Sunday, October 09, 2011


By T.P.Sreenivasan

My brief presence at the IFS Day event was providential. The day just happened to coincide with a packed Sunday in Delhi and I could not have missed it. After all, "there is a special providence (even) in the fall of a sparrow." I could hardly greet all I did recognize, not to speak of getting to know younger colleagues. I left with a whetted appetite for more, a rare feeling when I normally leave a party.

I once wrote that the IFS was a service without a soul, not the people, the service. A bureaucracy can be heartless, but it should not be soulless. I explained then that the reason for the state of affairs was that we operated literally as islands and,therefore, we had no qualms about helping ourselves without any concern about hurting others.I saw today and in the last few months an effort to give it a soul, not from the top, but the bottom. Rightly so, because it is the younger members who will benefit from a service whose members relate to each other, talk to each other and understand each other. As Shyam said rightly, the platform we now have as a gift of technology is being put to good use. I would say, however, that lack of technology was not the sole reason for lack of communication. Mahatma Gandhi would have created several springs with facebook and twitter, but he was able to create a revolution in a squeaky voice and a newspaper not bigger than a four page tabloid. The younger generation should be credited with more than technology, it is blessed with imagination.

The IFS Day, for example, should have been like motherhood, to be celebrated with no questions asked. IFS must have been the only service without a day to remember its humble origins and its impressive accomplishments. The celebration this year and the plan to do it every year without any organisational support or official blessings are the signs of change of times. It has taken a whole meaning that such celebrations are not normally endowed with.

I reminisced a bit with old colleagues just enough to reconnect, but I was not overwhelmed with nostalgia at this event. It was not the occasion to gloat over old glories or to weep over lost opportunities.What struck me was the hope for the future, the extraordinary optimism that characterised the gathering, the spirit of adventure writ large on young faces. I felt confident that the IFS was ready to take up the new challenges. India does not need to be a reluctant super power any more.

I heard only some of the remarks, but I felt the most poignant words came from Venkat's wife. She did not mourn Venkat, she bristled with pride over having been married to a member of the service, as though she felt that it was the service that made Venkat a great human being and a great husband. Her faith in the service remained unshaken even in the face of the worst tragedy in her life. The service did not leave her lonely and uncared for. I know cases in which young widows were left high and dry in an earlier era.

Today was a happy day for the service as even people like me who have no more stakes in the service, having moved away to other pastures, felt that the service was in the process of securing a soul for itself. I congratulate everyone who contributed to it.

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