Where have the gentlemen gone? Kurula Varkey Forum- Memorial Lecture.

  • August 14, 2017
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Where have the gentlemen gone?
Text for KV Forum Memorial Lecture ;
11th August 2017.

Young students, my fellow architects, my many friends  and peers.
Good Evening.
This, is the first memorial lecture that I am giving.
I am, both, grateful, but also extremely intimidated.
I do not ,say this lightly.

It is not that I have not spoken at large forums- I have; but usually I have known what to say, and my talks have been prepared well in time. But this time, I have been so taken up by the occasion that I must confess that I have spent days thinking about it, even weeks, without writing a word and finally have done so just a couple of  days back, only because I had to and the gates were closing.

I am grateful for two reasons.

Firstly because it’s a very special forum. Most times one is called only to show work ; and its rare that one is not compelled to.

The few times that I have talked ,without showing work- people have been disappointed-   come to think of it, they have been equally disappointed when I have shown work !

But there is no such demand here, and that it self makes this very special.

The second is that it’s  an important forum in the legion of such occasions in the country and when I see the people who have spoken before me, in addition to Prof. Varkeys colleagues;  Juhani Pallasmaa spoke in 2006, Lucien Kroll in 2007, B V Doshi in 2009, Mansinh Rana in 2011, Charles Correa in 2014 – I am humbled – but also grateful to be considered worthy by you students to call me to speak.

Many years back I was a student here. I was  a rather mediocre one. I was disinterested.  And since then I have seen my self as a very ordinary  sort of person and so you can imagine my surprise at trying to sit on the table, of greats who have spoken before me. This is a matter of great delight.

Ofcourse the recognition of being ordinary has allowed me to never to take myself for granted; or have delusions about my  own ability. It makes me always vulnerable, and eager to learn and do better. This belief , also ensures that all of us  at the studio never pat our selves too much , or allow ourselves  to believe that we have any great wisdom to navigate the world of design.

We like to keep it real and that’s a good place to be.

While here in school , this disinterest in what was being taught, and  perhaps also in rebellion, made me wonder about what everyone said, was architecture .

People were very sure.

Barring a handful of teachers  who gave me some room to breathe, most of them, all most erudite and venerated- were  sure what architecture was ,so sure, that they shut conversations on any other possibility rather quickly.

Yes; people were very convinced that they knew  what was right and hence life in those days was relatively simple. There were  International masters, there were the  Indian Masters and there  were those who had followed them- and so long as you sort of chose which group you belonged to intellectually, you were pretty sorted and secure.

But somehow this was not very convincing .I have had for a long time, an interest in history, literature and the arts. And I soon found something about the masters that I always had suspected.

They were all artists or craftsmen ; Mies was a stone engraver. Corbusier studied art linked to watchmaking and then was a painter, and was not a keen architect at all and was pushed into it. As a young person Kahn played piano for the silent movies to earn money.

And somehow this poetry , this fluidity always permeated in their work . It was not easy to miss that even for an untrained eye as was mine then  when I walked up the Mill Owners Association and marveled at the genius, or went to meet my brother who was studying then at IIM, or ofcourse went to that stunning piece of modern architecture that to me is gold standard- Antonin Raymond’s, Golconde House at Pondicherry.

So while they strove for rationality it was with the words of a poet.

The work of many who followed them often seemed static, some how missing that life and then the work  of those who then further followed them, to my limited mind seems rather  sterile.

I was determined that I would not try and attach my self to any group and would when the time was right ,try and forge a different path.

CEPT in those days , despite its bohemian garb,had a rather supercilious gaze and I knew, that trying something different was really going to end ,whatever little chance I would have  to belong .

I hence wore quickly a rather carefree garb , and dismissed whatever little good that I did . Over time this garb I must confess has become a good tool and almost a second skin. It allows me to tread lightly and move quickly , and  I don’t labor too much on what people say about our  work- both good or bad.

   
Images linked to house where Prof. Varkey had come for a visit.

With this spirit I designed my first house in the mid 90s. And I was keen to see what people thought of it. I drove many architects and seniors there.

