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Kudos to GIM organisers... Wanted: decentralised financial system Sustainably developing manufacturing sector… Chennai Airport-Ready for a rapid take off... Rail-road Rajaraman Welcome Measures. Work for 10X Change No groundnuts in groundnut oil! Better relations with UK... 1800 parties registered with EC – Less than 60 contest elections Oh my GOLD Two welcome measures from the chief minister... If not Tamil Nadu, where else? Research for survival... In the horns of a dilemma The deluge and the several kindly souls Jobs - Lost, Changed or Gained Need plan over the long term planning Tax evaders’ get out of Jail-Free Card Miles to go... How will it PAN OUT Babes In the wood-RBI North block has little clue to curb inflation A dual GST that will protect prosperous states It’s raining funds for states. Really? Public investments and welfare will surge Economy through the month Tryst with GST Land, land everywhere, but... Industry can’t get it from Mars, yet A gratifying record Focus on southern TN... An eventful week with VVIPs of Delhi Skewed Economic Zones? Make way for Make in India... Low profile moves Pool energy prices Cleansing Indian retail Well-administered State Much ado about nothing Sardar Sarovar – the seventy year itch MS Installed A historic indirect tax reform Why throw baby with bath water? Outward ho South India’s 100 most valuable companies BJP can now hasten its thrust for reforms Little surplus after salaries, subsidies and debt servicing A tale of two Bihar babus What the big B should offer? A blueprint for the future Why (not) abolish? CAD and the emergency thereof A Fine division of responsibilities Babes In the wood-RBI North block has little clue to curb inflation Need for radical RBI reform Reform this licence to…kill You too T M Krishna? Strategic planning the missing link An eco-friendly commute in Mysuru Sowing seeds of hope Policy Makers Deming awardees galore! Healthy finances of the Chennai Corporation Breaking news or breaking credibility? Trail-blazing Tamil Nadu Truce at Kasturi Buildings Much can be done by us Indian GST – Between extremes… Star of the South INDIA keeps its date with destiny CSR, tech revolution and bank crisis After all, customer is the king They add lustre to Padma Awards Welcome move to widen the tax net… PC please be our Santa Ganesh’s mantras The Great Fall Technology and economic development should be linked Weaving wealth of western Tamil Nadu Welcome rains for damaged roads... Focus on agriculture and human resources When the examiner cheated... TN - so much to offer...
 
A tale of two Bihar babus
In 20th century India, the best and the brightest kids went into either engineering or medicine. Those were the times when the government hadn’t opened engineering colleges to private players and hadn’t let IITs mushroom.

In inter-collegiate debates, you looked at the jean-clad, mop-haired, bespectacled IITians with reverence. Once they graduated, these Mr. Brains would leave for the US to either study or work, never to return to their motherland. It hurt because India had incredibly subsidized their education.

Those who stayed back did their post-graduation, and some joined big private companies and PSUs.  Surprisingly, a few chose to be in ‘government’ aka public service. Like the Tamil Nadu government is today littered with IITians and other high profile officers whose passions go beyond governance.  Do you know that it has a Carnatic music professional, a wildlife photographer, an active cricketer, not to speak of a voracious reader, and a research buff? 

This month we met two of them: Principal Secretaries, Kumar Jayant and Dr. Rajendra Kumar both alumni of IIT and whose passion is reading and research respectively.  While Jayant currently handles Co-operation, Food and Consumer Protection portfolios, Rajendra Kumar is the Industries Commissioner.

Kumar Jayant: 
Texts to story books

For someone who studied in the Hindi medium until his class XII, Kumar Jayant showed remarkable scholarly skills to first crack into IIT and then be amongst its toppers. While the gold medalist went to IIM and later graduated to global banking, Jayant waded into IAS.

I ask, “what makes a high ranking engineer get into bureaucracy,” and he looks me in the eye to say, “those were the days when the public sector was the major option if you chose to be in India. And what could be better than being in government, that controlled the public sector?” Fair point. 

We met Jayant for a different reason. He is a voracious reader and devours over forty to fifty books a year. 

He says: “sadly, we don’t encourage our young minds to read outside the syllabus.” And then avers: “when a hostel has a library of fiction and non-fiction, even if only four out of a class of 60 initially have a reading habit, the rub-off effect will make 30 of them avid readers by the time they graduate.”

Kumar Jayant should know. An alumnus of the well-known Netarhat Vidyalaya, 150 km from Ranchi, Jayant began reading English books only when he was in Class XI. Meanwhile he had read through the extensive collection of Hindi books in the school library. Can you beat this? He picked his first Enid Blyton in Class XI. Of course, after that, there was no stopping. At IIT, reading was the in-thing.  

His favourite authors are Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, Alistair MacLean, Jeffrey Archer and Sidney Sheldon. Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy, Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal, MacLean’s Where Eagles Dare, Archer’s Kane & Abel, and Sheldon’s women-centric suspense novels had him in thralls.  He recommends Vineet Bajpai’s  Harappa, a tale that knits 3700 years of ancient and modern-day characters in a nail-biting conspiracy. In non-fiction, his tastes range from mythology to travelogues. He recommends India: a sacred 

Geography by Dian L Eck, a book that explores the holy places of India and introduces Hindu religious ideas. 

On Chetan Bhagat, Jayant says the debut work 5 Point Someone was good because it had a relatable story. “Over time, the storylines have got skimpier and unsuitable for a novel.” When he says he likes John Grisham, I wonder whether the law stories are not templates. Jayant remarks: “so is Robert Ludlum. In each of his book, it’s about something that threatens to have a destructible impact on the world!” 

At the India level, his personal favorites are investment banker Ruchir Sharma and the rock-star former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. To Jayant, Salman Rushdie is unreadable and Amish’s use of current lingo in his Sita is discordant. He likes Amitav Ghosh and in particular his River of Smoke.  His international favorite is William Dalrymple.

Kumar Jayant loves watching conspiracy videos. “You don’t have to believe what they say. Like how you watch television news but don’t have to believe all that goes into it.” Punch! 

I ask if there are any regrets. “I would never have been happy in the private sector with the kind of work culture it has and the self-promotion it demands,” says the former ONGC staffer.I agreed. 

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