My Best Friend.

I hope that you enjoy reading this post on the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where eleven of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Delirious. The ten other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Rohit,Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!

best friend

I must confess that I am unable to choose the best one among all my friends.

They are all friends and I am grateful for their friendship.


My niece Nina published this in Facebook.

I am blessed in that I have many friends like that. Let me just share a few incidents with you.

It was in 1997 that I got grounded during a weekend due to a storm in a place called Silvassa on the West coast of India. At that time, I was marketing among sailors of all kinds and the storm had kept all maritime activity on hold and I was stuck with nothing to do. I remembered that I had a friend Youhanna, from my teen age days, living close by in a place called Umbergaon.

Accompanied by my colleague Nandu, who was touring the coast with me at that time, we drove down to Umbergaon and with some difficulty located my friend. Youhanna and I had not met each other for over a decade before that day. When we got off the car Youhanna got down from the veranda where he was sitting came and gave me a bear hug and took me by hand and led me inside to his home. My colleague just followed and when the initial welcome was over, I introduced them to each other too. Youhanna’s wife came out and greeted me and the three of us started off talking to each other as though we had not, not met each other for over a decade. We spent a few very happy hours with them, had our lunch with them and returned to Silvassa.

In the car and during subsequent meetings, my colleage, Nandu found it incredible that despite such long disconnect, we could simply start off where we had left earlier. Subsequent contacts with Youhanna have been on the telephone and sporadic, but I have no doubts whatsoever that if we were to meet again, it would be exactly the same.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a phone call from another old friend Nat who had arrived at Pune the previous evening and waited to surprise me the next day. He and his wife Usha subsequently landed up at home during the time that I was still using the walker to move around, and the meeting was exactly as the quotation above states. We simply started off where we had left off during our previous meeting which was also a few years ago.

Anil and Nina were great friends to have during my first hip replacement surgeries way back in 1985/7. They lived very near to the hospital where I was operated upon and would bring delicious home cooked meals for me. After I moved out of Mumbai in late 1987, as did Anil and Nina too, we lost touch with each other. In one forwarded email that I received four years ago, Anil’s name popped out of the list of recipients and I sent an email to him asking if it was the same Anil and finding that it was, we reestablished contact and it was as though we never lost touch with each other.

I have other friends like Vela in Chennai, Sultan in Mumbai and Kashi in Kolkata, with who, I am not in regular touch, but who are dear friends nevertheless. We call or mail each other every now and then and get updated about happenings in our lives.

Friendship is like good wine. It gets better with age.

Coincidentally, my young FB friend Sukriti posted this poster on FB today and I hope that she gets to read this blog post.

Gratitude List – December 10, 2011.

There is a particular person in my life who has not yet featured in my gratitude list to the extent that she should. I wish to make amends for that neglect. It is not due to neglect or taking her for granted that I have not written about her, but due to the fact that almost without fail, every day, she spends some time with me chatting and giving me a lot of moral support. I use her as a sounding board and also as a mature wise person whose sense of humour can lift anyone’s spirit up. I suspect that she will be reading this and recognising herself, but to save her any embarrassment, I do not wish to name her here. Thank you dear friend.

There was another woman who deserves not only my gratitude but of all my siblings as well, for having looked after my father for over three decades. It is only after my father moved in with me that I can understand what she must have gone through living with him. I only wish that she had lived a while longer to have continued her yeoman, or should it be yeowoman, service to him. The last couple of weeks have particularly been hard to keep my spirits up with my father being quite difficult about somethings and the lady mentioned in my first paragraph of this post has played a significant role in lifting my spirit up. My son, has been no less a support and I wish to express my gratitude to both these people before I do my day by day writing.

Saturday was a day of peace and quiet till the evening when it suddenly perked up. A family friend attached to both my father and me wanted to come on skype and talk to us and after much long distance phone calling, we arranged for it and it was grand talking to him after so many years. He has promised to be in more regular touch henceforth. Another friend, now settled in Baltimore gave me a big surprise and rang me up from the USA and spent a long time talking. I had to organise a birthday gift to someone as a surprise and telephoned a friend deed down South, who without the slightest hesitation agree to do what needed to be done. It is great to have such friends.

Sunday was truly a day of total rest and peace. No visitors, no phone calls nothing except my neighbour Vimlu who popped in to check how I was and to send me some exerimental condiments for trial.

Monday was another peaceful and quiet day. I was able to catch up with a lot of reading and still find the time to cook some mince meat curry, much appreciated by the son and heir.