So sure was I,  that I did not want to approach architecture the way I was taught , that I began with drawing many landscapes on what was a barren site. Sometimes it was a forest; at others a forest and a field and yet other a pond that sat at the cusp of two landscapes. I was first trying to imagine what kind of landscape would I like a house to be in. For a long time I did not even draw the house.

And then finally I settled on a house that was built on the cusp of a forest and a field and next to a pond.

The house it self was built in waste stone and experimented with the idea of creating memory that would be overlaid with other phenomena as one traversed through the house. You walked along a stone passage way, with courts on either side, that appeared , registered in your mind, and then  the next  one appeared and layered on the earlier memory to create a sort of fused narrative- or so I thought!

The rest of the  house then sort of just filled it self around the courts.

It did things that I had been taught not to do. It used material with abandon- not for me was the boredom of a singular material expressed to death- and it made fun of the idea of an axis which terminated into nothing much to chagrin of a very senior architect, and I gaily splashed it with many colors and textures.

One evening I drove  Prof Varkey down along with another colleague. And while they walked around the house I sat on a bench waiting for them to finish looking around .

I distinctly remember Varkey coming , sitting next to me, and with a half, almost, shy smile, telling me that I did not have him fooled and that he wondered why I acted the carefree joker ( a word he used) ; when clearly I was passionate and that something was really churning in my mind.

It took me by surprise and to this day its one of the memorable conversations I have had however short. He had seen through me , and tossed away what I thought was a well constructed cloak.

But that was Varkey as I remembered him.

Almost shy. And yet piercingly precise in his observations, Correct without a fault and a great teacher.

But I think above all , a good man; a gentleman.

We don’t make many of them today. It’s a quality that we miss sorely. Of decency; of humility ; of wanting to hear everyone- and engage with them. And gently weave into such conversations dollops of wisdom given with no desire to win or dominate- but just to make  the other aware and  allow him or her to make their own choices.

Since then I have often been reminded of this ,and  am always suspicious of people who have definitive opinions that they want to drive down my throat, as if there was no other way to think.

And so ,its my absolute honor to be here to talk at an event that commemorates  and remembers  a good gentleman .

The few that last , face extinction, and we must celebrate the memory of those who were. So thank you again dear students.

For he was truly a good man.

This of-course presents me with a dilemma.

Usually when presented with such an opportunity I suppose the expected thing is to communicate in an encapsulated manner the codified wisdom that one has accumulated over the years.

Plato started that trend. Vitruvius was not willing to be left behind. Nor Viollet- le -Duc. Nor Corbusier; and that seems to be a continuing trend till today. To tell students of what to do and what is right.

Today I note every one has advice to give that seems definitive.

But I must confess I have no such wisdom; nor any great philosophy that guides me, other than perhaps to be honest , upright and decent and use that as a strength to savor, navigate and test the world we live in.

Let me hence try and explain some of  the things we  believe in , enjoy and savor, and what it has led to.

One ,of-course is  my pet peeve of  being suspicious of all those who claimed that architecture was some secret spell , revealed to only a few, and they use complex words to explain it and I have even greater suspicion  at  being told  that design was not an exhilarating expression of life ; but a just a precise matter of problem solving.

And I cant, tell you how much I suspect those that called them selves modernists and rationalists in this mad crazy , complex and layered country .

A little over 20 years back, we got a chance to really test this idea. Gurgaon near Delhi was a shallow place, without any cultural moorings, a graveyard of shabby glass edifices that have been masquerading as new urbanity . In this rather uninspiring setting we were tasked to design an office building.

We quickly decided that we would design a building that used space as efficiently as its neighbors, and was not particularly expensive, but also decided to challenge the type.

Devi Art Foundation; Gurgaon.

 

In a mass of similar building , we wanted to state our case.

Other than Satish Gujral’s , Belgium Embassy, no modern building in India, had really used brick, the favored material of the modernists in this town,  in any way different than what the masters had; and we were determined to explore that.

Its a simple building, Two wings – with a court in between.

We decided that the building would have a skin; one that had many pores.

