Excursions Of A Bibliophile

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Archive for July, 2012

The Chimera of Time and Fate – The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on July 31, 2012

Khyyam’s rubaiyat are full of splendid resignation, wry chastisement and sometimes an aggrieved sense of righteousness. The wonderful serenity with which the fleeting nature of the world is commented upon at times also becomes a quarrel with God resulting into a brilliant quatrain of questioning, challenging and sulking.

In most of the Eastern philosophies, time is attributed an illusory quality, a deceptive construct of mind and a tenacious figment of our senses. It is these qualities that are believed to endow time with characteristics of movement, progress, passage, transformation and decay

Swami Govinda Teertha in his “The Nectar of Grace” – the brilliant translation of Omar Khayyam’s rubaiyat classified around 90 odd rubais as ones dealing with Omar Khayyam’s thoughts around time and fate. Here are ten of them which I enjoyed reading and re-reading. The imagery, insight and inference in these rubais is truly outstanding

Methinks this Wheel at which we gape and stare,
Is Chinese lantern like we buy at fair;
The lamp is Sun, and paper-shade the world,
And we the pictures whirling unaware

Ye mount on steeds and brandish steels in fight,
With all your boasts, in trenches soon alight;
The tyrant Time will never spare a life,
He breaks the Dukes by day and Knights by night.

This cycle wherein thus we come and go
Has neither beginning, nor an end I trow,
And whence we came and where we next repair,
None tells it straight. You tell me yes or no.

We come and go, but bring in no return,
When thread of life may break we can’t discern;
How many saintly hearts have melted here
And turned for us to ashes who would learn?

The Skies rotate; I cannot guess the cause;
And all I feel is grief, which in me gnaws;
Surveying all my life, I find myself
The same unknowing dunce that once I was!

Thus countless men were stabbed and cast in tomb,
And many a rose unsmelt has met this doom;
Pride not, my son! on beauty of thy youth
More buds are blighted even ere they bloom

Had I but choice, I had not come at call,
Had I a voice why would I go at all?
I would have lived in peace and never cared
To enter, stay, or quit this filthy stall

So in this snare, as sparrows we are pent,
We feel so snappish and ever lament;
Perplexed we flutter round, but find no door,
We reach no peace, but chirrup discontent

Khayyam! the World abhors that wasting wight,
Who in her days would cram his heart with fright ;
With crystal heart sing anthems of delight,
Before it dashes on the rock of plight.

Khayyam who pitched his Tent on top of Spheres,
And closed the doors for speech, his lips and ears,
A bubble of wine was he in Being’s cup,
Countless Khayyams Eternal Saqi clears !

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Fairy Tales – A Generational Journey

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on July 30, 2012

In their generational journey, fairy tales start as tools of entertainment and sense-giving in the hands of adults. However, while being received, they get transformed into platforms of sense-making by a child even while having fun with the inherent entertainment content in them. The sense making is largely around probable human predicaments, values, emotions and the complex nature of the world they inevitably inherit. Choices and their consequences, insights into morality, ethics, hard times, happy times, honesty, diligence, loyalty, courage, kindness, wickedness, fairness, avarice, fear, jealousy, grace, beauty, reciprocation, wit and chance are all made available for internalization. These themes play an important role in offering alternative world realities and thereby contribute to the overall development of a child.

The single biggest charm of almost any of the fairy tales is its highly imaginative quality of story-telling and the simplicity of the plot. This is further enhanced by strong references to elements of magic and anthropomorphism. Which child would not suspend her disbelief when wands do the work and birds and animals talk? However, for all their charm, fairy tales carry with them strong traces of harmless stereo-typing. Step-mothers are wicked, wolves are hungry and rapacious, giants and ogres are seldom kind, foxes are always clever and manipulative, princes and princesses are rarely ugly, step-sisters are inevitably lazy.

As a child grows and starts to interact with the real world, the once intensely felt charm starts to lose its potency. They no more have the same sense making ability and utility they once appeared to have. There is a gradual fading of their presence into a limbo only to be retrieved later as ones children and grand-children start to arrive on the scene and the need to entertain during bed-time starts to press heavily. And now in the hands of these new adults they become tools of entertainment and in the minds of children tools of sense making…and thus the generational journey continues……..

