- Title – On a Clear Day You Can See India
- Author – C. Balagopal
- Publisher – Harper Collins Publishers
- Genre – Memoirs
- Pages – 203
- ISBN – 978-93-5029-687-5
- Price – 299 INR
Blurb on the Book – C. Balagopal’s first posting as an IAS probationer was in Tamenglong, Manipur, where his task in the first few days was to only follow the deputy commissioner around and observe the way he conducted his affairs. As he gained experience, he realized that being in the civil services was a much more complex proposition than one would expect – more so when one was posted to the north-east.
From a bewildering visit on his first day in office by his ‘opposite number’ in the underground movement in Manipur to ‘surveying’ a dubious pineapple plantation, from conducting full-fledged elections to going on a hair-raising curfew patrol, the young officer found himself being educated in a most unusual manner.
Review – The book has a very fresh feel both in the title and the cover of the book. I liked the use of ‘Clear’ in the title because it wonderfully reflects the myriad perceptions and views about the core social, political and developmental problems affecting the life in the distant, remote, beautiful part of India, Manipur, that can be seen only with a clear mind.
Recounting anecdotes from the life C.Balagopal lived over three decades ago when he first went to the north-east, he has taken due care to present his observations in the light of his thoughts at the time trying his best not to bask in the leeway provided by hindsight.
The book is a fascinating collection of personal and insightful memoirs where a thorough ‘Introduction’ has covered the many thoughts, preparations and research (or lack of to avoid modern-day changes in the north-east affect his candid memories) that went on to bring about the making of this literary masterpiece. The honesty in sharing the thought process touches a chord and the feeling lingers till the end.
I’d like to congratulate C.Balagopal on the wonderful portrayal of the sensitive yet weighty issues of identity and nationhood into its ambit in a light-hearted way. I particularly liked the many life-lessons the reader learns with the author as the book progresses.
Reminiscent in its charm yet bringing alive the nitty-gritty of the political scene the book is divided in easy to read, bites of smartly titled chapters that tell an individual story yet seamlessly maintain the flow of events in a lyrical fashion. This whimsical, witty, poignant and heart-piercing book is wonderful in being free of patronizing or judgmental remarks of the circumstances, life and the sociopolitical scene in Manipur.
The language is lucid and narration impeccable. The semi-fictional approach in the narrative that’s rich and refreshing is a great plus of the book.
The book also includes two sets of photographs taken during the early 2000s by author’s friend. The pictures wonderfully gift the picturesque narration a colorful view of the landscape of Manipur.
I highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys poignant memoirs peppered with subtle humour. The book is a journey into the wonderful and less explored north-east of India that intelligently educates while entertaining.
This volume is an enthralling read that left me craving for more from the author’s pen.
About the Author – C. Balagopal studied economics at Loyola College, University of Madras, and then enrolled for a PhD programme (unfinished) at the University of Kerela. He joined the IAS in 1977 and worked in Manipur and Kerela before resigning in 1983 to set up a pioneering venture to make cutting-edge medical products. He has retired recently and spends his time consulting, writing, reading, travelling and playing golf.
He lives in Thiruvananthapuram with his wife.
Rating – 4.5/5
* P.S. – The photographs in the book are copyrighted by the author/publisher. The pictures have been taken only for illustration purpose.