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The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane Hardcover – Import, 15 Apr 2009
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The book is written in a kind of flashback. There are 19 chapters in all, beginning with the Bangladesh war (1971) and stopping somewhere around the early nineties, when Mr. Raman retired from the service. In between, he covers a lot of ground geographically (actually only South Asia, and little bit of France), but touches on almost each significant aspect: Bangladesh, North-east, Emergency, Khalistan, assassination of two Gandhis (mother and son), Bofors, and terrorism. Each topic is dealt with in a fairly detailed manner, offering a perspective from inside RAW.
There is a lot of useful information, though there are quite a few repeats, where he has reproduced his earlier comments almost verbatim. Mr. Raman's English is fairly good, though it is not idiomatic, and sometimes downright quaint. However, this does not detract from the overall quality of the book, though the lack of a good editor is sorely felt.
He also offers a perspective on what RAW needs to do in future. His tone is politically neutral, as it has to be for someone who served under at least two different political dispensations. His focus remains throughout on protecting Indian territory and interests.
At some places, he frankly admits the mistakes which RAW, and Shri Kao, made. At places he offers interesting tidbits, such as the dilemma the Indian embassy in France faced when Sh. Morarji Desai stayed with them and presumably used one of the glasses to drink his own urine. The ambassador's wife had the entire set of glasses replaced! Another interesting incident is when Mrs. Gandhi had her own staff pay customs duty for smuggling in goods from a foreign trip with her. He also shares his perspective on how the vanity and foibles of our leaders were manipulated or affected the country. Again this comes through in quite a balanced manner - without any special favorites or axe to grind.
The book has been printed on expensive, glossy paper. This makes it difficult to read at times, as the paper reflects light. The type face is good, the book is a fairly slim volume, though relatively large in size.
Overall an objective, and interesting view from inside the administration. Buy and read this book, quite rare in India where most officers are quite reticent about their years with the Government.
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