Category Archives: Personal

On adopting a dog, de-politicizing self and the question of P G Woodhouse.

Ok, I have been remiss in my duties as a blogger. Why?

Excuses excuses. That is really not the right note to begin a blog on. I have, however, recently found dog. That is, I am now the personal butler of a very adorable Chihuahua named Chirkut. (Picture enclosed). My north Indian readers may be surprised at the choice of name, because it isn’t very flattering in the North Indian context. However, Chirkut means a little slip of paper to Bengalis and that is what she was named after. While she is a delight in every way, what with the running around trying to catch her, the naps, the trips to the vet and plotting world domination with her, I have not had time to.. well.. write a post, as it were. For reasons to be explained later, I have taken to speaking liked a gentleman English dandy. (re Woodhouse, I am very impressionable).

Then there is the matter of verb conjugation in French. But we shall get to it later, after the dog question has been dealt with in detail. While I have always wanted a dog, I did not quite anticipate what it would make me feel to actually have one. The feeling of having a tiny little blighter depend on you entirely is kind of scary. But once the fear has worn of, it is a very rewarding experience. It is also a natural cure for the blues, and keeps one of one’s toes.

The other thing that has been keeping me on my toes, are the French lessons. Now let us acknowledge at the outset that anyone who can speak French sounds cool. No matter what they are like. It is a fact. The mere speaking of French can ‘shine a turd’ as they say. That is not, however, why I have been learning the language. Come September, this blogger, shall be heading off to Geneva for a three moth internship. I hope to see a bit of Europe while I am at it. Now I am kind of stoked about Europe, because a lot of the things I like came from there. (Mostly in the shape of ideas). I remember when I was little, I read a book about an American girl called Katy, who took a tour of Europe. Since then I have had a fascination for Venetian gondolas, the beaches of Nice, the streets of London and Paris. I shall, however, be taking a different trajectory and hope to glimpse Amsterdam and some of Germany. But those are castles in the air, and right now I am faced with the unenviable task of conjugating irregular verbs in French.

Languages have a strange power, irrespective of whether you speak them well or ill. They let you reach into a person and form an intimacy that would have been impossible if you did not speak their mother tongue. You absorb the history and culture of a place better if you have learned even a bit of the language. So in that those who urge the importance of Indian languages are right. Our generation is too steeped in its adulation of English, and in uprooting itself from its several mother tongues, is getting uprooted from a rich cultural life. I just have a problem when Hindi is posed as a solution to this cultural de-contextualization. But that gets me to the bane of my existence.

Did you notice how just when we were discussing travel, and my adorable Chihuahua pup, the political question raised its head. ‘The personal is political’ has been said, and yes, to me politics (not in the narrow sense of which party is less horrid, but in the broader sense of how society is ordered and organized, and how it ought to be) is a way of life. Hence, to me, most questions are political. Sometimes you can distill the political from the legal, and consider only the latter, but there it is, the P word. But sometimes I wonder if a person pondering politics (pardon the alliteration) is a happy person? When I see that the discourse around us has been reduced to either ignorant blithering or one-liners intended for one-upmanship, I wonder if an existence in which I scarcely contemplated the political would be a happy one. Or perhaps, books are the best conversationalists. Now if I have readers who have carefully followed me to this point, I would ask you to buy or borrow ‘India after Gandhi’ by Ramchandra Guha. Amazon (the otherwise usually irreproachable amazon) has bungled my order but it shall be getting here soon. Maybe I will do a review after reading it. I hear it is quite amazing.

But speaking of books, and I will wrap up after this, I must tell you a quick about your dear blogger. (Now to those who will accuse me of megalomania in referring to myself this way, I say, I am quite dear to those twenty odd people following me.) I had never ever read P G Woodhouse till 7/18/2015. Can you believe that? And no, I am not terribly ignorant, I just felt my nerves would not be able to take all those things going wrong. And was I wrong or was I wrong? I have corrected the state of affairs by purchasing a Jeeves omnibus. Spending all my free time reading the adventures of Messers Wooster and Jeeves has got me speaking this way. Hopefully, it won’t last. The next post, understandably, will take a while. As Bertie Wooster would say! Tinker-tonk!!

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Some errors in friendship and conversation

Before I begin this post, let me clarify that I am no saint. The observations I make in this post apply to me as well. I do not claim to have any authority on what friendship truly means, nor am I a perfect conversationalist. That being said, these are my observations after spending more than two decades on this planet, and I would like to think there is a grain of truth to them.

