I was a career diplomat by profession. For someone growing up in the 1960s in a remote town at the southern tip of India, diplomacy was an improbable profession. My passion was for the world of literature, writing and politics – roughly in that order. While doing doctoral research on the works of Tennessee Williams, however, friends encouraged me to have a fling at the Civil Services Examination. As it turned out, before I could figure out the momentous import of what was unfolding, fate had pitchforked me into the top ranks of the merit list and ushered me into the Indian Foreign Service.

Roughly half of the 3 decades of my diplomatic career was devoted to assignments on the territories of the former Soviet Union and to Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Other overseas postings included South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, and Turkey. I write mainly on Indian foreign policy and the affairs of the Middle East, Eurasia, Central Asia, South Asia and the Asia-Pacific.

Writing must come in a spontaneous rush of thoughts. The exhilarating sense of freedom of an eclectic mind makes all the difference. None of the Indian Punchline blogs has been a pre-meditated act of writing. But then, I will be gravely remiss if I do not acknowledge the two profound influences on my formative years – my late mother who was a deeply religious person of extraordinary spirituality who moulded my inner world and my late father who was a prolific writer, author, and Marxist intellectual and thinker who introduced me at a young age to dialectics as a matchless intellectual tool to analyse the material world and decode politics.

The Indian Punchline may intentionally provoke at times, but there are no mala fide intentions here, no hidden agenda and no attempt to preach. Simply put, the Indian Punchline reflects a humanist’s markings against the backdrop of the ‘Asian Century’. I am underscoring this because we live in difficult times, especially in India, with such acute polarization in discourses – ‘You are either with us or against us’.