Rupa to publish By Many a Happy Accident: Recollections of a Life by M. Hamid Ansari

Picture Credit: Rupa


Fortuitous or not, By Many a Happy Accident is an account of a life of unplanned happenings that took M. Hamid Ansari away from his preferred fancy for academia to professional diplomacy and then be co-opted in public life and catapulted to the second-highest office in the land for two consecutive terms. None of his predecessors , except Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, had experienced this honour.

Besides chairing the Rajya Sabha  and  shedding interesting light on some of its functional aspects, Ansari used the vice presidency as a formidable pulpit to express himself candidly on a range of issues at different times in India’s changing political landscape.

Their overarching theme was the need for modern India to re-commit itself to the constitutional principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, to the values of a composite culture, and for correctives in polity relating to identity, security and empowerment of the weaker segments of our society.


MOHAMMAD HAMID ANSARI was the vice president of India and chairman of the Rajya Sabha for two consecutive terms from 2007 to 2017. A former diplomat, he served as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as high commissioner to Australia and as permanent representative to the United Nations in New York.

Ansari was a visiting professor in the Centre for West Asian and African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and in the Academy of Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia. He was the vice chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University, distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, member of the National Security Advisory Board and chairman of the National Commission for Minorities. He chaired one of the five Working Groups established by the Prime Minister’s 2nd Round Table Conference on J&K in April 2006.

In 2005, he edited the proceedings of an international conference on Iran, Twenty Five Years after the Islamic Revolution. In 2008, he published a set of his own writing, Travelling through Conflict: Essays on the Politics of West Asia. Selections from his speeches have been published as Teasing Questions (2014), Citizen and Society  (2016) and Dare I Question? (2018).


“10 August 2017 was the last day of my term of office and my last day as Chairman, Rajya Sabha. The day’s proceedings record the details of the morning session. The interventions from party leaders, front and backbenchers, and nominated personalities were full of compliments and complimentary references. Procedural correctives, the ‘no legislation in the din’ rule and dignified impartiality were specifically mentioned. One senior member on the back benches blessed me with a Sanskrit verse and wished me long life in Upanishadic terms!

The PM participated in this, and while fulsome in his compliments was somewhat selective in his reference to my work. Hardly any mention was made of my period as Chairman, Rajya Sabha and while my professional career as a diplomat was alluded to and lauded, it was sought to be pigeon-holed in the ‘atmosphere, thought process, debates amidst such people ‘ (meaning Muslim countries) where I was assigned, supplemented by work in Muslim surroundings as VC of AMU and as Chairman of NMC. ‘There may have been some struggle within (all these years) but from now onwards you won’t have to face this dilemma. You will have a feeling of freedom and you  will get an opportunity to work, think and talk according to your ideology.’ 

The tilt in overlooking my work elsewhere as a representative of India and particularly in the UN in a critical period was fairly evident and so was the reference to ‘your ideology’ and can hardly be attributed to poor staff work; nor can the fact be evaded that a Representative of India, anywhere and at any level including the highest, works on the articulation of Indian views and promotion of Indian national interests uninfluenced by personal preferences or prejudices of host countries.

The intended message of the seemingly laudatory remarks was picked up by party functionaries and sections of the media, as also by the Jaithful’ in the social media, and by the listening public at large. The reaction so generated has been sustained in various manifestations. Its rationale is perhaps summed up in the Urdu couplet: 

Bhari  bazm main raaz ki baat keh di 

Bara be-adab hoon saza chahta hoon

(I have divulged in public what was hidden 

I am very insolent, chastisement I desire.)

On the other hand, editorial comments and a good many other writings considered the PM’s remarks to be a departure from the accepted practice on such occasions.

My response that morning began with an Urdu couplet:

Mujhpe  ilzaam itne lagaaye gaye

Begunahi ke andaaz jaate  rahe (So much have I been accused of

That proving my innocence has deserted me.)”

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