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An evening with a writer

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on July 22, 2012

Courtesy Page World bookstore and the kindness of a senior colleague, I was invited to a meeting with the noted writer Shashi Deshpande. What was scheduled to start at 5:45 PM ended up starting at 6:00PM as Shashi and the on-timers waited for other late-comers to join. Barring a brief interaction with the noted writer U.R.Ananthamurthy, Shashi was the first writer, in flesh and blood, with whom I had an opportunity to interact for a longer period of time. I was definitely a bit excited.

Shashi has a mildly strict school teacher air about her- a teacher with whom one can be open but not take any liberties of cracking an odd joke in the flow of a conversation. A bird of a lady who is unassuming, full of poise, energy and with a voice that is chirpy. One needs to interact with her to get a glimpse of her experience in literature and her life in letters. The topic she chose to dwell during the evening was “On reading”. She began her speech with her own journey as a reader starting at Dharwad where her father was employed. The place, she recalled was starved of good books and libraries and how she kept consuming whatever came across her way and how her real reading began in high school and has been sustained through her life. She confessed that as a reader one should not be afraid to reject any writer who does not align with one’s taste and that literature is becoming a product in the marketplace with the din of advertising shaping, altering and channeling readers’ tastes into a narrow range. The hoopla surrounding the numerous prizes that are awarded every year and the noise emanating out of the run-up to them came under special criticism. There was no element of pontification. She simply said “keep reading what you like and over a period of time good books will naturally gravitate to you”. On e-books her stance was surprisingly neutral: she herself uses an e-reader but does not prefer them over physical books

When the floor opened to questions, I had asked her three questions that I always wanted to ask any Indian writer and here is an approximation of our conversation:

Me: If as Julian Barnes said “Reading is a majority skill and minority art” what do we do to change the order for our children?
Shashi: Reading has always been a minority art and it will remain so. Never force children to read for you will scuttle the chances of them picking up books later on in their lives. Make as many books as possible available to them and hope they will gravitate towards them. Reading should be the primary vehicle through which children should be given the sense of a language

Me: Why does Indian writing in English lack the authenticity of Western writing in English?
Shashi: It is a tricky question. But what do you mean by authenticity?
Me: The experience of a moving quality
Shashi: Then you should read a lot more and have an open mind for there is some extremely authentic Indian writing in English. That said, Indian writing in English is relatively young and you need to give it some more time

It was after asking that I realized that it was a faux-pas of a question. There was an element of chiding in her response – Did I not say there was an air of strict school teacher about her!

Me: What do we do to make the dilapidated library infrastructure of our country more robust?
Shashi: There are no easy answers. This is an institution where Govt. has to play a big role. However, even there I would prefer multiple neighbourhood libraries in place of one large library

By this time, there were enough grunts and head-turnings in the audience that sent a message across that I should not be monopolizing the conversation. And taking the cue I had quickly gone silent. I wanted to ask many more questions but could not. I told myself that the remainder of unasked questions will be aimed at the next writer whom I meet.

Prior to the commencement of the session, I had bought a couple of collections of Shashi’s short stories and for some strange reason could not muster courage to ask her to sign the books.

I left with the unsigned books and the heaviness of a range of feelings which I could not explain to myself

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Nibbling at the edges – Readings for the fortnight – 2

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on July 15, 2012

I am becoming a big believer in an untested hypothesis that some of the ills of our society and societies elsewhere in the world will be resolved magically if reading is encouraged and ingrained in all citizens with a zeal that is fanatical and a purpose that is messianic. To make this happen we need not only create more infrastructure but also protect whatever we have today. World over libraries are coming under attack from negligence and systematic strangulation financially. Nowhere has this issue generated the kind of heat that it has generated in the UK. Writer after writer have come out in defense of sustaining and growing the library infrastructure. Philip Pullman, Ian McEwan, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchet in UK and the late Ray Bradbury in the US have written extensively on this topic. Adding to this growing list of writers and making a moving case for libraries is the talented young Zadie Smith. In an article titled “The North West London Blues” in NY Books Review and using a specific case of the closure of library at Willesden Green as a springboard, Ms. Smith, makes a powerful case for the role of libraries in society when digitization is increasingly being offered as an alternative. Some of her observations are deep, startling and a joy to read. Here are a couple of them:

