Governing India is an exhilarating experience. Howsoever they may be criticised, the fact remains that those in the Indian Administrative service (IAS) form the lynchpin of this governance structure. In the course of service they become part of power structure at every level from the grassroots to the Raisina Hills. In the bargain they get huge exposure to people they govern, the challenges the administration faces and the delivery system that has to be created. With such huge experience each of the members of the IAS becomes a storehouse of experience and information. 

However, there are not very many who go on to share the experience through a book. And among those who do pen their memoirs they seldom escape the greed of creating sensationalism about their interactions with powers that be. D Bhalla, Secretary, Lok Sabha, however, has attempted a tome of different genre. He has tried sharing the challenges at remotest possible locations and then put them in a national perspective.

Future of India, on to the past, then analyses the present challenges and finally provides a roadmap for a better India. From economy to education and from agriculture to tourism, every facet and every colour of India finds a place here. Sectoral analysis of economy, education, industry, infrastructure, etc. gives a perspective of where does India stand today, what it can achieve tomorrow and for that what should be our plan of action. The book starts with India’s position in the world in which he has analysed how India is perceived by the rest of the globe and its consistent strive towards becoming a global superpower - political as well as economic. He believes that economic liberalisation was a big step towards global participation of Indian economy but the benefits of liberalisation are yet to reach the common man due to internal policy inconsistencies.

He has identified JAM trinity - Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobile - as a potential strategy to bring people closer to governance. In the “Economy” chapter, he traces the roots of economic reform in India, bottlenecks in implementation of reforms and how investors’ sentiment is changing towards India. Infrastructure is one area which finds special mention and he has rightly stressed that India cannot become a super power if infrastructure and power sectors will not be improved. Infrastructure is a link that will connect people to their government.



The first thing that hits you as you read this book -- The Seal of Surya Review -- is the amount of research put into it. There are bits of trivia, allusions and hints that any lover of history would find rewarding. The author weaves his novel into a world well aware of its position in time, and sets it alongside contemporaries such as King Enmerkar of Uruk -- a known figure of ancient history. The protagonist, Ikshvaku, is a much revered but largely unknown figure in Indian mythology, but the book does not approach these stories as myths. The primary question, it seems, is that if these myths were based on truth, what would the truth have looked like? Mythology tells us that Ikshvaku was the first King of Aryavarta, son of Vaivasvat Manu, and founder of the Suryavansha dynasty. It tells us nothing about his life, his quests and his motivations. The novel fills these gaps with imagination and a due regard for historicity. The novel begins with Ikshvaku as a young boy, proposing to his father Vaivasvat that their divided Suryavanshi clans need a leader to yoke them together and fight against the growing strength of Anarya tribes -- Rakshasas, Gandharvas and Yakshas. The story jumps quickly from here on, and some readers may be put off by its quick transitions. Ikshvaku becomes King in the fourth chapter itself, and halfway through the book the story has moved past more than a decade. Much of this journey is devoted to his search for the seal of Surya, a mysterious relic that once belonged to his ancestors and casts undisputable legitimacy on its owner. But even the seal is found well before the end, and we begin to realise that the novel is essentially Ikshvaku’s biography. It chronicles his endless battles against Yakshas, Rakshasas and even rebels in his own tribe alongside his attempts to be a good son, brother, father and to a much lesser extent, husband. In the final analysis this novel is more about the history of Aryavarta than about any particular character. The author reiterates it by setting Ikshvaku’s story as  being narrated a thousand years later to Sudasa, a young prince ofthe Bharata tribe, by King Bhagiratha of the Suryavanshi. Along this journey he poses some intriguing questions, such as how and when did the Suryavanshi migrate from the Sindhu to the Ganga, and who founded Ayodhya? How did Aryavarta go from being the land of Suryavansha and Somavansha to a nation ruled almost entirely by the Bharatas? Luckily, this novel is only the first of many stories set in this universe, as the author informs us. A question may arise how is ‘Seal of Surya’ different from Amish Tripathi’s much popular Meluha trilogy?



Haskell Springer, the venerable professor of English at University of Kansas in the United States, in an interesting essay on the seafarer diaries wrote that these simple factual diaries were of interest to maritime historians and others for their wealth of detail on shipping, marine life, navigation and weather. Santosh Singh’s offering, Ruled or Misruled: Story and Destiny of Bihar is easily comparable to a seafarer’s diary, for as Springer says, in context of the seafarers, “these were men who were searchers as well as sailors, pilgrims rather than passengers – men selfconscious enough to think that their voyages had some significance larger than purely personal or merely commercial.” Given the timing of the release of the book, just ahead of the upcoming assembly polls in the politically sensitive state of Bihar, the commercial spur for the this literary enterprise cannot be ruled out. But then in process of creating a good commercial module, sometimes good literary work too get produced. Santosh Singh is definitely a beneficiary of the interest, both commercial and political, which the forthcoming polls in Bihar have come to generate. But then the author cannot be faulted for the benefit which may accrue to his work, for reading through the pages one can easily see the effort which this quintessential reporter has made in compiling this book, which should be of some interest to the students of politics, history and society. Singh opens the book on a terrific note that narrates how the party which Rahul Gandhi wishes to lead someday lost its moorings in the state. He makes some very interesting and authentic revelations of the events of contemporary history and its protagonists in Bihar politics from Lalit Narayan Mishra to Karpoori Thakur. The narrative travels through 21 chapters, talks about how Nitish Kumar is still the best bet for the CM’s post but also adds how the biggest political FAQ of this election is – why a “progressive” Nitish went with “retrogressive” Lalu Yadav. “Everything is right about Nitish but why did he go with Lalu?” is the common refrain. And this is not part of just an urban and elite debate but also subaltern dialogue, the books seeks to establish. Book Review RULED OR MISRULED: THE STORY AND DESTINY OF BIHAR Author: Santosh Singh Publisher: Bloomsbury India Price: `499 DISCUSSANT_72_73.qxd 2/13/1950 7:25 PM Page 72 The politics in Bihar is about contradictions.