I have recently turned 25, and find (to my dismay) that conversation with most people is not enjoyable. This is not completely new. It struck me in law school too. When I first joined law school (in India) I noticed that people enjoyed doing something called ‘taking someone’s case’. To those who are unfamiliar with this term, ‘taking someone’s case’ is the process of humiliating someone in public, by making a punchline. That is saying something superficial and funny, which on deeper reflection may not really be true. I attributed this to the fact that these were scared 18 year-olds who had deep insecurities about their place in life. But as I grew older, the trend continued. The ‘case-takes’  seemed caught in their self-affirming flatulent bubble, and began to see their ability to pick on people as talent.

This doesn’t mean law school was full of such people. In fact, I met perspicacious and sensitive people, people who were passionate about what they believed in, and humble people. But these really were the minority. Most of them, I became friends with.

But I also learnt to be sharp. To zero in on people’s insecurities, and to be able to say ‘witty’ things, that in retrospect were plain ugly. Perhaps, I was an 18 year old, insecure about my place in the word, but I lost track of the one quality that separates intelligence  (I dare not say wisdom) from cleverness, and brightness from well-marketed mediocrity.  That quality was humility. Growing up in a law school you think that marketing yourself and smooth talking is all it takes to get ahead. I wish I could say this was untrue. But I will say that you can do well without any of that. Some of the most interesting people I know, and the most successful, are the humblest and most self-effacing.

At any rate, I was lucky enough to find a partner who could call my bullshit, and made me introspect on the impact my behavior could have on others. I would like to think I am a better person  now, or at least a more discerning one. These nuggets of wisdom are a result of that introspection.

1) Respect your adversary.

The worst thing you can do in a conversation is make a statement, and then check out. I wish this were not true, but a large number of people make this mistake. They make a statement, and then check out (mentally) for the duration of the time that the other person is talking. Sometimes, it is less subtle. You will occasionally meet people who if you disagree with them, will start checking their phone, or get a glazed look in their eye. Here is a tip: ditch them. No one is worth talking to, if they don’t have respect for your time and effort. If you are one of these people, then I am sure you stopped reading a while back.

2) Don’t make statements for shock value.

Conversation is about the exchange of  ideas, and the persuasion of people through reasoned discourse. If you need to say shocking things to get people’s attention, you probably don’t have very interesting things to say. Of course following this advice is not going to make you popular, it will only make you a bit less of a git.

3) Friendship should be between equals.

We all have friends who doubt their worth, or feel that one person has all the power in the friendship. Maybe sometimes we are that friend. If you have a friend who thinks that it is a one-sided friendship, or who devotes time and attention to you that you can not reciprocate.  Let them go. No good comes of holding on to people who are more attached to you, than you to them. Somerset Maugham said something like in every relationship there is a person who loves and one who lets themselves be loved. Sadly, my favorite author was dead wrong (and this kind of wrong becomes popular wisdom). Not only are there relationships of people who equally care for each other, but that is what healthy relationships are like. Holding on to someone who feels inferior or neglected all the time, is a disservice to them.

4) Pick character over personality. Every time.

If you have to chose between a boring friend and a interesting one with a whacky moral compass. Pick the former. Close your eyes and pick the former. Personalities become boring, just like youth fades. (Unless you have a painting in a cellar somewhere that ages on your behalf.. but that story did not end well). What does not become boring (perhaps because it is boring to begin with) is compassion and patience.

5) Surround yourself with people who have differing points of view.

This helps prevent you from burrowing yourself into an intellectual hole, where you only see one point as legitimate. These days I have the most interesting discussions with people, some of whom are conservative and some of whom pro-life. These discussions teach me to empathize, and to understand that reasonable people of good will can disagree on some fundamental things.

But what you should not do, is to surround yourself with people who like confrontation, and who have no intention of being persuaded. Drop them like a hot potato (as the song goes). You will just feel anguish over interactions with them.

6)Understand that most friendships have a life cycle. 

If you see eye to eye with someone for a lifetime, they are probably your soul-mate. Am kidding. The only way you can see eye to eye with a person for a whole lifetime, is through hard work. That kind of hard work can be put into one or two relationships in your life. With the rest of the people, you will outgrow them. Its inevitable, like the end of the Daily show. No one wants it happen. But happen it will, because eventually Stewart will get tired of being in the same place for sixteen years. Umm, I am digressing. Learn that outgrowing friendships is a healthy sign, it shows you are not the person you were five years ago. (Trust me, we were all morons five years ago).

7) Eat a lot of fiber. 