What kind of a problem is a library? It’s clear that for many people it is not a problem at all, only a kind of obsolescence. At the extreme pole of this view is the technocrat’s total faith: with every book in the world online, what need could there be for the physical reality? This kind of argument thinks of the library as a function rather than a plurality of individual spaces

 Libraries are not failing “because they are libraries.” Neglected libraries get neglected, and this cycle, in time, provides the excuse to close them. Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay………………In the modern state there are very few sites where this is possible. The only others that come readily to my mind require belief in an omnipotent creator as a condition for membership. It would seem the most obvious thing in the world to say that the reason why the market is not an efficient solution to libraries is because the market has no use for a library. But it seems we need, right now, to keep re-stating the obvious. There aren’t many institutions left that fit so precisely Keynes’s definition of things that no one else but the state is willing to take on. Nor can the experience of library life be recreated online. It’s not just a matter of free books. A library is a different kind of social reality (of the three dimensional kind), which by its very existence teaches a system of values beyond the fiscal.

Many people responded to this article including the local elected official from the constituency offering support. However, the finest response came from a lady who in five lines made an equally eloquent case for libraries as Ms. Smith does

“Libraries are a community refuge — from the weather, from street noise, from information overload at home or at work — for children, for mothers, and increasingly for Elders as we Baby Boomers age… There are days when it’s all just too much — and we don’t need any more coffee — and beer just makes us wobbly — so a short walk to the neighborhood library is like a trip to the rainbow’s end, always something there that’s good”

I thought it was straight from the heart and brilliant!

The New Yorker carried an excerpt titled An Inspirational Letter to My Students from Professor Roger Rosenblatt’s latest book “Unless it Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing” – This small article is full of compassion and wisdom and a wonderful reading experience with some deep advice and insight to the spirit with which one ought to approach writing. Three specific thoughts I liked in this essay are:

I should have been teaching you that the one goal you must aim for is the stunned, silent gratitude of history

It is your soul I am talking about, I’ll say it again. And if, upon examination, you find your soul inadequate to the task of great writing, then improve it, or borrow someone else’s. Commencement speakers are forever telling you to be yourself. I say, be someone else, if that other self is superior to yours. Borrow a soul. I am not in the least being facetious. In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Nabokov says that the soul “is but a manner of being,” not a constant entity. Dissatisfied with the makeup of your old soul? Trade it in. But always trade up, and make the new one a great soul, capacious, kind, and rational, for only a soul of such quality and magnitude will produce the work you aspire to. If there is one lesson I hope to have given you in our classes, it is that your life matters. Now make it matter to others.

 For your writing to be great—I mean great, not clever, or even brilliant, or most misleading of all, beautiful—it must be useful to the world. And for that to happen you must form an opinion of the world. And for that to happen you need to observe the world, closely and steadily, with a mind open to change. And for that to happen you have to live in the world, and not pretend that it is someone else’s world you are writing about. A tendency of modern literature is to claim, “We must love one another or die,” or “be true to one another,” or “only connect.” Sweet as such sentiments may be, they give up on the world and imply that the best way to live in it is to hide from it in one another’s embrace. Instead, you must love the world as it is, because the world, for all its murder and madness, is worth loving. Nothing you write will matter unless it moves the human heart, said the poet A. D. Hope. And the heart that you must move is corrupt, depraved, and desperate for your love.

I am yet to come across any advice on writing which is this genuine, heartfelt and full of sympathy

On a different note, to read and read well with an open mind is to be like Alice in the wonderland. One thing leads to another and one ends up knowing things that one never thought existed. In this excerpt, I found respectful references to Lewis Thomas’s books “The Lives of Cell” and “The Medusa and the Snail”. I have now read the former of these books and it has been one of the finest books that I have come across

The Pulitzer board has decided not to award the prize for literature this year. The reason is not known. It is quite possible we may never get to know the reason/s. That prompted one of the jury members – writer and novelist – Michael Cunningham to write two articles in the New Yorker’s Page Turner section. While deploring the motives and the ensuing disservice done by the Board to American Fiction and writers, Cunningham provides an interesting glimpse into the efforts, challenges and dynamics of selecting the winner. In the articles Cunningham makes it evident that he and his co-jurors have worked really hard at the perilous task of judging literature. Perilous because a precise definition and measure of what makes a book great is elusive and Cunningham makes a convincing case for the impossibility of the task, errors in judgment and their consequences:

