When he is not looking into the fortunes of politicians or prominent businessmen to check if they have paid their taxes to the last rupee, chief commissioner of income tax K Satyanarayana is penning a novel on societal transitions or is on Skype with his children in the US.
As a little boy in rural Mandya, he was good with numbers. "I studied in a government Kannada medium school. Like for any boy from the hinterland, there was a passion to succeed. My mother Lakshmi Narasamma would always say I would be successful. That was a great encouragement," he says, whose other pastime is trekking.
After topping Mysore University in MA (Economics), he cleared the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) in 1978. "Those days clearing the civil service was not easy. You had to be highly self-motivated. Today there are so many coaching centres for students to seek guidance. Back then bureaucracy was a service, today it's a career. The cream of the students no more joins civil services," he regrets.
A career spanning 33 years has seen him assessing income tax and conducting raids on some of the most prominent politicians, top business houses in Mumbai, Nagpur, Karnataka, Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Kolhapur. "My most challenging assignment was when I was posted as deputy director (investigation) as also my first posting as assistant commissioner of IT in Bangalore in 1979. I was new. I would panic when I got telephone threats when I touched the fortunes of the high and the mighty. But with experience comes maturity. I have learnt to take them in my stride now."
So when did the love for writing begin? "I was awed by the respect that writers and academics commanded from the public while I was at college. I realized that I must command respect through my work.''
Truly, it's all in a day for Satyanarayana. "There is no scheduled time for pursuing my literary interests in a job like this. Mentally I am always writing and recording my observations. And during weekends or late night I pen them down.''
The result of this is Satyanarayana's 21 books published so far, two Sahitya Academy awards and a Masti Puraskara last year. He published his first novel, Ondu Kathanakada Moolaka, in 1988. "There was no looking back since. I told myself I will keep writing. It's three decades now since I began writing. I have written short stories, essays and novels. That's my biggest stress-buster.''
His wife, Sumitra Satyanarayana, intervenes, "There are times when he stays up the whole night and writes. When his father KS Krishnamurthy passed away, he was shattered. But he chose to put all his emotions into his writing. The tough taxman is a lenient father at home. There were no restrictions for our children when they were growing up.''
The high-pressure job where he deals with the CBI and Lokayukta does not affect his family life. The doting father regularly skypes with his daughter Priyamvada who is settled in Virginia, US, and son Chandan S who is pursuing his MS at University of Pennysylvania.
After three decades with the department, Satyanarayana is as passionate about his job as he was when he started his career. "The department handles 4 crore people every year. And we are handling their money. There is no scope for complacency because as much as we scrutinize the public, we are under scrutiny."
A 30-minute walk followed by stretches is a must every morning before he sets out for the day. "I am not religious but I am spiritual. I don't step out without saying my prayer,'' he signs off.