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Sunday, August 30, 2015

postscript to yesterday's

...and Lavona just sent me this, which is somehow of a piece with what I wrote yesterday:

Subj: Pondering  As I was lying around, pondering the problems of the world, I realized that at my age I don't really give a dang anymore. If walking is good for your health, the postman would be immortal. A whale swims all day, only eats fish, drinks water, but is still fat. A rabbit runs and hops and only lives 15 years, while a tortoise doesn't run and does mostly nothing, yet it lives for 150 years. And you tell me to exercise?? I don't think so. Just grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked, the good fortune to remember the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

Now that I'm older here's what I've discovered:

1. I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.

2. My wild oats are mostly enjoyed with prunes and all-bran.

3. I finally got my head together, and now my body is falling apart.

4. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

5. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

6. If all is not lost, then where the heck is it ?

7. It was a whole lot easier to get older, than to get wiser.

8. Some days, you're the top dog, some days you're the fire hydrant.

9. I wish the buck really did stop here, I sure could use a few of them.

10. Kids in the back seat cause accidents.

11. Accidents in the back seat cause kids.

12. It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.

13. The world only beats a path to your door when you're in the bathroom.

14. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he'd have put them on my knees.

15. When I'm finally holding all the right cards, everyone wants to play chess.

16. It's not hard to meet expenses . . . they're everywhere.

17. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

18. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter . . .. I go somewhere to get something, and then wonder what I'm "here after".

19. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

20. HAVE I SENT THIS MESSAGE TO YOU BEFORE.......? or did I get it from you? 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

One's own education

A few of the things I have learnt from teaching for a lifetime:

People are overwhelmingly silly, too silly even to know what is good for them.
Far too many people are motivated strongly by overt or subconscious malice, stemming usually from greed, jealousy, fear and frustration.
People are as ready to flatter for trivial advantage as to jeer at others who do.
Girls as a rule don’t read, and of those who do, most are utterly unaffected by what they have read. And these girls grow up to be mothers who fear their children reading as though they are dealing with rabid animals. But of course, they can kill for their children to score well in exams.
Alas, even reading a lot of books is no guarantee that one will grow up into a decent and useful human being. For a lot of people, it is just a pretty affectation.
Most people drift away after a while, even those who claim I influenced them deeply.
Most people betray their own professed ideals and ‘loves’ when the chips are down. Ideals and maxims are only for essays and speeches.
Most people have no high sense of achievement, especially of the sort that does good to others.
Most people become brain dead (and this regardless of whether they are surgeons or computer programmers or schoolteachers or insurance agents) by the time they are twenty five. And also, I find signs of brains in the most unexpected people, including those who have never had the benefit of an expensive education.
Advertizing works wonders. People by the millions actually believe that a certain tutorial will make their kids ‘brilliant’, a certain brand of pen will improve their examination performance, a certain deodorant will make them popular with the opposite sex, a certain smartphone will bring about ‘more love’.
Besides advertizing, the only things that drive them are ingrained personal habits and the herd instinct.
I believe I have understood what Vivekananda predicted more than a century ago – the coming of shudra raaj – in a sense that cannot today even be mentioned publicly without raising far too many hackles, so true it has proved to be.
I believe this is my own coinage, and I want to be remembered for it: A fool when he grows old only becomes an old fool.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The First Noble Truth

'Life is pain. If anyone claims otherwise, he is selling something'.

This was a remark made in a fantasy movie titled Princess Bride that my daughter showed me recently. 

The Buddha would have approved. And I prefer to heed the Buddha than Madison Avenue and its clones around the world, whether they are selling anti-ageing creams, insurance, cars or smartphones.

The point is how best to cope with pain. And the longer you live in denial, the harder it becomes.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Bizarre highways

I truly liked this video. The 'Singing Highway' made me think 'What a lovely idea!', the Karakoram Highway left me worried, the one crossing an aircraft runway made me gasp, and the one that gets the prize is the one which doesn't allow cars to ply, except for rare exceptions.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Sixth August, 2015

Hiroshima Day. How the world has forgotten.