Utter objectivity, however, is not only impossible when judging literature, it’s not exactly desirable. Fiction involves trace elements of magic; it works for reasons we can explain and also for reasons we can’t. If novels or short-story collections could be weighed strictly in terms of their components (fully developed characters, check; original voice, check; solidly crafted structure, check; serious theme, check) they might satisfy, but they would fail to enchant. A great work of fiction involves a certain frisson that occurs when its various components cohere and then ignite. The cause of the fire should, to some extent, elude the experts sent to investigate………… one must confront the most nervous-making aspect of all the jurists’ and board’s duties: those who award prizes are wrong at least as often as they’re right. There is, for instance, the fact that Pearl S. Buck went to her grave with a Nobel Prize and Nabokov did not. That Dario Fo got one but Borges didn’t. The list of past Nobel winners is formidable—those Swedish prize-givers are sharp—but a list of non-winners would be surprising and not entirely reassuring.

The generational changes in literary tastes and the questioning by posterity a decision to award or not to award the prize to a book is a risk that jurors always have to live with and this is made clear when he writes:

It’s partly a question of what future generations will and will not overlook. What seem fatal flaws to one generation strike the next as displays of artistic courage. Who cares that Henry James went on sometimes at questionable length because he was being paid by the word? Who cares, for that matter, that Marconi merely invented radio transmission when his actual goal was to pick up the voices of the dead?

Cunningham brings out the rich diversity and fecundity of the contemporary American fictional landscape and argues that notwithstanding the inherent errors in judging books and literature, it is useful to continue and sustain the practice of awarding the prize as it helps the large fraternity of writers and also the book-loving public

Which is why the committee’s decision to withhold the prize entirely is so unfortunate. An American writer has been ill served and underestimated. Readers have been deprived of what might have been a great literary discovery or might have offered them the bittersweet but genuine satisfaction of saying, “Really? That book? What were those people thinking of?”

Both articles make for interesting reading

Education and Healthcare are two public goods that the “state” is withdrawing from in every part of the world. There was a nice piece on this written by Dr.Pushpa M Bhargava yesterday in The Hindu. Co-incidentally a few days ago The Guardian also carried an article titled “We are the NHS and the NHS is us” by Ally Fogg. The article resonated quite well with me. I have experienced the NHS during my stint in the UK and my second son was born in London with the help of doctors of NHS in Ealing Hospital. Whatever may be the complaints against NHS, it is today still an inalienable part of the lives of English people. Fogg gives a glimpse of the history of NHS, the conditions under which it was set up, the man behind it and how it is now being allowed to die a death of thousand cuts. Fogg also makes a rousing case for NHS and calls it “UK’s single greatest achievement” – a claim which is very hard to disagree. A few excerpts that liked from this article are:

In this summer of flag-waving bombast, nestling between the jubilee and the Olympics, the anniversary of the NHS should be recalled as this country’s single greatest accomplishment. It was a victory from the ballot box, not the battlefield, saving lives, not taking them. It was born not of blue blood but of noble effort. It is a product not of individual sporting or creative genius, but collective will and democratic empowerment. In the wake of the horrors of the second world war it was the proudest gift to a land fit for heroes, delivered at a time when the national debt made our current crisis look like an embarrassing bar tab. Almost from day one it was partly dependent on the nurses, doctors and ancillary staff who came from across the world; new Britons giving their labour and love to a new Britain

The fundamental principle of free universal healthcare, paid directly through taxation, remains a very efficient model. Our greatest current problems originate in the meddling and perversion of the original vision, not a failure of the dream. Anyway, that is not entirely the point. The NHS is our baby, and we still love it – flaws, failings and all. Its formation was, as (Aneurin) Bevan told Sylvia, “the most civilized step any country has ever taken” and that is something of which we, as a nation, remain rightly proud………….Another great British cultural institution once asked “will you still need me, when I’m 64?” The answer is an unequivocal yes, NHS, we do. We need you to care for us when we are sick, we need you to protect our health when we are well. But above all, we need you to remind us that with collective will, determination and ambition, the achievements of the people of Britain really can be the envy of the world

Indian Govt. has recently announced giving away generics free to needy patients in Govt. hospitals. Hope this is the first baby step towards universalization of healthcare in India

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Nibbling at the edges – Readings for the fortnight – 1

