Ashok Lavasa, an image from the time he was an Election Commissioner. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Aug 31 : A product of the Belgaum Military School, he has a postgraduate degree in English from Delhi University, an MBA from Cross University in New South Wales and also an M.Phil in defence and strategic studies.

Ashok Lavasa briefly taught at his alma mater and served as a probationary officer in the State Bank of India before clearing the civil services examination and being inducted into the Indian Administrative Service in 1980, rising to Secretary in the ministries of Environment, Civil Aviation and Finance and finally as a member of the Election Commission, from where he resigned earlier this month to head for Manila's Asian Development Bank as one of its Vice Presidents.

Now, prepare yourself to view Lavasa in a hitherto unrevealed avatar as the author of two eclectic books.

The first book, titled "An Ordinary Life: Portrait of an Indian Generation", is built around the life of Lavasa's father, Udai Singh, or Bauji, and of the India of his time and generation. It is also an exploration of the values and principles he stood for and which have served as a moral compass to Lavasa in his own personal and public life.

In the second book, "Mannat", co-written with his wife Novel and brought to life by photographs taken by the couple, Lavasa tells the stories of shrines and places of worship in India that test human strength and stamina, and to which believers ascribe the power of granting their wishes.

Both books are to be published by HarperCollins.

"There are many whose lives don't seem extraordinary because they are not popular," Lavasa writes in "An Ordinary Life".

"Their stories are not heard because they haven't been written about. But these stories represent an era, an entire generation. Every generation will need these stories when it has exhausted its amoral quest of pure materialism or reached the apotheosis of its permissiveness and compromises. These ordinary lives may not be well known or heroic in popular perception.

"They may not be icons, recognized and idolized. But their life inspires because it is a vindication of certain lasting values that survive in every society. Such lives provide hope and keep us connected with the unseen forces that govern us," Lavasa writes.

Through a series of real-life incidents, the book explores the role of morality and honesty in life.

"It is possible to prosper in the world, especially in a developing country where there is a revolution of rising aspirations and cut-throat competition, and yet preserve one's principles," Lavasa writes, adding: "Paying the price for adhering to those principles might seem painful but it is inescapable, it is joyous, and it is the axis around which the world moves. Honesty and truth are not merely ideals that remain elusive. They form the survival kit of many." In the second book, Lavasa asks whether faith is born out of religion or whether it comes from a sense of harmony with the elements - and proceeds to provide the answer.

"The book weaves a nature-faith-culture story of human bond and bondage. These are pictures of places that unite even as they preserve identities. Beneath the symbols and beyond them, runs a thread - 'dhaga prem ka', as Rahim called it (in his 'Dohe'). If it is intact, we are one; if not, we get tied into knots that society could do without," he writes.

It is always interesting to know more about the persona behind those in public life, HarperCollins India Publisher Krishan Chopra said, adding the two books present Lavasa, "in his own words, writing about some old-fashioned virtues that he was brought up to believe in, and the difficulties of the straight and narrow path".

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