The wisdom of this is pretty self-evident.

8)Know that you are not self-made. 

It is unfortunate that our embracing of individualism makes us neglect all of the factors that have contributed to us becoming who we are. Our successes, and those of others are a product of a lot of help. That may seem trite (frankly most of this post does). But it is inevitable that you remember, that people’s failures are also not completely theirs. So if you see someone failing, know that in another time and place, it could be you.

9) Realize that 25 is too young to be dispensing advice. 

This last advice, is for me.

If any of you have stayed with me till the very end of a slightly preachy post, I would like to thank you. You really are the most amazing readers, to tolerate a 25 year old, talking like a 60 year old.

Why Kendriya Vidyalayas are AWESOME!

It was a very frequent occurrence during my childhood that the girl’s from La Marteniere (or other convent schools), who lived in my colony would introduce me to their friends (in their clipped nasal English that has come to symbolize affluence in India) thusly:

‘This is Srishti. She studies in a ‘Kendriya Vidyalaya’ (*eyes rolling)

Kendriya Vidyalayas are (for those not in the know) Central Schools, i.e. schools run by the Government of India where you get a cheap but good education (using the term loosely). They were built so that Government servants, in frequently transferable jobs, can send their kids to a different school, whenever they are transferred, without worrying about dislocating them too much. I must have attended four different Kendriya Vidyalayas in all.

Somehow this, nasally condescending, introduction made me feel more relieved than irritated because I was aware of two things:

1) I went to a school which, for various reasons, did not cultivate a sense of institutional superiority. I think as a child I understood something that I have often lost sight of as an adult, institutional superiority complexes are comic at their best, and disturbing at their worst (i.e refer to Hufflepuff for the former and Slytherin for the latter).

2) My schooling did not interfere with my education. (I am of course paraphrasing a certain Samuel Langhorn Clemens).

Now what do I mean by this? I mean that I received literary instruction at my school, I learnt about the sciences, mathematics, and understood that sports is a good thing.I can write decently, as you see (I mean, hopefully, as you see). String words together tolerably. Sometimes though the incorrigible  ‘KV-ian’ in me comes out, and I mispronounce “Hakka Noodles” or the word  “Canary” (I cannot get the hang of that word. I just can’t.). It was the basic requirements of an education covered. So why do I describe the experience as AWESOME?

Because people left me ALONE, to find my way, and become a young adult on my own terms. NO ONE tried to mess with my head, and give me a well rounded personality. They did not try to teach me how to speak three foreign languages while playing football, and balancing a violin on my head. When I look at all the well rounded personalities that private schools regularly churn out, I get goosebumps, and hold my imperfection tightly to my chest, thanking heavens for my Rs 300 a year education, which did not make me perfect. Not even close.

What it did give me was the ability to make friends with people from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds. It taught me not to take too much pride in good grades or good diction, because really most of your abilities are half chance. It taught me that people have immense room for self improvement on their own, and that giving kids minimal homework actually lets them be happy young people.

I enjoyed the long games periods, in the usually sprawling grounds that KVs have (though I never really played any sports of any kind). I did try to throw a javelin once, however projectile motion is a complicated thing, and the Javelin just hung limply in the air, and then fell down near my feet. This caused the games teacher to shake his head with violent disappointment, almost as if I had failed a dope test on the eve of the Olympics.

I also remember the hot summer afternoons, after lunch break, when we would have classes. The most soporific effect would be that of Hindi poetry classes, where we would have to take turns in reading poetry. Some classes would of course turn bizarre, because poems would, in detail, discuss things like the physiology of elephants in heat, or the polygamous tendencies of Krishna.  How the latter was considered age appropriate, I will never know, but it was poetry, so there!

But this gives me an idea! We could try teaching sex education to children through Hindi couplets written in the Veera-rasa. I think that will take care of the question of Indian values, and spreading of the Hindi Language all at once. Don’t tell me this idea is not Pure Gold. We could schedule the class right after the compulsory scripture lessons, and top it up with lessons on self-control and compulsory roti-stuffing into unwilling mouths.

Anyhow, as we grew older our social sciences syllabus was divided into History, Geography and Civics. Civics is an extremely important subject that teaches young students their place in the world, bits of the constitution and mores of social organization. The syllabus is organized to be as Soul Crushing as possible,  but luckily I had a wonderful Social Sciences teacher, who could even make reading transcripts of a Manmoham Singh speech interesting. I think she (Ms Aditi Chatterjee) played a wonderful role for me and my classmates in Kendriya Vidyala Ballygunge, Kolkata. She taught us to think for ourselves, question the tide of current events. Imagine 14 year old children discussing the Iraq war in a classroom with a coherence and eloquence that I have struggled to find even in college! This was right before our prejudices set like cement in our sub-conscious, and we were more willing to listen to a contrary point of view.