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on July 14, 2012

While watching any sport I instinctively gravitate towards the underdog. My sympathies always lean towards the loser for I can never forget the cruel barb which says that despite the hard work and toil a runner-up is the first loser. A lifetime’s effort can be trashed using this dismissal. Wimbledon 2012 was no exception. In a way it was the battle of underdogs. However, I wanted Federer to win. The world number 3, was trying not only to wrest the cup back for the seventh time but also perch himself on the pinnacle of world rankings. I have admired Federer’s game for the effortless grace, power, reflexes, agility, aggression, acumen and tenacity he displayed. There were a few valuable things that one could take from his sport and apply in one’s life. His game is life-educative in many ways – excellence, decency, fairness, perfection, commitment were a few of them. Above all, there was something fluid and beautiful in the way he played the game. He was the only tennis star besides Stefan Edberg whom I loved to watch and cheer unabashedly. The next day after the match as we were settling into the office, I had made a mention of this to a colleague who himself is a tennis player. After a few minutes I received a mail from him containing a link to an article written by David Foster Wallace titled “Federer as Religious Experience”. The article was written in 2006 and published in NY Times. What started as a tepid read rapidly elevated itself into to a breathtakingly brilliant and unforgettably impressive narrative of the world of modern day top-notch professional tennis and the centrality and pre-eminence of Federer in it. It was a stunning piece of writing and probably the best piece I have ever read on any sports coverage. The only other piece that could come anywhere in the vicinity of this was an article titled TDF: The World Chess Championship by Julian Barnes (T for Trap, D for Dominate and we all know what F stands for). Ever since, I have read the piece many times over. Foster describes the dynamics of the game with an extra-ordinary insight, literary flourish and understanding which is super-human. The beauty and appeal of this article resides in its sympathy – for it is told from the eyes of a spectator. Here are some excerpts:

……………. Anyway, that’s one example of a Federer Moment, and that was merely on TV — and the truth is that TV tennis is to live tennis pretty much as video porn is to the felt reality of human love…..Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war.

Describing the set-up and atmospherics of the 2006 finals at Wimbledon, Foster gives us a glimpse of his writerly talents:

This Wimbledon final’s got the revenge narrative, the king-versus-regicide dynamic, the stark character contrasts. It’s the passionate machismo of southern Europe versus the intricate clinical artistry of the north. Apollo and Dionysus. Scalpel and cleaver. Righty and southpaw. Nos. 1 and 2 in the world. Nadal, the man who’s taken the modern power-baseline game just as far as it goes, versus a man who’s transfigured that modern game, whose precision and variety are as big a deal as his pace and foot-speed, but who may be peculiarly vulnerable to, or psyched out by, that first man

(Apollo and Dionysus! How many times have I told myself to learn some aspects of Greek and Roman mythology) …and the narrative accuracy continues

A top athlete’s beauty is next to impossible to describe directly. Or to evoke. Federer’s forehand is a great liquid whip (wow…. what an expression!!!), his backhand a one-hander that he can drive flat, load with topspin, or slice — the slice with such snap that the ball turns shapes in the air and skids on the grass to maybe ankle height

For most of us who are used to TV tennis, Wallace provides a fantastic and unforgettable reality dose:

…..TV tennis has its advantages, but these advantages have disadvantages, and chief among them is a certain illusion of intimacy. Television’s slow-mo replays, its close-ups and graphics, all so privilege viewers that we’re not even aware of how much is lost in broadcast. And a large part of what’s lost is the sheer physicality of top tennis, a sense of the speeds at which the ball is moving and the players are reacting. This loss is simple to explain. TV’s priority, during a point, is coverage of the whole court, a comprehensive view, so that viewers can see both players and the overall geometry of the exchange. Television therefore chooses a specular vantage that is overhead and behind one baseline. You, the viewer, are above and looking down from behind the court. This perspective, as any art student will tell you, “foreshortens” the court. Real tennis, after all, is three-dimensional, but a TV screen’s image is only 2-D. The dimension that’s lost (or rather distorted) on the screen is the real court’s length, the 78 feet between baselines; and the speed with which the ball traverses this length is a shot’s pace, which on TV is obscured, and in person is fearsome to behold. That may sound abstract or overblown, in which case by all means go in person to some professional tournament — especially to the outer courts in early rounds, where you can sit 20 feet from the sideline — and sample the difference for yourself. If you’ve watched tennis only on television, you simply have no idea how hard these pros are hitting the ball, how fast the ball is moving, how little time the players have to get to it, and how quickly they’re able to move and rotate and strike and recover. And none are faster, or more deceptively effortless about it, than Roger Federer…………….Interestingly, what is less obscured in TV coverage is Federer’s intelligence, since this intelligence often manifests as angle. Federer is able to see, or create, gaps and angles for winners that no one else can envision, and television’s perspective is perfect for viewing and reviewing these Federer Moments. What’s harder to appreciate on TV is that these spectacular-looking angles and winners are not coming from nowhere — they’re often set up several shots ahead, and depend as much on Federer’s manipulation of opponents’ positions as they do on the pace or placement of the coup de grâce. And understanding how and why Federer is able to move other world-class athletes around this way requires, in turn, a better technical understanding of the modern power-baseline game than TV — again — is set up to provide

