Visualizing a civil services officer, we think of bureaucracy, piles of files, red beacon lights, and regular job postings. A perplexing blend of conventional work and social skills, it’s the kind of work that can take away all the time we want to ourselves. Surprisingly, Upamanyu Chatterjee managed to handle all of this penning down five books, and winning the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Awardamong others.
Upamanyu Chatterjee is an Indian Administrative Service officer, currently serving the Indian government as Joint Secretary on the Petrol and Natural Gas Regulatory Board. He was educated at St. Xavier’s School and then St. Stephen’s College in New Delhi, before graduating as an IAS officer in 1983. Since then, Chatterjee turned “bureaucrat by day and author after office” for three decades. His debut novel English, August was published in 1988.
Chatterjee always believed that people can pursue a creative interest once they decide to take out the time for it. He came across many bureaucrats who wanted to paint or write too but thought they didn’t have the time. Some even thought that he wasn’t a serious writer because he was a civil servant, and vice versa. However, this did not deter Chatterjee from reaching the best of his potential in writing modern-day India stories sprinkled with satires and dark humour.
In 1990, Chatterjee lived as Writer in Residence at the University of Kent in UK, and was appointed as Director (Languages) in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt of India in 1998. His debut novel English, August went on to become a feature film, with Indian actor Rahul Bose playing the lead role.
In 2004, Chatterjee was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award and conferred with Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2009 for his contribution to contemporary literature.
Chatterjee’s most recent work is Fairy Tales at Fifty. Presently, he plans to write another sequel of his debut book, depicting the life of an IAS officer after retirement. About to turn 60, Chatterjee sure knows how to use real life experience in his works of fiction.
Upamanyu Chatterjee proved that we can be both author and civil servant simultaneously.