Review of The View From Kollam: A Day in the Life of a Sub-collector; C. Balagopal; Harper Collins; Rs 275; pp 176
– Shana Susan Ninan
The cover of Balagopal’s A View From Kollam: A Day in the Life of a Sub-collector is absolutely delightful. A water colour and pen rendering of the official building, most likely. It is light and inviting. The book itself, though, is another matter. It strongly worded and very, very straight-forward. It is written in succinct chapters, all relating to his days at work, his peers, subordinates and bosses, and life in a small town. He constantly compares and contrasts the positions he’s held in Kerala and Manipur, as well as how the two states differ in governance matters.
Is it coincidence or what that I know another Balagopal, who’s quite like this writer? The one I know is a Lecturer in a University, wears white dhoti and starched white shirt, frowns upon people who throw waste on the roadside, ones who are late to class and generally anyone flouting the rules.
Eighteen real-life anecdotes give readers a peek into the nitty-gritty of governance because the author believes that our favourite reads have powerful characters based on real people and plots grounded in reality. Balagopal writes about efficient government officers who cut through red tape and legalese to help people and also how it is people and not the system that can bring about positive changes.
Governance and politics rule the lives of a majority of people in Kerala, directly and indirectly. And Balagopal has given life to those stories in an interesting way. His own spiced anecdotes and stories of frustration at the slow-moving-Government-wheel adds to the tone of the tales.
He states that corrupt and apathetic administrators ruin the governmental process and cause roadblocks along the way. And not much has changed since.