February issue 2010
Interview: Talat Rahim
“I would love to see the look on their faces as they read about their misdemeanours”
– Talat Rahim
Which is your favourite anecdote in your bookDown Bureaucracy Lane?
It is difficult for me to pinpoint any one anecdote as my favourite. The entire book is full of anecdotes and incidents which I would describe as despicable and not favourites. I was not the least bit thrilled or happy living through these incidents day in and day out. In my book, the bureaucrats stand shorn of their trappings. At one point I had decided to call the book ‘Stripped — a Pakistani bureaucrat,’ but decided against it as that would make it sound as if it was intended to titillate, which it certainly was not.
Have you withheld any stories for reasons of propriety?
If any story has been withheld it is not for reasons of propriety, as I would have loved to add more ‘truthful masala’ to make it meatier and also to have more bite for the reader. I have written only what I remembered, as it was not easy for me to recollect all that happened 20 years ago.
Any info on whether the characters you have exposed are turning in their seats (or graves)?
Much as I hate to confess it now, I would rather the families of the late lamented ones I have written about do not get to read the book. It may be the truth, but why rub them the wrong way now? As for those alive and kicking, yes, I would love to see the look on their faces as they read about their misdemeanours.
There are no shades of grey in your book. Every thing is either black or white…
But that is precisely as it was. When they were good they were very very good. And when they were bad they were horrid.
You continued to work with a corrupt set of bureaucrats. Doesn’t that make you equally culpable?
Yes. I have mentioned in one of the chapters of the book that I became quite a survivor and regret wasting a lifetime in government service. But I have also hastened to add that the career had its highs and lows. There is a chapter called “Reflecting on the good times and bad times spent in service,” which says it all. But I insist I was above-board, putting spokes in the wheels of corrupt officials.
Is the Pakistan Tourist Development Corporation (PTDC) salvageable? How?
Yes. The PTDC is definitely salvageable. Only the attitude of the bureaucracy has to change. They must open its windows and let in fresh blood like MBAs and qualified young men and women. Let go of the babus who have been there far too long.
Who do you plan to expose next?
My next book is also a kind of an exposÃ©, which I would like to keep under my hat for the time being, until I have done more spade work on it.
Read a review of Talat Rahim’s Down Bureaucracy Lane.