Husaina had requested me to arrange for something to be brought from the city and Ranjan was to have done that yesterday. Due to pressure of work he could not do that on Monday and I had to make alternate arrangements. On Tuesday, due to completely unforeseen circumstances, Ranjan found himself in the city and was able to do the necessary. Husaina was delighted as was I.

Mitali landed up with a fresh lot of chickoos and drumsticks from her garden. We should soon see some tasty sambar with them in it.

Wednesday started off with a totally unexpected long distance phone call from a friend in Bangalore to compliment me on my post on parenting feminism and love. A little later our help rang up to say that due to a religious festival, she would be late if at all and I had to quickly arrange for lunch, which thanks to Ranjan being present the whole day and our local neighbourhood take away, was managed with ease. She did come in the afternoon just as I was about to start washing the dishes and one big chore was taken away from me.

I was grateful for a very uneventful and peaceful Thursday.

I learnt a new word on Friday – Threequel. Apparently, a third in a sequence after prequel and sequel. Thank you my anonymous friend who suggested that I follow up with a threequel on the Tram incident.

Tell It Like It Is.

My friend Bikehikebabe is the most straight foward, no nonsense friend that I have. She was like that even before she took a good look at me or heard me.

Recently, she took a good long look at me and heard my voice over the skype system.

She must have searched high and low for some time before she decided to send me a message.

BHB, message received loud and clear. The next time you see me you will find a different me. Thank you.

Two Argumentative Indians.

I am blessed with the friendship of an amazing range of people and among them a special place goes to KD a great inspiration to me for courageous living under great adversity. He in turn has a wide range of friends and among them, I was fortunate to come across TD through copy of correspondence exchanged between them.

KD and TD, (even their names rhyme!) are not just friends but stimulate each other’s thought process. They usually take completely contrary view of any topic and freely exchange views, which I, as an interested observer, find very stimulating and thought provoking. So far, I have refrained from taking sides and have been content being exposed to their exchanges. KD lives in India and TD in Singapore. Both are Indians, the former by birth and residence and the latter by origin. They met at college and continue to be great friends. KD comes from an illustrious Roman Catholic family of soldiers and bureaucrats besides scientists, engineers etc. TD comes from a third generation citizens of Singapore of Indian origin from the Hindu textiles trading community.

I just want to share a particular series of exchanges with my readers. I have taken their permission to do so, but under the assurance that their identities will not be revealed. They are bashful!

The exchange starts with the publication of an article in the Financial Times by a highly respected commentator Martin Wolf. This is titled “What India must do if it is to be an affluent country.” I recommend that you read that article first to understand the exchange. The cartoon at the beginning of the article is heart breaking for me. It however reflects a reality.

Now for the exchange:

KD:Pad up because, here we go! (Pad up is a term used in playing cricket, when the batsman puts on leg pads to prevent injury from fast deliveries.)
I don’t think we should be in a race with China. It will be disastrous. Look our carbon emissions are just 1/6th of China, per capita and already our cities are ???????????????.
In any case let’s see what the hidden costs of the Chinese model are.
Let’s see if they can decouple from the US.
Let’s even, ref Urumqi and Tibet, see if the marvels of a consumer society are all that it takes to keep people happy. TD, I don’t revere poverty. But I am sure that wealth has costs and these costs are borne by the earth. I don’t believe money is inherent. All these trillions that they are talking of spending to stimulate growth, will ultimately be paid in environmental value.
And I don’t think the earth can pay it without harming itself grievously. And I believe that we are children of the earth, a part of it.

TD:”It will be disastrous” — well, what do you think of the sheer numbers of poor, malnourished and illiterate people” India has assured not to have promoted to above the poverty line, because it failed to grow economically as fast as its resources would have allowed if only the government did some basic things right? I certainly would not rate China too highly given its authoritarian one-party rule, so don’t get me wrong, but growing at a snail’s pace (except since 1991 broadly, given the much higher rates of growth after the Manmohan reforms) is nothing to boast about. Of course, since you are not one of those below the poverty line, it does not affect you very directly.

In any case, your sentiments about “nature” have more in common with the highly affluent (e.g. the typical Californian liberals) who are more concerned about the exaggerations by the likes of Rachel Carson (whose arguments were directly responsible for the resurgence of malaria in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in the 3rd world and thousands of deaths, where the governments discontinued the use of DDT on her advice). It is interesting to note that the US now has far more land under forest cover than in 1900, because the country developed rapidly and could afford to stop the wasteful exploitation of forests and timber; also note that up to a fifth of air pollution in India is caused by poor households burning firewood for cooking. That is, there is no necessary relationship between economic development and stressed environments; indeed, it is the reverse, where lack of economic growth (eg. most of Africa) or lack of good governance (USSR, China) has led to
poor environment records.

