Published: 21st February 2019
Have you ever wondered why Collector Bro decided to become an IAS officer? Here's why
IAS officer Prasanth Nair, popularly known as Collector Bro, talks about his journey into the Civil Services and his fascination for films
As a little boy, Prasanth Nair once accompanied his mother to meet the Principal of the Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram. A doctor at the hospital, she had to get a service related issue solved. He still doesn't know what it was. After all, he was just 9 or 10. But what he recalls precisely even today was the arrogance that he saw on the principal's face. "He never acknowledged my mother's presence in that room," he says. Nair's mother had to go through a lot of red tape to get the matter solved, which finally took the mother-son duo to the office of the Health Secretary in the Secretariat. But what he got to see here was quite different. "I remember a smiling bearded gentleman. He was really nice to my mother and at that point, it appeared unfamiliar. He seemed quite powerful, yet courteous and generous," Nair recalls.
Upon getting the issue resolved, he asked his mother who the gentleman was, responding to which she explained to her son what a civil servant is supposed to do. "This might seem pretty cinematic, but I turned back to look at the name board and I saw 'IAS' written after his name," he says. Recently posted as the Managing Director of Kerala Shipping Inland Navigation Corporation Ltd, that was this IAS officer's first impression of bureaucrats.
So years later, when he cracked the civil service code, did he adhere to the same generousity and humility that appealed to him then? Maybe you could answer that better. Because for us laymen, he is Kozhikode's very own 'Collector Bro'. Before him, Keralites have never even dreamt of addressing a top bureaucrat in a friendly manner, let alone 'bro'. The 'bro code' they had with him was stronger than what Barney Stinson had with Ted Mosby.
Speaking up: Prasanth Nair at ThinkEdu
From Compassionate Kozhikode to Operation Sulaimani, this IAS officer executed a lot of successful projects for the welfare of the people. So, it wouldn't be surprising that the people of Kozhikode missed him dearly when he was transferred to Delhi, as the Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
We recently caught up with him at TNIE's ThinkEdu Conclave, after he delivered a speech on cracking UPSC. Just like the IAS story, he had a lot more to share with us. Excerpts from the conversation:
Why do you call everybody bro?
I don't know. It came naturally. This wasn't a conscious decision, to be honest. I noticed that it became a thing when people started responding the same way to my Facebook posts. There's a different language to social media.
I don't miss Kozhikode. I keep going there. I am still connected to the people. I was never attached to any posting because you keep moving. But at the same time, it feels good to hear people say "We miss you"
Prasanth Nair, MD, KSINC
Has anyone surprised you by calling you, bro?
These days I'm surprised if someone doesn't call me bro. There have been occasions where seniors call you 'bro', half mockingly. That is surprising. Many old gen bureaucrats are known to be rigid and are obsessed with hierarchy. But I don't insist on 'sir'ing. It feels good to see my chauffeur or my gunman call me bro. I feel good.
You've been the collector of Kozhikode for a long time. What is the first thing that comes to your mind, when you hear the word Kozhikode?
The Government Mental Health Centre at Kuthiravattam. A week into taking charge as the collector, I went there and that sort of decided my work in Kozhikode. In the middle of a prosperous city, you have an asylum where people are deprived of everything and are not anyone's priority. Most of them are abandoned. Their food menu there was decided in 1975. The staple diet was a soup made of broken wheat, which wasn't particularly very tasty. There are two groups of people, who have no control over the kind of food they get to eat — the prisoners and the mentally ill. While the former can raise their voices and put their demands across, the latter can't even imagine doing so. This was very depressing. That is where the compassionate Kozhikode project kickstarted. After that, the situation improved tremendously. This is one place that is close to my heart.
Penning a grand prix: Nair co-wrote the screenplay of the 2018 Malayalam film Diwanjimoola Grand Prix
Recently you also donned the role of a filmmaker. How was that transition?
I feel that everyone has a creative streak inside them. For the compassionate Kozhikode project, we were trying to make promo videos, but I wasn't happy with any of the videos made. Then everyone suggested that I give it a shot. That was a great experience. Once you're satisfied by doing something creative, it is difficult to leave it. I thought I should do justice to this. You have one life and the opportunity to live it to the fullest. Make the most of it. That's my philosophy. So, I took a sabbatical and worked towards this. Thankfully, the short film went to the Cannes Film Festival.
The Compassionate Keralam project was something that you undertook in the aftermath of the Kerala floods. How is it going now?
Compassionate Keralam was an extension of the ongoing compassionate Kozhikode project. It is nothing but volunteers coming together. During the floods, it was all the youngsters who came together quite organically through social media. During the crisis, there was a lot of work that had to be done like collating the SOS, duplicating it and compiling. But they did it through something as simple as spreadsheet and slack. This was very impressive. Six months down the line, a lot has to be done still, especially towards children's education. We're giving scholarships to 25,000 children. It requires a lot of effort. We aren't collecting money here, but people are helping each other. We may need more sponsors now.