A few days back I received a book titled ‘Random Thoughts of an Oilman,’ by U.B. Acharya, obviously the oilman — one who worked for oil companies. In these days of COVID-19 and the consequential isolation, nay quarantine, specially for aged, the book seemed a relief to pass time. Since the author’s age and mine seemed to fit into a bracket, I was trying to relate my days in school, college, job etc., with his. How it was for him and for me. I found he was comparatively lucky and much brilliant in academics unlike me an average arts and law graduate.
Suddenly I recalled one Magistrate, Ramachandra Rao, very bright, telling my senior in a criminal case, “Mr. Rego, it is odious to compare your child with others” and checked myself from comparing my days and my job with the author of this book. However, it just happened because we both are contemporaries — age-wise. Let it be.
Now that I have finished reading the book skipping those purely technical and scientific part, which was more to satisfy his urge to make the world (his readers) know of his scholarship than of any use to the common reader like me. One was his thesis. Well, it might be useful to those who plagiarise and get doctorate or rank in Post-Graduation. Perish the thought !
Apart from the early pages of the book up to 60 pages, the rest of this 336-page book is just about himself — I, me and myself. From then on the appendices continue till page 128 and then part-2 with random thoughts on oil, what it is etc., not written in an interesting manner. Even the Iraq invasion of Kuwait, where he was working, was sketchy. I was very anxious where he touched that event but was disappointed. Too much of ‘I and me’ robbed him of giving the reader most interesting story.
As for me the best part of the book was Volume II: On books and films beginning page 177 — ending page 289. I simply swallowed them because I had read all the three books he has reviewed in this part. They are: The Guide, The Day of the Jackal and Savarkar. I thought, he missed out on a very interesting denouement of The Day of the Jackal story by not mentioning how Jackal misses the shot at the President’s head as the President at the exact moment bends his head to kiss a child !
Be that as it may, he mentions with a foot-note that ‘this article was published in a local newspaper in…’ I am sure, it is not this paper.
Now at the tail-end of the book is a show of his knowledge of certain sports and games. Being fond of playing Contract Bridge, which needs lot of brain-power, he begins to tell the reader ‘What is Contract Bridge?’ Then of Golf, Tennis and Cricket.
Curiously the biographical part of the book, which I had said ended on page 60, has ended with a never heard of manner in book writing. Of course, it might help those who are getting old in our city, like me. I do not know but it is best I quote the para ditto:
“As one gets older, the body needs more attention. Fortunately, there are very good doctors in Mysuru and I have annual check-up with these doctors, particularly Dr. Arun Srinivas (Cardiologist), Dr. G.S. Janardhan (Neurologist), Dr. M.R. Aiyappa (Consultant Physician) and Dentists Dr. Sujith Shetty and Charitra Shetty. Life continues slowly but steadily.”
As I finished reading the book, skipping the chapters I mentioned above, I recalled the ultimate opinion about books expressed by Professor John Kenneth Galbraith of Harvard University, who was the American Ambassador in India during Kennedy era:
“Books can be broken broadly into two classes: Those written to please the reader and those written for the greater pleasure of the writer. Subject to numerous and distinguished exceptions, the second class is rightly suspect and especially if the writer himself appears in the story.”
Going by this opinion, we should conclude that not every autobiography is suspect. But, this one? This is my consoling words to U.B. Acharya. His success is testimony to his brilliant brain and scholarship of his subject.
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