A friend and I were recently discussing Gulliver, the Economists’s travel when we agreed that the author of the blog was likely to be ‘someone like us’. He thought about this comment for a second and it dawned on him that I just might be Gulliver! Initially I found the suspicion greatly amusing (not to mention flattering) and it took me a good few minutes to convincing him that I was, in fact, not Gulliver. It certainly would not hurt my reputation if that rumor was widely spread (and believed). This conversation stuck with in my mind for a few days – if it is perfectly reasonable to believe that I was secretly authoring the Economist’s travel blog, I could not help but wonder what else I could get away doing without my closest friends knowing.
I spent my first years as a frequent traveller to Pakistan, Yemen, as well as almost every other country in the Middle East. My job gave me access to senior government officials, prominent businessmen and other corridors of power in all these countries. More importantly, it gave me access to extensive information on the power, oil & gas, and other critical infrastructure in each of these countries. While most of my investment banking peer group were busy working long hours and partying hard at the trendiest nightclubs on the planet, I was begging consulates for hard-to-get visas, building relationships in hostile and often uncomfortable environments, and in two cases, nearly getting blown up when terrorists decided to destroy the hotels where I was staying. To an outsider, does that sound like something a banker does? Or does it sound like the job description of someone in MI6 or the CIA? As it happens, I am, in-fact, a legitimate project financier but my life could easily be a cover for a more exciting profession.
Rather than send my CV to MI6 for a job in covert ops (pointless given that cover will be blown the moment I publish this), I’m thinking that this might be good material for a book. I’ve been looking for something to write about for some time and I’ve been told that writing about something familiar is the best way to start. No one in their right mind is going to read a book about my actual life, which would be fairly dull. This book would be based on actual places that I’ve visited at particular times and events that took place at that time (bombings in Pakistan, the Arab spring, the revolution in Yemen, etc) but based on my fictitious job as a secret agent. I haven’t figured out all the details of the story but this is the broad idea.
Would you read this book?