From being an atheist to a person of deep faith in God, the journey of Haulianlal Guite, an IAS Officer from Manipur, has been an odyssey of a man’s exploration of the almighty, which has helped him better understand and serve the most deserving of government schemes with compassion. Having penned a non-fictional novel “Confessions Of A Dying Mind”, Guite, currently posted as the Secretary at Jaipur Development Authority, shares with Kartik Sharma of Elets News Network (ENN) the philosophy behind this novel and its influence enabling him to better serve the society. Excerpts:
What is the “Confessions of a Dying Mind” all about?
‘‘Confessions of A Dying Mind’ is the title of my novel. It is arguably the first philosophical novel to be written on the subject of God. I am hoping that more and more people will be exposed to it, even those who don’t have the philosophical background. The book deals with the most pressing modern-day questions, centered on this: whether modern science has done away with God.
What is the theme of the novel?
There are various themes. The major plotline being followed is that whether one decides to believe in God or not, the evidence is not in favor of either. It all boils down to faith. I am trying to show, therefore, that just as religion is based on faith, so is atheism too. And that atheism has nothing to do with evidence or science.
What stories does ‘Confessions’ tell?
Confessions presents arguments against atheism that are found nowhere else, and it does this by using the theories and findings of atheists themselves. Case in point, the philosophy of the acclaimed philosopher WV Quine. All these are dealt in the near-death experience of the protagonist, Albert Dyers. As for the experience itself, are Dyers’ experiences with the angel, real? Or are they delusions caused by his accident? Can reality as it is, be really known to us? Is modern science against religion and faith? Is atheism based on evidence?
I have explored these all-important questions by telling various stories woven into the plotline of the novel itself. In doing so, the exploration delves into the nature of science, religion, evidence, even love – including visits to other worlds, to past events, to surreal places, and so on. And it accomplishes all these without using complex or unnecessary jargon, so that the educated lay reader without philosophy background will be able to understand them.
What is closer to your heartPhilosophy or Bureaucracy?
Entering the IAS was never my dream, but that I became one due to my father’s pressuring. It was always my dream to be a philosopher, due to an inborn talent at philosophic speculation that was richly cultivated during my college years in St. Stephen’s. But I never looked back, and never regret becoming an IAS officer.
I often recall how my knowledge of the Indian Administrative Service was most limited and misleading; but that when I actually work as an IAS officer, in learning that the amount of good an officer can do can be quite critical, I realize how great the service is.
Nevertheless I continue pursuing philosophy as a favourite hobby. And the consequence is this book, “Confessions of a Dying Mind”
Philosophy has a lot of abstract applications. It helps you to look at things in a more holistic way, which is essential even for the IAS. You start to look at things from different angles.
You have served as the executive magistrate of Mount Abu, the municipal commissioner of Ajmer City, the OSD to the State Finance Commission, Rajasthan, and currently the Secretary of Jaipur Development Authority, So how do you find the time to write all these?
what inspired you to write this novel?
Like everyone else, every IAS officer develops hobbies, to alleviate the tensions of work and pressures of life. Some choose to play golf or badminton, others learn music or swimming, and still others entertain themselves in various other ways. My hobby is to read and write. I may state further that philosophy comes naturally to me. I am involved with it right from class XI. I took the subject in my college as a result. After coming to service, it is easy to philosophise about anything including infrastructure, government, religion or anything. So in a sense, it has become my second nature. Writing it down, therefore, is only natural.
Have you inculcated any special practices to improve your writing?
I read a lot about philosophy. The format of the novel is inspired by Jostein Gaarder book called Sophie’s World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy (1991). This book is about philosophy, but written as a novel. My other inspiration is German philosopher Immanuel Kant, from whom I derive much of the book’s thesis; and other is Karl Popper, who is a great philosopher of science again.
I must mention at this point that I was an atheist for a couple of years during my college years, but after reading Immanuel Kant, I returned to have belief in God.
How do you use this inspiration in your administrative work?
Philosophy has a lot of abstract applications. It helps you to look at things in a more holistic way which is essential even for the IAS. You start to look at things from different angles. For example, I was working as OSD in the Finance Commission. There we have to look at things financially of course, but other elements also, including the issue of allocating funds. It requires critical, often qualitative, thinking. Philosophy can train us to make more judicious choices as it is all about reasoning. UPSC understands that and hence, a lot of reasoning questions come in the civil services. Ethics, which is another branch of philosophy, has become another optional paper in the UPSC now. So for civil services, the philosophical bent of mind is very essential.