TV viewing of any sport will never be the same again for me. I will always be haunted by a permanently resident sense of gnawing of its inalienable and inherent drawback. LED, LCD, 3D… I really do not think any improvement in technology will eliminate this gap. This longish article is full of brilliant observations, juxtapositions and a continuous joy while reading. Here are a few more excerpts:

Like Ali, Jordan, Maradona, and Gretzky, he seems both less and more substantial than the men he faces. Particularly in the all-white that Wimbledon enjoys getting away with still requiring, he looks like what he may well (I think) be: a creature whose body is both flesh and, somehow, light……………The upshot is that pro tennis involves intervals of time too brief for deliberate action………….. Temporally, we’re more in the operative range of reflexes, purely physical reactions that bypass conscious thought. And yet an effective return of serve depends on a large set of decisions and physical adjustments that are a whole lot more involved and intentional than blinking, jumping when startled

Subtlety, touch, and finesse are not dead in the power-baseline era. For it is, still, in 2006, very much the power-baseline era: Roger Federer is a first-rate, kick-ass power-baseliner. It’s just that that’s not all he is. There’s also his intelligence, his occult anticipation, his court sense, his ability to read and manipulate opponents, to mix spins and speeds, to misdirect and disguise, to use tactical foresight and peripheral vision and kinesthetic range instead of just rote pace — all this has exposed the limits, and possibilities, of men’s tennis as it’s now played.

And then comes the final paragraph of speculation on future of tennis and tennis players post Federer

Whether anything like a nascent Federer was here among these juniors can’t be known, of course. Genius is not replicable. Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform — and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled

Yes, to read an inspiring literary treatment of an intensely physical game of elegance and athleticism is also to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled. There was also an accompanied sadness at the conclusion of the reading for here was a writer of immense talent and who for reasons beyond rationalization and analysis ended up committing suicide – spectatorially speaking – this was an unnecessary and avoidable double fault at the prime of the game of life

A fine piece of sports writing worth reading many times over

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Paycuts as pills

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on July 13, 2012

Yesterday morning saw the  hurried arrival, rapid growth and swift death of the feeling of anxiety, anticipation and curiosity about quarterly financial results of my company. Many around me were disappointed and few were downright distraught. Everybody I met was worried that they will be affected due to lack of wage hikes and actually many of them sounded depressed that they may not even get a meaningful chunk of their variable pay which is part of their compensation. Discussion inevitably moved to rising prices and how it is hollowing out the standard of living.
A young chap who had begun working with me on a proposal for a couple of weeks now asked me:
“Chief, how many children do you have?”
“Two sons – both school going” and just to build some bonhomie I continued “I would love to have more but cannot afford them”
He smiled for a brief while and as if that was a cue enough said suddenly “I have been married for over two years now, but with these paycuts we are planning to have a single child and no more. Actually chief, we are thinking of deferring having a child for some time now”.

I felt a little sad to see how compulsions of economics have begun to creep into some fundamental choices we make which define us in some way. Family, parenthood,pregnancy, bringing up children will count among these ways. In 1980’s India, Indira Gandhi made a remarkably prescient remark when she said “Education is the best contraceptive”. In our rising and shining India, which is now covered with dark clouds of economic recession, paycuts seem to be the new age contraceptives

And our dear home minister feels that the recession is not affecting the middle classes !!

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