Of India’s civil servants, Mani Shankar Aiyar may have arguably had one of the most colourful careers. Known for his lacerating wit and many indiscretions, with a career that has seen great highs and lows, he has been a true maverick.
In this extraordinarily honest memoir, he tells the story of his first fifty years – from his childhood at Dehradun where he was raised by his feisty widowed mother to nearly becoming the president of the Cambridge Union, to working as a young diplomat who strengthened Indo–Pak ties by brilliantly managing India’s first consulate general in Karachi and then going on to work intimately with Rajiv Gandhi in the PMO.
Candid, funny and thoughtful, Aiyar writes sparklingly about his childhood and college days, of his parents’ troubled marriage and his beloved youngest brother’s suicide, and insightfully about the countries he served in – observing that the net level of freedom in both India and Pakistan were about the same because Zia’s dictatorship was as inefficient as India’s democracy, and that Saddam Hussein’s government was unusually feminist with a large number of female public servants. And he draws, too, a revelatory and moving picture of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Above all, he doesn’t spare himself.
This is a rare memoir – rich in detail, full of self-deprecatory humour and, above all, frank. It will be a classic of its genre.
Memoirs Of A Maverick: The First Fity Years (1941–1991)