That protected the body, and through its many pores could breathe. We designed these pores carefully, with steel and insulation, denying vision, but allowing the air to flow ; and at times the light to glow.

And then we took that  favored material of the modernists; brick –and rather than confine it to a singular expression, designed 12 different types , and allowed this diversity , this plurality to become part of a singular structure. Much as any liberal idea, that allows diversity and does not demand singular conformity to exist.

We tested the brickwork so that within their mass they would ripple gently, or sit at skewed angles.

One face of the courtyard walls ,was with these bricks and these walls were designed  so that they bent, and tilted and turned on a dime.

And then we took that other material; concrete, and designed it to become retaining walls of the basements and the slabs of the buildings, etched to minute precision much like what the crafts men of this country would do with ivory.

The building has no flooring material, the slabs are the floors, the corten steel skin the external walls, and the patterned concrete the retaining walls. The stairs are made of bent metal sheets, and the welding lines on it the anti skid markings.

And so it was a steel box that stood in the chaos of Gurgaon. Different. And yet, perhaps belonging.

From the external a smoldering mass of hues of orange. Heavily lidded. Almost sly and sometimes lazy.

But as you walked in, the courtyard presented two faces of brick. One that was calm,  the other feisty.

And that rippled, and bent.

And like all organisms in this world, stood firm because of its mass, but also by the forces of compression and tension that toyed with it each moment.

The ceilings were cast like they were carved.

The basement walls pristine and delicate.

And the basement itself, a precise structure, that is used to park cars , but also to display art.

And there is sits, pensive, and aging as any living being must.

 

Architects are  concerned  about cities and its expressions and we are no different.

In 2010 after managing a successful international competition, a few of us involved in it, decided to set up the Future Institute in Delhi. Over the last 6 years it has awarded  fellowships, organized lectures, written books and conducted research on cities, and continues to do so.

                

A rather audacious project that we were offered became a chance to do a well researched book called ‘Destination 100 ; The Making of Smart Cities in India’; that examined what sustainable cities meant really in the Indian context and developed metrics to evaluate and examine the many aspects of a city.

 

This project has taken off and is spread over 4500 acres ,near Mumbai  and we are part of a group that is building a new city.  It will  in time be a city of more than 2 million people, This would make it as big as say Lucknow, or Kanpur, or Nagpur and bigger than Baroda, or Indore, or Bhopal.

                              

                      

                  

Palava; Mumbai.

In the context of the way India will express urbanity in the next few decades and also in the context that major cities are unable to provide housing with any dignity to its millions; this project has a particularly valuable set of lessons for the country to watch out for.

It faces challenges. For example how does one imagine really the idea of a city that is built in a compressed timeline, where layers are not by organic accretion, but quickly overlaid in rapid succession.

And at the same time ,  it has set for it self some very tangible and empirical objectives  that it wishes for its citizens.

Located on the outskirts of Mumbai we find that this project is really scores of projects rolled into one. It extracts your knowledge of planning, and urban design, and architecture and landscape design and then some more.

The work involves walking around hundreds of acres of land and mapping the ground carefully, and marking and saving what can be saved; here is a hand drawn map where over 500 acres were traversed on foot and mapped so that we knew each tree, rock and depression; or writing many manuals about how to transplant trees or design open spaces, or imagining 100s of acres of village commons and evaluating how top soil usage would be minimized to establish a green cover, or thinking about the river front and begin executing many parts of it, or doing some thing as humble as designing roads and to learn that no road in India is built the way it should. A good road takes 13 components of the curb , something that we had to develop and enthuse the manufacturing industry to start making, or designing the courts of many housing blocks and assessing them for light, and fire safety and installing simple but dignified landscapes in them, or designing retail buildings along the roads, or clubs for the population, or helping with the art programme of the city and guiding it, or sports arenas or  wetland parks, and in them designing small buildings like this interpretation center made of bamboo and rammed earth; the work is endless, and most satisfying.

And slowly the city gets built and takes forms; and I have no doubt that it has  lessons for India’s quest for making its urbanity one of dignity .

