Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Unusual Entrant in the Indian Foreign Service

The following article appeared in the online publication South Asia Post, Issue 90 Vol IV, June 30, 2009

I have narrated in the previous column how I had undertaken my maiden journey to the capital of India in June 1969 primarily to equip myself for the preparation of Indian Administrative Service Etc., Examination, now more popularly called the Civil Services Examinations. While going around in Delhi, I 'discovered' that the route to the realization of the IAS Dream was physically located via Shahjahan Road, one of the eleven roads terminating at (or emanating from) the outer circle of India Gate.

The address of Dholpur House, the Office of the Union Public Service Commission, Post Box No 186, New Delhi-11, an impressive annular shaped building, which once belonged to the rulers of a smaller state of Rajasthan, had got registred in my mind more than a decade earlier when I had filled up the form of the National Defence Academy Examination in February 1959. It was a great satisfaction for me to qualify the written NDA Examination with excellent marks in General Knowledge. I had, however, a greater satisfaction resulting from my being able to defy and convince my father and his friends that I did not feel myself to be cut out for a career in the military service and, therefore, it would be better for me not to attend the interview to be conducted in Meerut Cantt. by the Services Selection Board!

It was an altogether different experience, with all the attendant hopes and fears, that I arrived in Dholpur House in the morning of 25th of March, 1971 "to present myself at the Commission's Office ... for the purpose of Personality Test to be coducted by the Union Public Service Commission". We, a group of four candidates, were welcomed by a smiling and polite official who escorted us to fill a few forms including the one for reimbursement of 'journeys by rail ... restricted to single Second Class (Mail) railway fare by the shortest route to the place of interview ... '. We were also shown a circular of information about the Indian Foreign Service that the candidates considering to opt for the Indian Foreign Service must be prepared to serve in any place in the world and that facilities for English medium education for children might not be available in a large number of places of posting. I was the second person to be called in for the interview. I was wearing a cream colour trouser, tucked-in white shirt and a cream colour tie having a small bluish design at the knot This tie was given to me by a friend who said that he had spent Rupees 1.50 to buy it!

It may be mentioned that we,the candidates, had been explained that Shri R.C.S. Sarkar was presiding over the Interview Board and that he was assisted by four other members, namely, Major General (Retd) P.C. Gupta & S. Balbir Singh IP(Retd) on his right, while Sh R.G. Rajwade IFS(Retd) and Prof K. Venkatachari were seated on his left side. The conversation, during my interview, started with reference to the news of the previous day ie the address by President V.V. Giri to the joint session of the of the Indian Parliament. I recall that I had referred to the 'stentorian' (the word Maj Gen Gupta had liked) voice of the President who had underlined the high expectations of the poor people. Chairman Sarkar had further asked me about the case of dispute over election symbol between the two groups of Congress to which I had replied that in a mature democracy issues to be fought for should be about policies and not symbols. He also asked me about the consecutive extensions of provision of reservations for Scheduled Castes & Tribes. I think that I had replied saying that the progress in over all social development particularly education was more important and had quoted the example of Dalit leader B.P. Maurya who had recently defeated a poweful Jan Sangh candidate Prakash Vir Shastri from the general seat of Hapur. S Balbir Singh asked me about the college in Karamsar where I was a lecturer and this brought the references by me to reformer Sikh saints Karam Singh of Hoti Mardan & his disciple Sant Ishar Singh of Rarewale. The latter had been instrumental in having the college estabilished by facilitating donation of building and land. There was also a reference to the Nawabs of Maler Kotla and I was glad to dwell on the history of the only Muslim state in East Panjab. I could not reply to a few questions asked by Sh. Rajwade about the recent political developments in Fiji.

I thought that I had done reasonably well in in the written as well as in the interview. The result placed me in the range high enough to opt for Indian Foreign Service. It was on the 10th day after the declaration of result that an old school friend who had become an engineer in the telephone department at Ludhiana made it possible for me to speak to another old friend who had joined IAS and was posted as Additional Deputy Commissioner at Bathinda. When I asked about his advice about IFS, he said that I should opt for it without a second thought. He explained that pressures and interferences of third rate politicians were fast destroying the administration. I immediately sent a telegram revising my 1st preference to IFS from IAS - the rest became, what they say, history! That extraodinary run of events would be shared with the readers in the following columns!


Aditya Prateek Anand said...

Dear Papa-ji, we always wonder about that important milestone. You have been among the first of the post-independence highly-educated youth generation rising from rural and semi-rural background and taking their place in steering a young nation of promising future. By your joining the IFS, a direction was set for all of us, now leading to your grandson being the first child in our line born outside India.

Unknown said...

Dear uncle, It was an interesting peep into that fateful day of your life, I really enjoyed reading it. It always amazes me how people like you and my father fought with the circumstances in those times to achieve these heights and made it so easy for the coming generations.Hats off to your determination and hard work!!!!!!!

Unknown said...

And wat a handsome boy uncle!!!!!!!

Unknown said...

Dear Bal,

I salute your sharp memory of 40 years back, who was sitting on right or left on the head table and what clothes you were wearing. Equally amazing is your knowledge of local affairs and personalities of those days. Keep writing, you will always remain active mentally too. And we will also know some history of Punjab!

Anonymous said...


What a treat to receive your personal and most interesting stepping into the IFS of our great country India. And after having the privilege of meeting you in Wellington when you were the Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand, we both feel honored.

Darshee and Harish

Anonymous said...

secrets of your name & success i.e blessings of.....our great grand parents you keep all of us alive with your sharp far sighted vision, really salute you, which I could never say
let me After long....... wait

Unknown said...

Proude to be an Ahmedgarh.