BORING AND SAGACIOUS
By Ajit Chaudhuri
I turn 55 next month! I’m not certain of the significance of this – has the decline officially begun, or am I entering the prime of life? The evidence is ambivalent; on one side, I am reduced to goalkeeping at my weekend kickaround, I clutch railings while taking stairs, and my memory has become akin to that of a blind prostitute’s. On the other, impressing the ladies is a vastly reduced priority, bringing about freedom from making witty conversation and displaying wide-ranging knowledge. And my habit of enquiring into the quality of the menu and the beauty of fellow-guests of the opposite gender (along with checking for clashes with my football timetable) before accepting social invitations has changed from ‘rude’ to ‘eccentric’.
55 is also when one officially acquires the right to bore others with lectures on the vicissitudes of life, which brings me to the purpose of this note. I propose to jot down some selected pearls of wisdom from my own misspent life, and thereby hopefully enable a younger generation to avoid learning lessons the hard way. Paradoxically, one of these is ‘make your own mistakes, and learn your own lessons, because s/he who follows another’s footsteps leaves no footprints’. So, here goes!
‘Eat what you kill!’ Living on one’s own earnings enables an independent foreign policy! One can choose who to be friends with (and who not to) without regard to the family’s ‘position’ on the persons in question, one can ensure family representation at weddings that have a family fatwah against attendance, one can poke pins into the pompous hot-air balloons that invariably infest family get-togethers, and there’s not a crap anyone can do – because you are not financially dependent upon them.
‘Make friends for life!’: When I look around at the people I consider family, I see many people I am not related to – they are friends of long standing, some of whom I have inherited from earlier generations. So, distinguish between friends and acquaintances and remember, your friends are for the long term. Recognize them early, maintain relationships, and look beyond minor irritations! Your children and grandchildren should benefit from your friendships, well after you have gone.
‘Don’t sub-contract out your thinking!’: Education is the one asset you have that will stay with you through your life – unlike money, cars, houses, etc. that are here today and can be gone tomorrow – so give your education the focus it deserves. And, along with your education, acquire the ability to think for yourself and thereby identify your own interests, conduct your own analyses, and have your own view on things. Don’t let the news anchor on TV, political parties, members of high society, and other assorted scoundrels do your thinking for you. You are just a mug to them!
‘Pick your fights!’: Not every fight is worth fighting, so recognize the ones that are not and sidestep them. And when you do fight, your opponents should be spitting out blood with their teeth when you finish with them, literally if not figuratively.
‘When reason comes against force, force always wins!’: This is a sad fact of life!
Somebody else should not tuck your children into bed at night, and be the person they clutch when they have a bad dream! My family boasts a proud tradition – we marry multiple times (there are a few pathetic exceptions). Walking into family get-togethers with the same significant other on your arm year-on-year leads to raised eyebrows among the relatives, and speculation on the possibility of babies being mixed up at the nursing home where you were born. So be it on that front – changing the spouse has become common in society. Shit happens! Having said this, please ensure that your duties as a parent are done to the full. At the minimum, your children should not have a lower standard of living than your own. And only dickheads have children who think of somebody else as ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’.
‘Enjoy the friendship of women!’: For the males among you, one of life’s best-kept secrets is that women make fantastic friends for men. There is a caveat, however; this applies only when there is zero attraction on both sides. If an attraction is one-sided, the one attracted invariably turns a little pathetic. When it is both ways, there is always a danger of crossing a line that can never be crossed back. The lyrics of an old song went ‘they say when you become a lover, you begin to lose a friend; it’s the end of the beginning, and the beginning of the end.’ And, unless it culminates in marriage, what you lose is usually more than what you gain.
‘Don’t take important decisions when you are angry or sleep deprived!’
‘Indulge your passions!’: A good life involves a healthy balance between your professional, family and personal lives and, by implication, a distinction between your family life and your personal life. Do you love sports, or theatre, or music? Don’t give it up because work has become demanding, or family life time-consuming. You need that little something that is your own, out of these spheres, to maintain sanity.
‘Stay away from assholes!’: Some people constantly belittle others around them, and consistently make you feel bad about yourself. They create a toxic and vitiated environment, one in which others are forced to emulate their behaviour to survive. Recognize them, stay away from them, don’t become like them. They aren’t worth it!
‘Understate (and let people discover upwards) rather than overstate (and let people discover downwards!’: This is assiduous advice from the late Rakesh Kaushik, a veterinarian friend who never used the prefix ‘Dr.’ on his business card. He said that people who matter will find out anyway, and think the better of you for it.
‘Do not mistake tailoring and table manners for intelligence and integrity!’: Never underestimate the proclivity of ‘people like us’ to indulge in egregious behaviour – it is not the preserve of the lower classes. The reverse also applies!
‘Finish what’s on your plate!’: Applies both at the dining table and in life!
‘You can’t maximize all your value preferences!’: In college, I faced a trilemma between the need to do well academically, play a lot of football, and have a vibrant social life. I subsequently learned that I could pick any two – the third would be left to forces beyond my control (and my second division is a tribute to my choices).
And finally, ‘look into a mirror and like what you see!’: Go figure yourselves, folks!