Since I wrote about Ruby, a lot of reactions have come in, many people expressing surprise, many of them saying thanks, many of them harking back to their own memories. Just to dispel the notion (for the creation of which I myself am to a great extent responsible) that I am a hardboiled misogynist, I shall write now and then about favourite old girls. One whose name springs to mind is Priyanka Mullick (née Pobi). Never knew she was fond of me, but she visited me a few years after marriage, and disarmed me with the confession that she had brought her little boy along because surely Sir wouldn’t scold her – if he at all wanted to – in front of her child. She confessed rather shamefacedly that she hadn’t done much beyond what I predict for most girls, namely getting married; yet she has turned out to be far more active and responsible a person than most people her age, happily playing a big part in the large family business even while being, I think, a good mother and daughter. And money hasn’t gone to her head: she went to a humble but very caring religious-run hospital to have her second baby recently. My daughter showed me her photograph with the child on whatsapp, and she sounded pleased but abashed when I called to tell her that not just the baby but the mother looks fabulous. I think what is common to the girls I still love is that they are fond of me, they know how to respect, they have no affectations or pretensions, and most importantly of all, they never ask for what they themselves cannot give. This is why I increasingly think that outside the family the only women one should deal with are thoroughbred professionals, whether they be doctors or ladies of the night. Most others expect too much, and are willing to give too little. There, I suppose I am back to being a misogynist again.

It is already that time of the year when I start saying ‘Sorry’ to parents who wish to enroll their kids for the next year’s class, and only God and my family know what I go through with people who just won’t take no for an answer. You might look up a post titled ‘Weirdos’ that my daughter wrote in her blog back in 2010. And talking of weirdos, I don’t know how many of you will believe this, but there are even folks who first show every sign of desperation to get their kids in – to the extent of filling in forms and paying the requisite fees – and then go and admit their kids to schools whose pupils I do not teach!

It has just struck me that it won’t be too long before this blog becomes ten years old. I have seen very few bloggers stick to it for more than a year or two, and even those who do write just la-la stuff and/or only two or three times a year, not fifty or more. When I do something I do it seriously, here’s one more proof. Which is precisely also why once I cry off, it’s for good. I swore I won’t enter the St. Xavier’s School campus again when I left in May 2002, and I haven’t. After a few years of orkut, I set my face against social networking sites, and look, I have lost nothing by ignoring facebook and twitter. If I use them or whatsapp or something like that again, it will be strictly for family- or business purposes. So with this blog. Ankan Saha, do you remember telling me to start a blog so that many old boys could keep in touch? You have yourself confessed – as have so many others – that you have been remiss in doing your bit, and so I wonder, despite the pageviews count that keeps climbing relentlessly. How much longer beyond the tenth anniversary should I continue?

Economics, history and psychology are three subjects which I never stop pondering over. The thoughtful among my readers and the grown-ups, have you noticed a secular trend which I have been observing over at least three decades – that while computers and mobiles and TV sets and cars and stuff get ever cheaper, the essentials of life, namely land/living space, food, medicines and education become ever more expensive? Any guesses why this is happening, and where it is leading us? To paraphrase Barack Obama, disaster is not something likely to happen during the lives of our grandchildren.

For now, a conclusion with another passing thought: my old editors at The Telegraph of Calcutta gave me opportunities to write lots of stuff on lots of subjects. Would some of you be interested in reading some of them? I have never displayed them publicly, and though one girl – a so called journalist – pushed the file aside when I offered to show her, there have been lots of others who have rifled through it with avid interest.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Just musing

I badly need a haircut, and no one in the household is up to it. Can any old boy do it for me?

Is Tom Cruise really dating his 22-year old personal assistant? Why the outraged denials? – Natural when looks and glamour and money are all working for you, so why shouldn’t he?

