A Bonsai Tree: An autobiography
By Narendra Luther
Uprooted by Partition, a civil servant recounts his journey...
Many retired civil servants have an uncontrollable urge to write memoirs on their experiences in government. Some tend to be self-serving, while others expose the misdeeds of ministers and politicians.
Narendra Luther, the author of this book, belongs to a different class of civil servant-turned-writer. Indeed, writing seems to have been his passion from school days. Even later, while in service, he was contributing articles to leading newspapers. During his long career, he served in many departments both in Andhra Pradesh and at the Centre. He had his moments of joy when his draft or speech was appreciated by superiors. Indeed, he had his brushes with bosses, which are occupational hazards. At the end, he was happy and concludes, "Before I put the lid on my official career, I would like to say that, on the whole, I enjoyed working with my ministers." Unlike most others, he takes a positive view of the role of ministers in our system.
Luther and his family were uprooted during Partition in 1947. The early part of the book offers a glimpse into the happy lives led by Hindus and Muslims in Lahore and bemoans the loss of "innocence". He narrates how his family was offered shelter by Muslim neighbours for a month at the height of the carnage and how they were saved. The description of the train journey from Lahore to Jallandar is harrowing and we can hear the repeated gun shots in the dark stopping the train at unstated intervals. Fortunately, the train was guarded by Gurkha soldiers.
Though he is well settled in Hyderabad, he retains his love for Lahore, its mushairas, schools, colleges, cultural evenings and the bazaars. Fortunately for him, his relocation in Hyderabad was fulfilling. He could relate to the pervasive Mughal culture, Urdu poetry, mushairas, etc. He wrote a history of the Nizam; hegot deeply interested in pre-historic rocks around which the city was built and also led the movement to save those rocks.
Running through many chapters of this book is Luther's efforts to handle his son and daughter. The son became an alcoholic and a drug addict. Together with his parents, he fought a battle for over 30 years and got liberated. He is running a successful rehabilitation centre which has clients from across India. His daughter became a recluse for different reasons (child abuse) and, over the years, she turned into a philosopher and a Buddhist monk. The narration of this family story lifts the book from the humdrum account of official peccadilloes.
Courtesy: The Hindu