A Reluctant Bureaucrat is an incisive study of the administrative system in India interwoven with a personal account of life lived within the realm of active government service. The narrative comes to the reader straight from the Author′s heart as a way to deal with his loneliness and overwhelming grief when nature snatched away his beloved wife Kalpana in July 2012. Photos from his family archive compliment an account of unstinting dedication and the reluctance to compromise on core values even as he strove to make the system work. The resultant dilemma has been exquisitely handled. A Reluctant Bureaucrat is the richly told story of a life′s journey, laced with traditional family values. The portrayal, without being drab or sensational, also carries a kind of prescription for ideal living - the triple mantra of healing, forgetting and forgiving - the author's response to the bitterness and negativity that constantly surround us. The fulfillment of this very aspiration, in order to attain the ultimate goal of self-actualization, remains the unfinished agenda for the Sutradhar of this narration. The episodic story of the author′s life varies between the informative, instructive and sentimental, demonstrating, in the process, a resplendent veneer of power of faith, righteousness and a legitimate sense of pride in being Indian.
About the author
Ashoka Rastogi was born in 1945 in Budaun (Uttar Pradesh) in a middle class family. He received his schooling in various cities where his father was posted and completed his postgraduate studies in Western History from Lucknow University. He joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1968 and served in Tamil Nadu to begin with. During his long and distinguished career, he held various positions in the State and in the Federal Government. Besides working in the fields of agriculture, rural development, industry, public sector, maritime transport, federal relations and disaster management, he was also responsible for initiating affirmative action in favour of minorities and disadvantaged groups and communities. He successfully managed relief and recovery in the aftermath of the calamitous Tsunami of December 2004. Retiring as Secretary, Government of India in March 2005, he was later drafted on the Task Force to review the performance of Public Sector Undertakings and Central Government ministries as also to work on the Board of a few companies. He divides his time between Gurgaon, Allahabad, Dubai and USA.
"A reluctant bureaucrat becomes a reluctant writer. Moved by the trauma of a personal tragedy, he sublimates it by resorting to writing, the thoughts for which came effortlessly, as admitted by him, as he set out with his work. An autobiography, with candid admissions of his foibles and without rancour against persons whom he perceived to be less than fair to him in life. For fellow civil servants, it will be a sojourn down their own memory lanes: for others it gives an insider′s account of the governments. For all, it is a good travelogue, with interesting and historical details of some quaint places he has visited. A truthful account of a life purposively lived, with vignettes of traditional, conservative and fond family values practiced. By all accounts, a highly readable book." T N R Rao, Former Petroleum Secretary, Government of India "Ashoka Kumar Rastogi′s memoirs are more, much more, than a journey of nostalgia. They recall the past but they also redeem the past from all pettiness, all rancour and from that very common human failing that becomes very sharp in professions- competitive envy. They also steer admirably, refreshingly , away from the lamentable autobiographical trait of gossip in whisper- tones. Ashoka, who I am delightedly proud to refer to as my ′batchmate′ in the IAS, has written to share, not to entertain and to thought -partner the reader into life′s inexplicable ways. He writes without a trace of self-justifying ego but also without any hesitation to ′ tell it as it was′. A life need not be sensational to be sensitive, and need not be controversial to be compellingly relatable. ′A Reluctant Bureaucrat′ can be, as this one is, a frank raconteur and, more significantly, a gentle guide on where we as human beings and our institutions are headed in these pinch-hearted times." Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Former Diplomat and Governor, West Bengal "A Reluctant Bureaucrat covers a wide range of subjects interwoven with family events, but what comes through most definitely is the saga of dedication and commitment of a civil servant who adheres to core values based on his family lineage and civilizational beliefs. I am familiar with author′s various stints in the State and Central Governments. This is, however, a memoir with a difference. Shri Rastogi covers many more areas than others who have similarly penned their memoirs, and has dealt with matters much beyond personal issues. What I found unusual were certain aspects he covers in the Epilogue and the Annexures, which provide a different perspective and slant to a personal narrative, that in the case of most others tend to be a litany of an individual′s personal achievements and glories." M K Narayanan, Former Governor of West Bengal