it is unfortunate that the burden of proof is always on truth.” He gives a new dimension to work as the umbilical cord to the mother universe and as self-discovery. Random Thoughts is an interesting read, a pleasant and illuminating stroll in the park with Irai Anbu.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: V. Irai Anbu; pub. by Kasturi & Sons Ltd., 859-860, Anna Salai, Chennai-600002. Rs. 125.