"For a twenty-two-year-old man facing a full auditorium of students, lecturing was an experience comparable to being out in the sea struggling to keep the head above water."

Retired international civil servant Zia Ahmed offers a thorough recollection of his life, spanning three main segments: his youth in village India during that country’s independence struggles, his professional life in the new state of Pakistan as a young man, and his post at the UN before leaving public life. An early crisis he noted as a child was the Bengal famine, watching his mother culling the staple food, rice, to remove rocks and insects. A beloved brother died of beriberi. As a boy, Ahmed had seizures, cured by homeopathic doses of poisonous water hemlock. As was typical in his culture, he was sent away to school as a young teen, becoming a professor in his early twenties. Soon afterwards, he had took a civil service exam and got a job in Finance Services, not his first choice of career paths but, “I realized that ‘what has been’ has turned out to be better than ‘what might have been.’” He eventually secured work at the UN. He observed such phases on the world stage as the apartheid regime in South Africa, the inauguration of Richard Nixon, and most recently, some critical changes in Muslim society.

Blessed with a brilliant mind and a prodigious memory, Ahmed has interspersed his personal story with passages about the history and culture of the many places he has lived and traveled. His observations are well considered, worth reading even by those outside his immediate heritage. His written English is impeccable, an admirable feat for someone who grew up in foreign lands, and his account of his remarkable life is tempered with modesty. Autobiography infused with sociocultural observations of the world in transition from the 1930s to the present, A Bridge with Three Spans highlights one man’s noteworthy aspirations and accomplishments.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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