I also remember the canteen and the rather squishy Samosas and Jaljeera for sale there. People developed addictions to it, from what I remember.

I think this post is coming dangerously close to becoming a unceasing walk down memory lane. One can’t use a blog too often to take such trips, out of fear of losing their readers along the way.

I feel that in our quest towards educating our young, we are focusing on turning them into elites, well spoken with a good sartorial sense, mixed in with their sense of entitlement. Private school education, with its humungous fees  ensures a kind of income bracket homogeneity and talent engineering that makes kids ‘designer kids’. And if that is what one wants out of an education, there is nothing wrong with it.

For those who value the imperfection in their kids, and are okay with taking a bit of a lottery on exactly what the kid is going to become, try a school that lets them be. That gives them the basics and sets them free.

If you can, then try a KV! 🙂

Why I am an atheist Hindu.

The durga of an artists imagination

No, that was not a typographical error.

I am an atheist Hindu.

How is that possible you will ask? Aren’t the ideas of atheism and religion antithetical to each other.

Well sure, maybe for some religions, but I have never come across a rule that says atheism and Hinduism are antithetical to each other.

So here I am writing about the religion I grew up with. What gives me the right some might ask. Me and the ‘sikularists’ of my ilk have spent so much time bashing the caste system, the militant aggressive Hinduism of certain fundamentalist groups. Do we have the right to write about Hinduism? What gives me the right, when I don’t go to the temple ever, and think that the Ramayana was really the tragedy of a woman called Sita?

Well the thing is, it is as much my religion as that of anybody else. And while it is true that organized religion is a huge juggernaut hurtling towards something with an unstoppable speed, with all its experts and pundits on board, religion is also something deeply personal.

I grew up listening to stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. I was enthralled, as a child, at the exploits of Krishna, when I first heard the story of how Krishna managed to join the Pandavas.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramayana)

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata)

The story goes somewhat like this. (I heard this a long time ago, so I may have got some details wrong):

Arjuna and Duryodhana both go to recruit Krishna on their side before  the battle of Kurukshetra. While Duryodhana actually arrives early, he goes and sits near Krishna’s head. Arjuna comes a bit late, but goes and sits near Krishna’s feet.  When Krishna wakes up, he first sees Arjuna and exclaims with joy. But then Duryodhana points out that he came there first. Krishna then says that ‘Duryodhana, since you came here first you definitely have a claim on me. But I happened to see Arjuna first, so he also has a claim on me. In order to do what is equitable I give you a choice… On one side is the WHOLE Yadava army. On the other I stand. Alone. Unable to bear arms for either side. Pick whoever you want.’

Duryodhana of course picks the Yadava army, thereby nailing his own coffin. When he comes back to give the news to his camp, someone (Shakuni, I think)  reportedly tells him ‘You picked the 1000 sheep, and left the lion behind’.

Well Lions are legendarily lazy (given that lionesses do all the hunting), but I love the story as illustrative of the particularly wily nature of Krishna.

Something that I often wondered was, how Krishna-the-political-strategist is so different from the Krishna-of-Gokul. Are they the same person? If so, how could he forsake Radha and never call for her. Did he ever wonder how Radha was doing? Whether she missed him?

But when I read bits of the Gita (the bits that I can understand), I see that he did put into practice his idea of nishkam karmayog. After the Gokul chapter was closed, he did not look back, simply because his Dharma did not allow him to.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita)

Another incident that comes to my mind is the first time I learnt about Pap-and-Punya. On a hot summer afternoon in Bhubaneshwar, when I must have been four, one Bhagirathi (an Oriya boy about 20 years of age) told me about what Paap (sin) was, and how we acquired Punya (I don’t know what the English translation of Punya is, virtue doesn’t quite cut it). But his idea was (and a rather crude one it was), if you did good things you got Punya and would  be born as a higher life form in your next life. If you committed Paap, you would not be born as a  very nice life form. And the two things tended to cancel one another out.

Now this system really made sense to me when I was four.(though I later learnt that there are far more intellectually sophisticated schools of thought in Hindusim). So the next day I was on the lookout for ‘good’ things to do. As I lay in ambush I saw a Gecko in our compound wall, stealthily approaching a moth. The moth seemed blissfully unaware of what was going to happen to it. Quixotically I stepped in, and shooed the Gecko away.

