Avay Shukla graduated with Honours in English from St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta, and completed his Master’s degree in English from Hindu College, Delhi, in 1973. He taught for two years in the University of Delhi before joining the Indian Administrative Service in 1975. He has served in Delhi and Himachal Pradesh in various capacities. He superannuated in December 2010 as Additional Chief Secretary of Himachal Pradesh.
He developed an abiding interest in the natural environment early in his career and has travelled to the remotest regions of Himachal on foot, chronicling the lifestyles of the hardy villagers who live there, the local myths, legends and anecdotal trivia available in abundance. He is President of the Himachal Pradesh Trekking Association and is one of the founding members of the Eco-Tourism Society of India. He has been an avid high-altitude trekker for twenty years.
Shukla combines in himself traits of three distinct personas – civil servant, environmentalist and writer – and gives expression to all of them in his writings. He writes extensively on subjects as varied as our country’s canvas itself: current affairs, the environment and conservation, the bureaucracy and governance, legal matters, social issues, societal peccadilloes and anything else he can lampoon. His articles have been published in The Indian Express, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Tribune, digital portals such as The Wire and The Citizen, and on websites such as Sify.com and Hillpost.com. He is a prolific blogger and blogs at . He has also published three books – The Trails Less Travelled: Trekking the Himachal Himalayas (2015), an account of ten major high-altitude treks, in which he weaves together the tapestry of nature, myth, mountain lifestyles and cultures to produce a rewarding chronicle of what life in these mountains is like; The Spectre of Choor Dhar (2019), a collection of short stories set in the mountains; and Polyticks, Demockrazy and Mumbo-Jumbo (2020), a satirical and humorous look at our political and social peccadilloes.
Shukla, true to his nature, is settled in a small village, Puranikoti, above Shimla. He is a passable bridge player and a bad golfer. He divides his time between Puranikoti and Delhi. His wife of forty years, Neerja, is a special educator and manages her own non-governmental organisation working with children with mental and physical disabilities. He has two sons: Sidharth is a digital media executive with a multinational corporation and Saurabh is a finance and investment consultant.
There is no didacticism in these pieces, just warmth and concern, laced with rich description, entertaining tales, urban and folk lore, and hilarious metaphors. Shukla’s self-confessed efforts “to make sense of a world gradually going bonkers” leave the reader, facing the same world, vastly soothed and hooting with laughter.
India: The Wasted Years, is a series of essays that were originally blogs. These have been arranged not in a chronological sequence but under subject-heads, making them a cohesive commentary on the times we live in, in India.
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