 

Over time the other thing I have learnt is that unless you devote a significant time in your life in pursuit of something that may seem completely worthless; or at least  has no direct benefit you will end up missing a lot of fun and many doors that can lead to interesting journeys will never open.

I say with great earnest,  and urge you to find each day to do a few hours of conversations that are engaging, that are built up slowly like castles in the sand; fragile , easy to be washed away and yet full of dreams- and one day something good will come of it.

In 2003 we decided to set up LEAF, a foundation to do research in the office.

                                                            

We realized that there is very little by way of text, for landscape design studies, as also for architecture in India. There is even less, by way of a body of knowledge with which to theorize. Then we have forgotten how to see. And when we do know how to see, we know very few ways to do so.

LEAF was born out of these concerns; and through many research projects we look at things that no one often cares to; How birds fly? Can we show sound graphically? Or smell? How does a cow in a city move differently  in the village? And many such questions.

A few years back this led to what we called the Million Garden Project . It was a nationwide search to find and define what could be called the Indian Garden; and while that led to a lecture and a small monograph, what it really led to  is a mammoth exhibition on landscape histories in India that is traveling across the country for the last 9 months and will continue to do so for a few more.

The exhibition looks at the structure of the garden, through 9 lenses; and these looked  at literature, arts, cinema, the nursery trade, historical gardens, amateur gardens , botanical recordings and many such facets to examine the idea of the garden.

The exhibition took us to many places and we met many people.

Such as this Mr. Rizvi who had converted his ancestral graveyard into a nursery so that in his words “  everyone from a king or a courtier will come to visit it” He passed away soon after the first draft of the monograph was done and is buried in the nursery he so loved.

Or Ishwar Singh whose family were the nursery men to the Mughals.

Or delicate Angela who suffers from thalassemia , but finds delight in the few plants in her upper floor court in Agra.

It took us to Srinagar where we could inhale  the limpid fragility in a land that was torn. And made beautiful drawings of perhaps the worlds greatest garden; Nishat Baugh.

And then it took us to Agra , where we were numbed by Baburs first garden, that sits along the Yamuna, Aram or Ram Baugh and learnt the disorienting power of a simple grid, that expanded space be denying the idea of being able to locate self.

Around the same time , we were working on a office landscape in Ahmedabad, The buildings  the architect had imagined were gentle , refined and understated and  we were convinced  that this was a stage to express a new idiom , an office  garden that was organized along a simple set of axis.

And yet within each imagined quadrant was a world that examined the many ideas of nature and connected to it ,life.

So the garden has in one part, 9 courts, in each we have planted a tree that is rare and often lost to the world; almost like a museum of rarity.A water body that has islands for birds. And has trees that we spent months to source for the hinterland of Rajasthan and are not available any more.
Or a fora for public gatherings and theatre.
Or courts for plants of produce and to sit and dine.
A podium with thin soils that has become a grassland.
And attached with a café a large generous social space.

Some images.

                                

Office; Ahmedabad.

 

 

 

About 8 years back I had written a short essay called  ‘Pious Public -Profane Private’ ; in which  I had castigated the pious veneer which those who work in the public realm ,cloak themselves in.

Often  shoddy and thoughtless work is subjected upon the public ,with the lament that engaging with the public realm is difficult, thankless and it’s a miracle when something actually gets done.

I would have to agree .

Decisions about the physicality of our public realm are taken with caprice by those most undeserving to even decide the color of their compound gate.

And yet designers cozy up to  them ; find equations of power and release their mayhem upon cities.

One sees it too often; large sums of money spent on building auditoriums that are poorly provisioned and shabby;  water front developments that seem ill considered in many ways, public squares that destroy all historicity.

It’s a sad cycle; where frivolous decisions are expanded to be monsters that destroy all vestiges of the idea of civility.

I was angry about the way designers behaved , and in the essay  I had summarized that there were two ways in which this could change

  1. By addressing policy, almost like an activist, so that change is effected.
  2. By doing exemplary private work that raises the bar continuously, so that public work is forced to follow suit.

But doing poor public work, crying about it, and then expecting a pat on the back, and a halo on the head, seemed to me a poor choice.

