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Rebel With A Cause


I.P. Khosla

VENKAT FOREVER: A TRIBUTE TO AMBASSADOR A.P. VENKATESWARAN
Edited by T.P. Sreenivasan  and James M. Peck
Konark Publishers, 2015, pp. xiii 217, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 12 December 2015

This is not just a tribute, as suggested in the title, it is a ‘labour of love’ undertaken at speed by a former admiring junior colleague and Venkat’s one sonin-law, and motivated, as the editors elaborate in an introductory note, by the conviction that the hero of the volume was such a unique person that he should be remembered forever. The contents generally justify that introduction, for it ends up between analect and anthology, with a marked emphasis on the former. It has, of course, been well publicized and received praise; released originally in Bangalore, it was then presented to the Sharjah Book Fair, then released again by the Dalai Lama. The volume starts with a 23 page summary of ‘a life well lived’ by family members. Then follow some fifty tributes, largely by former colleagues who knew him in or after he retired from the Foreign Service, but also from friends outside the service, relations and well wishers like the cycling enthusiast who became his admirer (none from any foreign friends or admirers though, presumably due to shortage of time). There is then a section consisting of photographs and ‘Venkatisms’ like the reference to Rajiv Gandhi, under whom he served, that one can inherit good looks, also intelligence, but not experience. The last section, which is strictly not part of the tribute, has more substance, being an oral history interview which he gave to a colleague and where he recounts details of his career, from the time he joined the service to his retirement, with interesting asides, about the issues he faced, what he thought about Indian diplomacy and the Indian diplomat and, of course, what needs to be done. The tributes occupy well over half the book, ranging from a two liner which describes him as caring and hospitable, to much longer ones which recount in some detail what it was like to work with him with greater or lesser closeness, to know him socially, to enjoy his hospitality and, in more than one case, to encounter him in other circumstances, fleeting or not. Some of the contributors knew him well, others hardly at all, though this does not necessarily detract from the value of what they write. The keenness of his intellect and the sharpness of his wit are the qualities that come in for most attention; one after another, the tributes refer to his humour, his ...


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