Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Honest Always Stand Alone by CG Somiah: A Review

By John Cheeran
Honesty should be always vouchsafed by others but to a large extent, author CG Somaiah, who has had a remarkable career with Indian Administrative Service, has succeeded in portraying himself as a man and officer of unshakeable integrity in his memoirs. Somiah served as comptroller and auditor general, central vigilance commissioner and union home secretary in a distinguished career. His service story, The Honest Always Stand Alone, manages to engage the reader and his courage of conviction and firmness of opinion clearly come across the pages.
Though boastful and bashful at times, as befitting someone who has brushed shoulders with decision makers during a crucial time in independent India’s history, Somiah’s effort would make interesting reading even for people who are not immediately connected with the civil service. Somiah, however, disappoints us by holding back details that would have rocked the state and national politics.
For example, Somiah prefers to keep the ‘inside information’ surrounding the Bofors gun deal that rocked the political career of the young prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to himself though claiming to know much more than you and me. Instead, the author lets us know that he used to play tennis with Ottavio Quattrochi, the Italian businessman accused of acting as a conduit for bribes in the scandal.
Somiah, however, does offer a telling glimpse into the feckless nature of the Indian political class when he narrates the then home minister Buta Singh’s grovelling towards the minister of state Arun Nehru, since the latter enjoyed the confidence of Rajiv Gandhi.
It has often been said that IAS is the steel frame (or it was) of the nation. Somiah, proudly, and justifiably stakes claim that his backbone lent it further solidity. May be, being a Kodava, a community that has been celebrated for its inimitable and often intrepid approach to life, has helped Somiah a great deal when choosing between the meek and the bold.

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