Just a Mercenary? Book Review: An Insightful Read For Readers

Just a Mercenary? Book Review: An Insightful Read For Readers

This book allows the reader a rare ringside view of significant landmarks in the country’s socioeconomic fabric, and the subsequent decisions made and actions taken

Aartie RauUpdated: Sunday, June 09, 2024, 01:12 AM IST
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Book: Just a Mercenary?

Author: Duvvuri Subbarao

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 336

Price: Rs 546

“Just a Mercenary?” is a poignant account that chronicles Dr Duvvuri Subbarao’s incredible ascent from humble beginnings as a sub-collector in the Parvathipuram sub-division, to the highest echelons in the Indian civil services, culminating with a five-year term as governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Referred to by the author as ‘Notes from His Life and Career,’ the book is a candid and objective commentary by a man who, even at the high points in his career, did not lose his strong determination to ‘give back’ more to society than what he had received. The title “Just a Mercenary?” stems from the question he repeatedly asks himself – “Like a mercenary, did he just execute a job because he was paid for it, or did he also contribute to the environs that had given him so much?”

This book allows the reader a rare ringside view of significant landmarks in the country’s socioeconomic fabric, and the subsequent decisions made and actions taken. During the span of his career, Dr Subbarao faced more than his share of formidable challenges. These included insulating India - successfully - from the severity and repercussions of the collapse of the Lehman Brothers at the start of his term at the RBI, holding his ground with the government regarding the independence of the central bank – he was “invariably discomfited and annoyed by the demand that the RBI should be a cheerleader for the government,” and retaining his stance on cooling inflation despite government pressure to soften interest rates, to name a few.

The author’s stellar achievements and successes, as well as the downsides and disappointments, are narrated with endearing honesty. Speckled with both modesty and humour, this book is a welcome change from the self-glorification that usually accompanies similar autobiographies.

“Just a Mercenary?” also shares a glimpse into Dr Subbarao’s personal life. Dr Subbarao married Urmila Subbarao, an IAS officer - whom he describes as ‘vivacious, cheerful, and friendly’ - in December 1978. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Urmila won the Humphrey Fellowship in 1993. The couple has two sons, Mallik and Raghav, who, like their father, are IIT graduates. The author speaks of a particularly touching moment, when, driving him from Washington DC to New Haven for an assignment in Jackson School in 2023, his elder son Mallik advised him to “take care of himself and avoid walking around after dark,” the same advice given to Mallik by his parents when they left him at the IIT hostel a quarter of a century ago!

The book closes with the author writing a moving letter to his mother, recounting his journey and the accompanying experiences, his parents’ influence on him, their teachings that he never loses sight of, and their principles that guided him through his life and career.

After completing his tenure at the Reserve Bank of India in 2013, Dr Subbarao served as a visiting fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and the National University of Singapore. He is currently a visiting professor at Yale University in the United States and the Kautilya School of Public Policy in Hyderabad.

So, in line with his beliefs, Dr Subbarao’s learning never stops.

This book is an inspiration for people from diverse backgrounds, and all walks of life.

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Just a Mercenary? Book Review: An Insightful Read For Readers

Just a Mercenary? Book Review: An Insightful Read For Readers