Presenting some refreshingly different shades of a bureaucrat’s personality

‘Fragrant Words’ from an IAS officer and a poet – Rajni Sekhri Sibal, IAS

It is unusual for a serving bureaucrat – more so involved as a policy-maker creating a positive long-term effect on the society– to take time out from the official humdrum and give vent to his/ her inner self. But when Rajni Sekhri Sibal, a topper of IAS 1986 batch of Haryana cadre, unveiled her book “Fragrant Words” recently in Mumbai; she showed that there was more to her persona than the reputation of being an upright officer with a meritorious record behind her.

Rajni Sekhri Sibal was occasioned to be in Mumbai for the launch of her book at the Dayashankar Hall in Customs House building. An august gathering present at the function was treated to her literary dimensions which, if anything, showed that her approach to expression is as straightforward and focused as she is to her work.

A galaxy of senior officers like Sanjay Bhatia IAS, Sungita Sharma IRS, Sanjay Kandhare IAS, Manu Kumar Srivastava IAS, Vijaysingh Chauhan IRS, Ravinder Saroop IRS, Subrat Ratho Ex-IAS and many others from the Customs House, GST, Mumbai Port Trust and Income Tax Department witnessed the launch while the writer-bureaucrat smiled her way through. “Fragrant Words”, is her fifth essay at writing and the book – an anthology of poems – is clear proof that Rajni Sekhri Sibal writes not just with practiced ease but also has the ability to polish her feelings with the right words. With this book she has scored a hat-trick, her two earlier releases being “Kamadhenu: Cows of India” and “Clouds End and Beyond”. The book launch was followed by a panel discussion where eminent writers spoke at length and deliberated on the author’s work.

“Fragrant Words” is a telling canvas that vividly depicts the story of a poet’s journey meandering through all shades of life — the misty, the sunny and the harsh. Published by Bloomsbury Publications, is a virtual lexicon strung with soul-stirring emotions. It is love’s labour that took years to see the light of the day. After “Clouds End and Beyond”, published a couple of years back, Fragrant Words” is the author’s second foray into anthology. The most arresting feature of the book is a myriad spectrum of colours — dreamy vistas blurred by harsh realities, mellow calmness disrupted by loud cacophony and beautiful emotions tempered with teardrops in the rain.

The book has a picturesque backdrop of quaint Himalayan villages and towns punctuated with some misty and aromatic verses. Other works emote and touch silken, yet resilient, chords of tender bonds. The genre of tender emotions also extends to mystic offerings beyond the horizon.

Leafing through the book acquaints the reader with fragrant verses that portray an enigmatic inner quest. Some compositions paint esoteric dangling questions. Others try to figure out the more profane aspects of life in a new world order. Some verses are poignant and have been inspired by tragic incidents. A few portray the sorrow that accompanies the onset of a disaster — both natural and man-made. Still others convey the ennui that sets in an unknown city amidst an indifferent crowd. The overall effect is both mystical and rejuvenating.

‘Fragrant Words’ is a lyrical illustration of life from a poet’s perspective. It is a medley of verses: some soft and gentle, others heady and strong, while still others evoke the aroma of a memory long forgotten. Like the vivid strokes of a painter, the anthology displays the various colours on a poet’s palette — the black, the white and the mesmerising hues and shades in between. A little like life.

At a panel discussion on the book moderated by once corporate honcho and now a voluntary social worker Indrani Malkani, eminent journalist and columnist Bachi Karkaria said it with her customary wit. She said she was pleasantly surprised that the Customs Officers normally known for their policing abilities also had an ear for good literature.


The panellists were Bina Sarkar Elias- a poet and editor, designer and publisher of International Gallarie, and art culture. Bachi Karkaria former editor with the Times of India, Ketki Kothare Jayakar, advocate and marriage councillor who is also a television script writer and an author; and Banibrata Bhattacharya, Chief Commissioner Mumbai Customs Zone 1 who ardently pursues photography as a hobby. The panel discussion was moderated by Indrani Malkani – An Ashoka Fellow and is the Chairman and Trustee of VCitizen Action Network (VCAN).

Banibrata Bhattacharya Chief Commissioner of Mumbai Customs Zone 1 played perfect host at the function.