Of civil servants caught between ideals and thirst for success

A satire on the workings of the Indian civil service, Achala Moulik’s “Rogues Among the Ruins” (Niyogi Books) employs irony, humour and sarcasm to unveil the reality of powerful men and women who think they rule the country but in effect are caught between their ideals and the thirst for success. The novel adopts the style of great masters like Gogol and Cervantes who, in their search for truth, evoke laughter through tears.

The first part of the novel is a gripping fictionalised account of the workings of the Archaeological Survey of India and the painful predicaments of a dedicated but naive scholar faced with temptations. The scholar’s son, a morally indifferent bureaucrat, chronicles a later era in the second part. Through tawdry dramas, administrative acrobatics of sycophants and hypocrites, he encounters the sordid reality of powerful men and women who think they rule the country.

With sardonic humour, sympathy and reluctant respect, the narrator takes the reader on a journey through Glory Road where principles are discarded by the ambitious, where the proud encounter humiliations, where idealists are scorned, and sometimes those with stubborn strength overcome ordeals.

Born in Kolkata in a family of scholars and diplomats, Achala Moulik went to schools in Washington, New York and London where her father Moni Moulik was posted on diplomatic assignments. She graduated in Economics, Political Science, International History and Law from London University. Thereafter, she studied Italian Renaissance in Rome. Her civil servant and writer husband Mohandas Moses encouraged her literary endeavours.

After graduation Moulik joined the Indian Administrative Service. She has served in various capacities, among them as Education Secretary when the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan national education programme was formulated and as Director General, Archaeological Survey of India.

She has published books on international relations, political and cultural history, along with biographies on Rabindranath Tagore and Leo Tolstoy, four acclaimed novels and a collection of poetry. Her play “Pushkin’s Last Poem” was staged to a standing ovation in Moscow, where it was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and St. Petersburg. For her contribution to Russian history and literature Mouli received the Sergei Yesenin Prize and the prestigious Pushkin Medal.