Book Review: ‘A Life Well Spent’ by Satish Chandra

A journey lesser known to the ordinary people.


Book Title: A Life Well Spent
Author: Satish Chandra
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Number of Pages: 284
ISBN: 978-9357020954
Date Published: May 05, 2023
Price: INR 695

A Life Well Spent by Satish Chandra Book Cover

Book Review

The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is the Government of India’s prominent diplomatic service advocating the country’s interests overseas. The IFS, comprised of highly competent and educated professionals, is critical in advancing India’s foreign policy objectives, establishing bilateral and multilateral ties, and preserving the country’s interests in the world arena.

IFS officials are educated to manage difficult diplomatic talks, engage in international forums, offer consular services, and promote economic and cultural relations. The Indian Foreign Service, dedicated to protecting India’s sovereignty and national interests, acts as a critical connection between India and the rest of the world, contributing to peace and development and promoting India’s values and interests worldwide.

A Life Well Spent” is a memoir by Satish Chandra, an ace IFS officer, and ambassador. Satish Chandra commenced his career in the Indian Foreign Service in 1965 and held diverse positions at Indian missions in Vienna, Karachi, Washington D.C., Algiers, Dhaka, and headquarters until 1989. He subsequently served as India’s ambassador to the Philippines and as the country’s permanent representative to the UN Offices in Geneva and its high commissioner to Pakistan.

In 1999, he played a pivotal role in establishing the National Security Council Secretariat and served as its secretary until his retirement in February 2005. During this period, he also held the position of chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and concurrently served as the deputy national security advisor from February 2002.

The book has 13 chapters in it. An elaborate preface introduces the readers to Satish Chandra’s idea of writing this book. The introduction starts with the schooling days he spent between 1947 and 1958 at St. Columbia’s, New Delhi. From his first year in college in 1959, Satish Chandra started preparing for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS)/IFS competitive examinations, unlike choosing Engineering or medicine, which had limited seats.

He was disqualified for IAS and hence looked for other options. But on his father’s strong will to re-appear for IAS/IFS, “Satish Chandra” finally got selected after his second attempt. Thus, the book takes the readers through his journey to various countries, incidents, and events.

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Ambassador Satish Chandra’s memoir – “A Life Well Spent“, which spans a 40-year diplomatic career that began in the mid-1960s, offers uncommon insights into the hardships and tribulations of an Indian diplomat as well as a glimpse into thorny issues like India-Pakistan relations, human rights, and disarmament.

In 1999, the author also established India’s National Security Council and associated organizations. The book is written in an easy language and can be read by readers of any age. Knowing people who are lesser known to the general public but are instrumental in living a comfortable life is a great experience.

Read this book, revisit the news articles and editorials you read during important events, including bilateral ones with other countries, and then experience the Deja Vu moment!