Kochi: ‘It doesn’t take a Communist or Maoist to commit genocide. We describe India as a liberal and democratic society but these values will go down the drain if we do not remain vigilant. This is the lesson that India should take from Cambodia and its recent past,’ said Dr. Christy Fernandez IAS Chairman, KSIDC, and former Secretary to the President of India. He was speaking at the launch of the book titled ‘My Driver Tulong and Other Tall Tales from a Post Pol Pot Contemporary Cambodia’ written by M P Joseph IAS (Retd) on Tuesday at Bharath Tourist Home in Kochi.
He appreciated the author’s ability in recreating the minute details of life in Cambodia.
‘Joseph’s book is exceptional because it is a labour of love. The fictional element in the book is so real that it confuses the reader. It reminds one of Narasimha Rao’s autobiography ‘Outsider’, which the author claimed was a work of fiction,’ said Ambassador T P Sreenivasan IFS.
Mr Sreenivasan added that there are many instances in the book, where Joseph forgets Cambodia and delves into seemingly disconnected events in world history. Events like St. Thomas’ visit to Kerala and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi are effortlessly woven into the book.
‘The people of Cambodia have lived through one of the world’s worst genocides during the Khmer Rouge. My book is about not the killings or the genocide. It is about the new Cambodia, its young people and their vibrancy,’ said Mr Joseph, while introducing the book.
‘Driver Tulong is only a fictional character, who embodies the grace and innocence of the people of Cambodia. The book is rife with many characters like Tulong, who though fictional, are close to the real people I have met and interacted in Cambodia,’ he added.
Bose Krishnamachari, renowned artist and curator of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, and noted actor and ad-filmmaker Sijoy Varghese received the first copies of the book. Seppi Sebastian (Executive Director, CPPR) delivered the welcome address. Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) and DC Books organized the event.
M P Joseph IAS (R), a first-time author, is a former civil servant from Kerala who left an indelible mark on the administration of Kerala when he held roles such as District Collector Ernakulam, Mayor of the Corporation of Cochin and Labour Commissioner, Kerala State.
About the Book
The book is a fictionalised travelogue set in Cambodia where Joseph spent 7 years on a UN assignment. The book has thirteen inter-connected stories that bring alive the modern soul of Cambodia and the innocence of its modernizing people, who are yet recovering from the excesses of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge genocide. The book also brings out the strong Sanskritised Indian past of Cambodia, the land of the Angkor Wat and the Kamboja-desa of the Puranas, and the many surprising links that Cambodia has with Kerala, including boat races.