When in 1951 Nirad C. Chaudhuri came out with "The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian", he was not really that ‘unknown’. He had been involved for quite some time both with Bengali and English journalism. He was educated at the prestigious Scottish Church College in Calcutta and was held in high esteem in the relatively smaller circle of Calcutta literati. ‘The Autobiography’ had caught the imagination of the discerning reader in the English speaking world and brought him both fame and controversy. The Autobiography thus became the first of the several internationally acclaimed and award winning books that Chaudhuri was to write over the following four decades. In a way, 1951 became a watershed year in Nirad’s global journey as an eminent author.

SIXTY five years after the publication of Chaudhuri’s Autobiography, a Dehra Dun householder Krishan Aneja has come out with his own autobiography published under the title of “KARMATH JEEVAN”. Unlike Chaudhuri, Krishan is largely unknown barring in the retired ONGC fraternity and his limited social circle. His was a long and arduous journey. Over much of his 40-year career span as a finance man, Krishan mostly wrote auditing notes or audit objections. Thus he has had no pretensions to being an author, not even a writer. It is therefore remarkable that Krishan Aneja, in his twilight years, should have taken up a major project like writing his Autobiography. It took him nearly four years and 400 pages to write about the uphill journey that he traversed over the past many decades.

Aneja’s magnum opus meticulously describes the rural landscape and its socio-cultural contours in the relatively backward districts of the undivided Punjab, now a part of Pakistan where Krishan grew up in 1930s and 1940s. It is a simplistic narrative of the village life in the pre-partition and pre-independence Punjab. The rural folk then lived self-contained lives; simplicity was their credo and honesty their faith.

His father had died at the relatively young age of 40. Krishan was the second youngest among four brothers and three sisters. In a sudden reversal of roles, the mother became the matriarch. It was a burden that the unlettered ‘lady of the house’ carried with unusual equanimity. Overnight, she acquired as if innately the difficult job of parenting. She inculcated in her children all the virtues and values that were inbred in her. The Partition and the consequent mass migration brought the family and hundreds of thousands of others to India in perilous train journeys. Krishan was only 11. Fortuitously, the oldest sister was already married and her husband had virtually become an anchor that guided and supported the family through those early struggling years.

As a boy-refugee in the post-independence period, his was a life of grinding struggle. They lived a hard and austere life in the refugee camp. At least they had a roof over their head and food to satisfy their hunger. Fortunately, the school in the refugee camp was fairly good where Krishan completed his class VI. Later, the family moved to Bareilly where one of his older brothers had found a moderate job. Gradually, the brothers found jobs and sisters got married.

When Krishan toyed with the idea of writing his life story, he had asked himself what was that something so special in him that would interest the general reader. He had ordinarily begun his working life as a junior clerk and it was his determination and steadfastness to go ahead in life that made him stand out. KARMATH JEEVAN thus is the story of Krishan’s uphill journey and how he built his career promotion examination after examination and company after company, eventually reaching a position of respect and eminence as general manager (finance) in Oil & Natural Gas Corporation. He fastidiously planned his career-growth keeping in view both his strengths and weaknesses. The mantra of his success was that neither he overestimated nor underestimated his ability. Like most of us, he too lived an ordinary life largely spent in the routine of living and earning livelihood. Yet, he was different from many of us. He lived like a karamayogi without caring for the result as if it was a dharma truly enjoined upon him. All through his life’s journey, honesty and integrity were his beacon lights. He led a straight life, not once having strayed, thanks to many pearls of wisdom and probity uttered by his mother during his growing up years that remained deeply ingrained in him.

Krishan has also been greatly fortunate as a family man. He was married in 1965.His wife Krishna was another godsend gift to him; she brought him luck and stability of sorts. Their first child Sunita came in February 1966, the second Sandeep in September 1968 and the third and the last Ashish in early 1970. The Part III of the book is all about him, his ‘better half’ and the children. Aneja has an interesting take on the importance of “happy family”. All of his arduous work in writing his lengthy memoirs would have been an exercise in futility had he not given the glimpses of his family life. He believed that a happy family life is sine quo non to be successful business leaders and managers. He was indeed a householder par excellence. However, he gives much of the credit for their happy family life to his “beautiful companion-in-arms in thick and thin of life, a crusader imbued with a unique sense of courage and dashing spirit who sprinkled love in abundance all around in the family.” One would hardly ever come across such fulsome praise by a husband for his wife

His daughter Sunita is happily married to a Haryana-based industrialist; they have two children – a son and a daughter. His son Sandeep is MS in Civil Engineering from the University of Delaware and MBA from Stanford University. Married with Sim, he was in the US for over 12 years, primarily in venture capital business. Currently, he is CEO of a Mumbai-based Venture Capital Fund. Ashish is a prominent cardiologist in Solon, Ohio while his wife Jyoti too is a well known practicing psychiatrist. Very few parents have children with such high academic and professional qualifications. More importantly, the siblings love one another and have immense regard for their parents. Thus, both Krishan and his Krishna are happy parents, happier parents-in-law and the happiest grandparents. In many ways, the Aneja family is twice or even thrice blessed.

What is so remarkable about the book is the minute detail in which Krishan describes the various phases of his life. In his long and somewhat chequered career, he worked in more than half a dozen companies including three leading public sector undertakings. He has devoted several pages to each of these companies highlighting their day-to-day work routine.

What is really incredible is that he remembered the names of most of his colleagues, both seniors and juniors in all these companies and narrated in detail their respective characteristics and idiosyncrasies. His memory must be phenomenal considering that he did not either write a diary or kept notes. His English prose is impeccable as good as that of many of the published authors. I have been writing much of my working life and have also been a voracious reader I know good English when I see one.

Karmath Jeevan is an amazing book about the memoirs of an ordinary man who over the years grew into an extraordinary individual. It is a tribute to Aneja’s stamina and sense of dedication and determination to have written an astounding autobiography at 80. If ever a book richly deserves a Sahitya Akademi award, it is Aneja’s Karmathi Jeevan.

Author: Krishan Aneja
Publisher: Partridge India
Pages: 393
Price: Rs. 650