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Practical Recipe

Sundial 17th Century France. Brass. Silver.

My Practical Recipe for Live and Let Live

1. Don’t give yourself the lame and handy excuse of no time. One always has the time, but no inclination or will power.

2. Take less of anything, never more than your capacity. It helps.

3. Discipline your mind to accept things that sometimes may not be agreeable.

4. Take defeat in the right spirit, adverse comment in the correct perspective and give it the value it deserves.

5. If you cannot get what you want, start liking what you get.

6. The concept of consolation is the biggest gift to man.

7. Be methodical in your work, systematic in your approach, humble in your attitude and polite in your dealings.

8. Always be on time. A man who doesn’t respect someone else’s time is not worth being respected.


From A Young Poet

Not so long ago I met a young poet. She wrote some lines about me from our first meeting.

Lives by heart, dreams like moon
life dawns in his eyes
to kiss the gold.
There you go with the puff of the next cigarette
as the smoke of class defies gravity...
There you go with a wink of vintage
pretty oblivious, but does strike...
There you go with the hidden gestures
yet leaves the imprints...

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Unaffected And Undeterred

It was July 7th 2005 and I got home in the evening from a book reading and turned on my TV to see that a series of blasts in London had taken thirty-seven lives. Katrina crashed into New Orleans and swept away one thousand one hundred and ninety three souls as well. In London, I observed that the public was overwhelmed. If it evoked over-reaction in some, it coerced some others to mourn with bouquets of ribbon-wrapped flowers and candles in hand. The establishment was flung into a prolonged debate over what went wrong despite keeping in place their intelligence and policing and what had to be done to make it right. In America, Katrina too unlocked the doors of introspection and debate on disaster management. Their prime concern being whether they ought to invest in rebuilding New Orleans to its former glory at all. While still locked in their sharp coast-to-coast debates, Wilma struck with higher intensity. The people, dwelling in the nation that called itself the superpower, watched their homes, communities, lives float away before their very own eyes.

In India, as people were preparing to greet the New Year with their high spirits, the tsunami wrecked so many lives, homes and livelihood last year. Our people, in full force, were trying to repair the mental trauma of the tsunami victims when the ruinous downpour unleashed itself and exasperated many in Mumbai. Like one big family we joined hands and sailed through the catastrophe when similar situations were faced in Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. People were still sore and coping when the seismic activity devastated parts of Kashmir. If the pong of rotting flesh coupled with a biting winter was not a reminder enough, a train in Andhra Pradesh went off track due to loose grit and plummeted with its passengers who were fast asleep giving them a murky death. The blasts in the key shopping areas in Delhi before Diwali and Eid too had civilians coming together and helping the injured, instead of getting after one another’s necks and rampaging the city further. Our images from the disasters have been ones of reckless turmoil. We are yet to light our candles and hold bunches of flowers. We are not angry at the earth, water, sky, man and our establishment. The future of New Orleans may be uncertain but Indians were up and about trying to move on with normal life. Cuddalore, Muzaffarabad or Uri did not have architects planning their reconstruction on drawing boards, but individuals putting together anything, a tin shanty, or a waterproof tent, anything at all that they could afford.

At times I wonder where all this stems from? Have we become so stoic, so insensitive that human life, which we find in overabundance around us, doesn’t seem to move us anymore? When I look out of my window at the man on the street, I see him in a rush. In a rush to perform, in a rush to reach somewhere and in a rush to outdo in order to survive, just as he had no time to cry or express fear, keeping in mind that before him were far greater concerns such as how to extract the best out of the day and survive. Or for that matter the people at Uri who said, with apparent shock in eyes, that the misery is that they have to keep on living because the dead are probably better off where they are. How long can the family in Mumbai bother about the trembling wall that might tumble on them anytime, weakened further by the rains now?

A man in India is not affected by disasters, as his everyday life is no less than one. Yes, he is insensitive before the test that each day brings onto him. He knows that if he stops, hunger, disease, exploitation, discrimination, hatred and fear would kill his spirit and so nothing around him matters to him because no one can kill a man who is dead already.