Urumqi and Tibet have absolutely nothing to do with economic growth, and everything to do with rabid Chinese Han nationalism (which has replaced Marxism-Leninism as the legitimating ideology for the one-party state).

Anyway, let not empirical facts get in the way, will you!

KD: You missed my point. The Chinese believe that a higher standard of living is enough to keep the ethnic minorities happy. Apparently it’s not.
So I am indicating that the mindless pursuit of GDP as suggested by Wolf is not what’s good for us.
We have a large number of ethnic minorities who are not happy. Most prominently the Kashmiri Muslim who, like the Uighur has been fed massive doses of subsidy.
India has 13% of the world’s people and 2% of the land.
If we chase China as it is, we are expecting the land to cough up thrice as much.
Chulhas (indigenous wood or charcoal burning stoves) in the dehaat (rural areas) are only a small problem. Our cities are toxic already. More mindless growth will make them even more so.
China wants US standards of living. Should we compete with the Chinese, by implication, we will seek US standards of living.
Not possible. The resources available to us or for that matter the earth are just not enough.
Already both countries are planning captive lines of supply from other countries. Sooner or later these lines will cross/clash.
Look at what China is up to in Africa. Isn’t it nascent colonialism?
Do you think we should do something similar? Lots of people do.
I don’t. I think it will lead to a very explosive situation. I also think that a very explosive situation is building up in the Indian Ocean where planned lines of supply cross.
I don’t say keep people poor and miserable. I think we should stop growing and distribute the available wealth in a better manner. Because, what do we have? A billion people fighting overabundance and a billion fighting poverty.
The Cuban model has much more to teach India than the Chinese one.

TD: The problem of Kashmir is largely the result of the LeT(Lashkar e Toiba) and other terrorist organizations, used by the ISI as a proto-foreign policy instrument, everyone knows that. Read your own country’s best intelligence reports!
It is not the outcome of some generalized “mindless pursuit of GDP growth”, whatever that is supposed to mean. I for one, and most of Singapore’s 4.8 million people, are extremely grateful for high GDP growth rates in Singapore, which meant for me the difference to my family not having to sleep all in one room, to be reasonably sure that our children do not get cholera, and the many common killer diseases that were common in my lifetime. It is precisely the lack of GDP growth in vast areas of Africa, Asia and L. America that lead to the strife, suffering and violence in these parts of the world. For heaven’s sake, just compare Gujarat to Bihar, in your own national backyard!

This is an ongoing debate in India not only between these two friends, but in every possible forum where concerned Indians are trying to come to grip with a juggernaut that seems to be rolling in a non inclusive direction. Martin Wolf’s suggestions are valid as are KD’s conerns which find a lot of resonance in India. TD’s defense has many takers in India too.

India’s favourite pastime is to argue. A Nobel Laureate wrote a book about it called “The Argumentative Indian” Please do use the link to understand why we argue.

My own take? We have been bungling along for 62 years. As Martin Wolf says, we have come to where we are, despite our political and bureaucratic management. Hindus call this land “Pavithra Bhoomi”, meaning Sacred Land. For thousands of years, people have been praying, conducting religious rites, performing pilgrimages etc and may be, God is protecting this land from total destruction by our managers. I think that we will continue to muddle along and survive.

I salute the friendship between these two stalwarts.

Friendship And Growing Old.

The following beautiful note was sent to me as a ‘forward’ by a classmate of mine, who I have not met for over forty two years. We are however in touch by group mail.

I surmise that this piece of writing is a letter in reply to some question about friendship and growing old that someone has asked the author. I get asked such questions quite often by young people who are amazed at the length of some of my friendships and how I can keep in touch with so many of them even now. They also wonder how oldies like us can still be playfully friendly. I have saved this writing to use to reply to such queries that are sure to continue to be addressed to me. I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did and do.

I am truly grateful to Sudesh for sending me this and to whoever is the author for this magnificent piece of writing that I wish I had the talent to write.

“I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, and my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly.

As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend.

I don’t chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need, but looks so avant- garde on my patio.

I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon?

I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 &70’s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love … I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They, too, will get old.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken!
How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car?

But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs
be forever etched into deep grooves on my face.
So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive.

You care less about what other people think.

I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old.

It has set me free. I like the person I have become.

I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be.

And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).