I then went to Bhagirathi and reported to him that I had done my good deed for the  day. Bhagirathi was pleased at his pupil’s sincerity, but delivered a crushing blow to me by saying ‘But you deprived the Gecko of its food! It will have to go hungry now.’

That was when I, as a four year old, realized how complex right and wrong were. It is sad that so many people, baying in the name of religion, don’t understand this simple truth that was evident to a four year old child.

I also remember going to the temple every evening as a child. This was the red brick Ram-mandir in Bhubaneshwar. It had a lot of shrines dedicated to different Gods. The Rama shrine was the biggest of course, but I never took to it. Firstly because it was big and impersonal, and secondly because even as a child I did not like what Rama did to Sita. But my favourite was the Krishna shrine, because I loved the god, the Hanuman Shrine, because no one visited him much, and I felt a little bad for him. I am very ashamed to admit that I went to the Shiva Shrine simply because the pujari used to bribe me with sweets. But hey! I was seven.

Later ofcourse I saw Shiva as the radical God that he really was, and some what of a destroyer of the status quo. (Primarily because he just destroyed stuff when he got mad, so the status quo had to be very careful, as one Daksha learnt when it was to late). I will now go to a Shiva shrine gladly. Bribe or no bribe.

One particularly sweet memory is that of listening to the story of Mahishasur-wadh in Oriya on a cassette player. My baby sitter and indefatigable housekeeper had this tape that he loved playing. In the afternoons I would sit by his side and listen to him play this cassette till the point that I had memorized it.

I remember why Durga was created, and how she was empowered. I remember listening to how Mahishasur taunted her till a great battle ensured, and how she killed the demon.

Ujjal Chakraborty, an uncle of mine, gave this a beautiful interpretation. He designed a Durga idol once, for a pandal in Kolkata. The Durga was a tribal girl, armed with beautiful birds. Wearing a white saree with her  dark hair flowing, she was slaying the colonial conqueror. The demon was a European man, come to drain the country of her resources, and Durga was a slip of a tribal girl, standing up to him..

So yes, Hinduism is as much my religion as that of anyone else. To me it was never an insecure religion. You could believe anything you wanted, you could form your sect, have your beliefs and it would embrace you and your new ideas. Its beauty was that it did not need to discredit others or make them feel small, to be big (I doubt any religion does, but then I am not an expert). But this was the religion I grew up with.

And slowly I began to read history. I learnt about the caste system and the terrible ways in which some castes were exploited. I also learnt about how wiser, greater men than most, tried their best to fix it. I learnt about the unforgivable horrors of the partition, and the lie that two big religions could not co-exist. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Partition)

After that I got bitten by a radioactive bat and turned into a ‘sickularist’.

Of late focus has shifted away from this tolerant beautiful Hinduism. People feel the need to assert it aggressively. I don’t know if I have a right to comment on that, since religion is deeply personal. But such chest-thumping distracts one from the beauty of the religion, its many nuances.  I just wanted to show you, dear reader, what this religion can be.

I can say no better thing about it, than the fact that it lets me be an atheist Hindu.

