Obituary: Bureaucrat with a literary pen
I was confused when one of former Deputy Commissioners of Chandigarh Inderjit Singh Sandhu sent me an old clip of my then popular column “Inside Babudom”.I wondered what prompted him to remind me of my piece on civil servants taking to writing. This specific clip was about a book written on Sikh warrior Banda Singh Bahadur by one of retired civil servants Manohar Singh Chandla.
Information that followed cleared my confusion but made me sad. Manohar Singh Chandla is no more was the message that may have devastated many who had been helped earlier in their Civil Services career by him. His death came as a personal loss to me as I used to call and consult him on Punjab affairs in general and bureaucracy in particular.
He was a suave, soft spoken perfect gentleman always sure of his facts. Though a career bureaucrat, he had hidden inside him a writer, a historian and a great story teller.
For many in the Punjab Civil Service, Mr Manohar Singh Chandla, had been a colleague, teacher, friend, philosopher and guide. But many may not be aware that Mr Chandla of late had “inherited” the mantle of authorship from Mr Kulbir Singh Sidhu, his one-time trainee in the PCS (Executive).
Mr Chandla, who retired from the Indian Administrative Service in 1986 as a 1980-batch IAS officer, settled in Chandigarh. One of his books, “Banda Bahadur – Betrayal by his Lieutenants”, was not only a biographical compilation of that great warrior but also a step towards naming him as the first freedom fighter who launched a crusade against the invaders.
This, incidentally, was his third book. His first two books were on the life and religion of the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan. His association with the Bishnoi community probably started from his early days as he was born and brought up in undivided Ferozepur district.
His earlier books – “Jambhoji, Messiah of the Thar Desert” and “The Bishnois, Wildlife Protection an Article of Faith” – were the result of his basic training as a social researcher and keen observer of history.