My neighbour Reeta Devi Varma has given me a one foot high lamp with glass on all its four sides. Inside is a wax-lit diya. Since it is enclosed on all sides, its flame rarely flickers. At time it waves gently then stays still. I gaze at it for hours when alone in the evening. I find solace and peace of mind. I am told that it is a form of meditation. But my mind is far from being still. On the contrary if anything, it is super-active.
Coming on to 98, I have little left to look forward to, but lots to reminisce about the past 98 years. I draw a balance sheet of my achievements and failures. On the credit side I have over 80 books: novels, collections of short stories, biographies, histories, translations from Punjabi and Urdu and many essays. On the debit side was my character. I came to the sad conclusion that I have always been a bit of a lecher. From the tender age of four right to the present time when I completed 97, it was lechery that has been uppermost in my mind. I was never able to conform to the Indian ideal of regarding women as my mothers, sisters or daughters. Whatever their ages, to me they were, and are, objects of lust. And am I the only fellow so low in self-estimation? Whatever it may be, that happens to be the truth about myself.
An Uttar Pradeshi has shown a new way of fighting corruption which may be more effective than demonstrations and acts of Parliament. When a civil servant, thanedar, magistrate or judge demands a bribe, let loose a few snakes in his or her office. I am sure it will be effective if we organise the operation meticulously. There should be shops which sell reptiles, at reasonable prices. Also snake-handlers who will take serpents from the shops, release them in corrupt officials' offices and bring them back after he or she has sworn never to ask for a bribe again. We must put an end to Ooper kee Aamdan - income from above. Attacking it from below with the help of snakes may prove effective. If venomous snakes are considered too dangerous to play with, perhaps scorpions may be used.
When I run out of ideas of writing something that will interest my readers I turn to Private Eye which my neighbour Reeta Devi Varma delivers to me every fortnight. The first item I turn to is Funny Old World. It specialises in highlighting the prevalence of crack-pots in different countries. The latest issue tells of an Austrian who ate bicycles. I reproduce it in full: "Choking on the pedal was a wake-up call for me," Branko Crnogorac told a press conference in Apatin, Serbia, "because I almost died. That was the moment when I realised I should give up trying to eat an entire bicycle in three days, and since then, I just haven't had the same desire to eat metal. After sixty years of eating everything, I've realised that my digestive system is not as strong as it used to be, so I've decided to retire."
Earlier, 80-year-old Crnogorac had spoken about his unusual career. "It all started when I was twenty, and a friend recommended eating sand to combat an acid stomach. It worked, so I thought, whey not try something else, and one thing led to another. In my career, I have eaten 25,000 light bulbs, 12,000 forks, 2000 spoons, 2600 plates, 400 snow shakers and nearly 6,000 old vinyl records. But taking on a bet to eat an entire bicycle in three days almost killed me. After I choked on the pedal, I needed emergency surgery, and doctors found two kilograms of ironware in my stomach, including dozens of bicycle spokes and two gold rings. Clearly, I'm not digesting metal like I used to, so it's time for me to stop. It's not healthy.
Till now Sharad Pawar had only seen the Congress Logo, now he has experienced it first hand.
When I was a child, homosexuality was a crime in India. As I grew up, it was acceptable. Now it is legal.
I'd better leave India before they make it compulsory.
(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)
The views expressed by the author are personal.