Sunday, June 3, 2012

From Son to Father....Part I

William James once said that, "The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it". Over the years people have tried to create monuments that were their effort at cheating their own mortality and time- building giant statues, fancy palaces, and in more contemporary times, leaving huge estates and bank balances. Whenever I see and hear of these material tributes, I am always reminded of a favourite poem of my childhood, Ozymandias by Shelley where a traveller encounters the broken remains of a long-forgotten king's tribute to his own vanity.

So when it comes to doing something that acts both as a tribute from son to father and symbolizes how I think my father would have liked his legacy to be kept alive, I tend to shun these material and temporal tributes. Instead, I want to focus on something that bound us- a belief in the power of ideas and the power of the written word.

So Phase I of my tribute is over. In one stroke, it makes my father's words and ideas accessible to hundreds of millions of readers worldwide, and has two major parts.

The first part is digitizing and making available on the Amazon Kindle store some of my father's books. I have started with three books which I know he enjoyed the most, and will over time get to others.

The first is of course, his highest selling and most controversial book- Open Secrets. The #1 Indian non-fiction bestseller which is regarded as a seminal work in security matters is now available to readers worldwide. My father used to tell me with a chuckle that Open Secrets had earned him four death threats and six threatened court cases.

Accompanying it is Operation XXX, which I know my father always smiled about because while it was fiction, it held more than a kernel of truth in it. Third up is Fulcrum of Evil- a prescient treatise about how what the West takes to be its allies in the War on Terror are sometimes its worst enemies.

The second part has been collating some of his essays into a series. The first four volumes in this series, titled `I, Spy' are now up on the Kindle store- dealing with topical security issues, all dealt with in the same penetrating and no-BS style my father was famous for. The first two of these, Warriors of Allah and Talibanized Pakistan are already online, while Volumes 3 (China at Sea) and 4 (Whither Kashmir) will be up in a day.

Phase II is going to be finishing the unfinished manuscript that he left on his hard drive- but between a move to Singapore for my family and a new assignment, I'll get around to that in a couple of months. It's a story about human trafficking in the Indian subcontinent, and knowing how my father never shied away from showing the true nature of many of the people and institutions we trust, it'll take a courageous publisher to pick it up.

Ever since I was a child, I dreamed of being a writer, and have been blessed with the opportunity to be that, but this first experience as a publisher is perhaps even more satisfying as it allows me to start living up to my promise of keeping my father's legacy alive in my own small way.