IFS officer Vikas Swarup, now India's consul-general in Osaka, reminisces about his training days in a chat with Rahat Bano.
UP boy Vikas Swarup took a BA degree in psychology, history and philosophy from Allahabad University and entered the Indian Foreign Service in 1986. In a tele-con from his current station in Osaka, India's consul-general recaps his days at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie:
What were the best and worst of being there?
The worst thing about life at the academy was, you thought your studies had ended and you would soon be installed in an executive position. But that wasn't so. There were exams at the academy and there was a lot of study to be done - from 9 am to 5.30 pm. We had modules on subjects like law, history, foreign policy, the environment.
The best part of being there was that we met and heard a lot of interesting speakers coming in every week. One of them was Bharatanatyam dancer Swapnasundari whom a batch-mate married later.
What was it like at the academy?
It was a great place for bonding. That's where you meet people from the different services, IFS, audit and accounts and so on, and make friends. Your batch-mate circle is very important.
What did you do apart from studies?
Our evenings were free. We took part in recreational activities. I picked up billiards over there. We went for walks on the mall.
It had a campus-like atmosphere yet there was a certain gravitas. Phakkadpan (happy-go-lucky attitude) was missing.
Did the gentlemen and ladies bond?
Yes, though I was unfortunately not one of them. The main campus gossip was about who was going around with whom and who was breaking up with whom.
Why should a youngster join this service?
You should come into this line only if you want to do something for your country, if you want to make a difference. The work requires a great deal of responsibility.
The downsides of the profession? You are part of the bureaucracy and have to operate within the rules. You are not as well paid as in the private sector. But you should look at it as the social sector.