Growing up with Jo March, Harry Potter and D’ Artagnan

It is not that I don’t like kids. I like them well enough. I just don’t know what to do with them. Being 24, I remember what it was like, being a kid. But try as I may, I can not get into the heads of the enigmatic kids today. Frankly, they make me feel like a duffer. When I was a kid, I had a house set, a few dolls, books and that was that. A lot of time was spent day-dreaming. I had no idea how to play angry birds, and I certainly did not give adults a look of pity mixed with condescension when they failed to destroy the turtle nest (or whatever those fiendish creatures that steal the eggs of the birds are called). In school we used to play games like kit-kit when young, and this later became kho-kho for the more athletic kids. I personally just played dodge-ball (which is a bit of an insult to human intelligence). But it sufficed. Anyway, so when it falls to my lot to entertain the kids that come home to visit now and then, I am at a complete loss on how to entertain them. It usually ends with me letting them use the computer, much to the satisfaction of all parties. But I wonder if the kids today experience childhood the way I did. Am sure they do. What I have seen of life makes me think that there is nothing really new that people can experience. Its all the same wine in different colored bottles, or something like that. The point of this whole preface was really to talk about the books that I grew up with. The most interesting part of growing up was the books really. I firmly believe that the way in which I read and enjoyed books then, can never be replicated in the cynical age of adulthood. The genuine pleasure and involvement in the fates of characters, is something peculiar to childhood. (Though I still tend to get very involved in the books I read). The first memory I have of a book is a very distant one. It was about an old red fire engine, and how he was going to be replaced by a new one. This must have been when I was very young. Later, at the age of four, my Mother bought me an abridged version of Little Women. It was a tiny book, with beautiful illustrations of the March girls. Jo March obviously exercised a fascination over me, because she was the kind of girl I wanted to be. ‘When I grew up’. It’s funny how that phrase has never left my psyche. I still have things I want to do ‘when I grow up’. But interestingly, I really liked the little March sister Amy. I later found out that most Jo March fans hated Amy for being a spoilt and  entitled brat. Somehow, while I found that I had a lot in common with Jo’s sensibilities, I could relate to Amy (maybe it was the sense of entitlement). The next book I vividly remember was Alice in Wonderland. Actually, to be more precise, it was ‘Through the looking glass’ which impressed me far more than Alice in Wonderland. The white knight, tweedledum and tweedledee, humpty dumpty, have been lifelong friends, and I have never stopped revisiting that book. I don’t know whether when I read the book I understood all the political undertones, that gradually became clearer to me. But the beauty of great books (note: great books, not necessarily clever books) is that you change with them, and they change with you. I also remember when I was in class 3, I was given a copy of Oliver Twist as a prize. I remember asking my brother very quizzically, who this ‘Charlie’ Dickens was. I think it took him all the effort he could muster, to answer me with a straight face. Dickens soon became the pillar of my childhood. I have to say very emphatically that he is one of the greatest authors I have ever read. In this day and age, confessing to be a Dickens fan is like inviting trouble. Its not quite different enough, too mainstream perhaps. But the truth is that the greatness of Dickens lies in his ability to write incredible, riveting novels without any contrivances, manipulation or cynicism. Those to whom this sounds like a mean feat, I would like you to try. Somewhere later, I bumped into the phenomenon that was Harry Potter. Those books cast a spell on most kids (pun intended). A vivid memory of those books I have is that when I would buy a new Harry Potter book, I would spend several minutes smelling it! There was a very unique smell that the books had, which I came to associate with Harry Potter books, and which even now, when I get a whiff of it, makes me giddy. I don’t think I will be saying anything new if I tell you I spent a large part of the year when I turned 10/11 waiting for an owl. A big white owl even came to our house once. Sadly, there was no letter. In time the Harry Potter books grew darker and more complex, just as my world view did. The series finally ended when I was in college, with a close friend buying me the final copy. I still have bittersweet memories when I look at that copy, because it reminds me that college friendships, like fantasy fiction fascinations, pass. Like most things do. Perhaps that is why I dread reading Harry Potter again. I don’t want to stop liking it. I don’t think that this little walk down memory lane would be complete without me mentioning two men. Dumas and Karna. The Three Musketeers was a favorite book of mine while growing up. As much as I loved the Count of Monte Cristo and the Man in the Iron Mask, there was a heady and powerful feeling you got while reading the Three Musketeers. Whether, reading about the Cardinal writing out a Carte Blanche to the ‘lady’ or while reading about the Musketeers trying to recover the diamonds that the queen had given away to the Duke of Buckingham, the thrill of that book never leaves you. I read and re-read that book so many times (though at the time, I hardly knew how to pronounce the names correctly). It was much later that I learnt more about the political-context in which the book was written, and the crucial nature of the struggle for supremacy between the Church and the State. At that time the book was just about five brave men. The musketeers and the Cardinal. And here we come to the last milestone of the little walk I have taken you down. Karna, I am convinced was my first crush. I don’t think any man has actually made me go weak kneed before that. I actually spent a considerable part of my childhood reading Karna-related books, such as ‘Mrutunjaya’ by Shivaji Sawant, and ‘Karna ki atma katha’ by Manu Sharma. To me Karna was the perfect man, with his loyalty and his predilection to sacrifice. But wisdom dawned and I began to question this ‘ideal man’, as all ideals must ultimately be questioned. I realized that this was the same man who egged the Kauravas on, when they were trying to disrobe Draupadi, and that he ganged up with several other men to kill Abhimanyu (the boy-warrior). With age the realization comes, that your heroes have clay feet, just like you. But I must thank the reader who has made it this far on this rambling journey of mine. These recollections mean the world to me, and I might have succeeded in what I wanted to do, if (for a moment) I made you wear my shoes. That is all for today. Cheers!