Just watched Boyhood the movie. Very well made, and extraordinary doesn’t begin to describe what the director and cast have achieved – following the growth of the same pair of children over a period of twelve years. Made me sad, too, watching how badly parental disharmony and discord hurts kids; how bad the worship of individual self-fulfilment can become if pushed too far (especially because ‘free’ people don’t do much with their lives anyway). I have always thought that very few people ought to be licensed to have children at all: that would solve a great many very serious problems at one stroke. And it feels good that I am neither a politician nor a celebrity on TV, so I can voice my honest opinions in public. The denouement made me sigh, of course, because I too have an empty nest now, though my family, and especially my daughter, are still far closer in the real sense that most people can dream of: I know adults who have told me they would ‘die’ if they had to live with their native families in their native place for a month. Oh, and for the umpteenth time: I cannot but wince to see how so much of the contemporary world has become so casually foul-mouthed. Just one of my tics, I guess. Watch the movie and tell me what you felt. I wonder more strongly than ever what kind of parents today’s youngsters – those in the 20-30 age group, given the way they have grown up – are going to make. Or are they going to leave all the caring and mentoring to the grandparents, in a throwback to older mores?

I got excited when they took away the walker and after the first physiotherapy session worked well, so I tried walking around (just inside the house, of course) without the crutches, and the pain came back. I am being much more careful now. But with the crutches I can do quite a bit, even venture to the local marketplace. And Pupu and an old girl worked wonders for my morale, the first by telling me that I look like Dr. House in the eponymous TV series, the latter by saying that the crutch gives me more character – not that I had been feeling I am much in need of that! And alas, it will be quite some time still before I can even drive a four-wheeler, leave alone the scooter. But I can travel to Calcutta in my own car within another month if things don’t go awry, that much I have been assured.

One thing about being handicapped for a prolonged period – you have to be careful not only to avoid succumbing to depression but not to become self-obsessed. No greater blessing than to have a fixed daily work routine. It also makes one think about a lot of things. How so many ordinary people matter in your lives: and I am not talking merely of family, to whom we often attach a bloated and quite undeserved importance. How important it is to practice charity at home. How useful it is to count your blessings. How to differentiate between those who really care and those who do not. How one might best cope with a future when one may never be as fit and ‘normal’ as one used to be (such as that I might never climb hills or walk fast for long distances again). How good it is to find real pleasure in the happiness of others. What a treasure children are, if you can attract their love. How wise it is never to expect anything from anyone in the long run. How more caution can save you from getting hurt in a lot of ways.

So I have been re-thinking the question of charity. I think I am going to go with ‘charity begins at home’, and set out on a systematic program of helping out people in need – specifically people who have helped me out in times of distress and helplessness. There are so many people who touch our lives in so many humble yet essential ways whom are too little valued. Even your cook and maid and the grocer who makes home deliveries when you are indisposed. And these are as a rule proud people, so you have to work hard to find out what they need, and when.

The season is beautiful, with occasional bursts of glorious sunshine alternating with long spells of rain. Making a virtue of necessity, I am sitting outdoors for hours in the daytime, helping the sun to speed up the process of synthesizing vitamin D which is good for the healing of my bones, and I thank God for being lucky enough to find so much time to admire the gorgeousness of the world around me: the azure of the sky, the play of the clouds, the lush rainwashed greenery all around, the profusion of flowers, the busy activity of squirrels and birds and butterflies in my garden… I can’t have enough of ‘standing and staring’. Sometimes it feels as though it was really worthwhile breaking a leg. How sad it is to be a busy man, really.

Rajdeep of the 1994 batch and Chitra of the 2000 batch visited recently. Thank you to both. It was good to see you after a long time. Chitra, as I told you, one reason I dislike female visitors is that they by and large have no conversation – do keep that in mind and I am sure both of us will enjoy your next visit even more. And keep in touch, both.

My daughter has already found a kind of happiness in college that she never got in school except during the very early years, touch wood. I have been pestering her to write about her entire school life. This is a reminder again, Pupu! And may your working life be even better…

In passing: I have got some truly gratifying reviews of To My Daughter. I only wish more people who have read it would get in touch with me. Or at least tell me why they can’t/won’t comment.