About a year back we got the opportunity to test that idea. With a benefactor, we set up the 100 Park Project. The idea is to undertake and develop over time 100 parks in the city- and in  doing them, demonstrate all the ethics and values that must accompany public work.

    

  

            

The work had to be collaborative. So rather than trying to do this ourselves we invited 6 other firms in the city to collaborate, and have formed a group called The Parks People and we do this together; we engage with ecologists, art curators,  graphic designers and hydrologists.

The work had to be consultative;  We are on call; and the moment any resident of any of the areas where the parks are happening want to meet us , we go down to hear them.

Public work just cannot happen unless it’s a product of a honest dialogue.

The work had to be an exemplar; We test typologies, we build ideas of public health, we embed ideas of bio diversity ; we support it with a lot of research and debate. Here a slide that studies population densities and linked to it open spaces in different parts of the city , or another where we debate the types of nature that can be installed in parks.

Fifteen parks were picked in the first round and six will begin execution next week.

And soon we will begin to work on the historical Victoria Gardens; an early plan done by one of the designers of the Parks People.

 

 

The other thing that has always concerned me is the way we treat our environment and without a shred of doubt , we do so poorly.

We are careless and disdainful about any thing to do with nature. We cut trees with impunity to lay our grand master plans , we pay scant regards to water that flows over and under our land , we flatten hills, we savage wetlands, and we show no mercy to mangroves and forests; and we slowly erode the very planet that nourishes us.

Conversely what has equally surprised is the way we have taken extreme converse  attitudes. Either we annihilate ; or we protect , often with a girdle so tight that it squeezes the life of the very nature we choose to save. We just imagine that the only way to engage with nature is to keep it fenced and at arms length, or we do tokenism by building  small buildings in earth , as if that will deal with real problems.

In  2010 we were  approached to  look  at a huge land over thousands of acres in the Western Ghats to develop as a hill station. For those who follow such things the environmental scandal at Lavasa , that ambitious hill city had hit the press. Dr. Madhav Gadgil the hugely venerated naturalist from Pune had written a document at the behest of the Union Government that more or less banned all development in the Western Ghats.

    

                

His fears were right.

Much had been despoiled.

But banning was not going to help.

Many parts of the hill sides , were engulfed by urbanity and slowly the way the  laws exist, these areas would for sure be built and killed by a cancerous growth. We argued for a well planned strategy that was comprehensive and realistic.

We appeared before different committees for several years; and in the early days we were all but barely politely thrown out ; but we persisted with integrity and depth of knowledge.

The Western Ghats of course are a Unesco Heritage Site. And one of the most significant bio diversity hot spots in the world.

Over many years our work involved building teams so that we could  map the movement of wild life through our site, or do detailed mapping of the sites geology, or hydrology, or set up stations so that we could study the air quality and dispersal of particulate matter at different elevations and depths, or geo tag all the key vegetation over thousands of acres, or undertake many trails to experience and map the spatial quality of the various parts of the site.

After 3 years of appearing in front of various environmental committees we finally got what are perhaps the most complex environmental permissions in the country and the chairman was generous to stand and compliment us for teaching the government on  how to evaluate and work with these ecological sensitive   tracts.

The reports we made, I am  told have  now have become benchmarks and standards to follow.

 

 

When I look at architecture now a days , I wonder what has happened to our souls. Is it not nourished? Why is it so strict ? So lifeless? Without humor ? With no emotion?

You are awed when you enter through the rock hewn gateway to see the Kailash temple at Ellora ,and you cant but marvel at the madness of carving a basalt mountain down to make a grand temple; you are captured bodily as you walk down a step well; and your eyes cant stop to feast on the details of the temples of Delwara.  or even be mesmerized when you enter those  pre historic caves of Bhimbhetka near Bhopal.

Our interpretation of modernism killed all this. We have become soulless, clinical , and sanitized. It shows the way the buildings are today. Its like they are muffled; joyless, and overtly self conscious.

Its something we have always revolted against  and perhaps in a recent project we took this head on.

We had many years back built a house for some one who now has become a friend.

                 

It sits on a higher hillock, and straddles a shallow valley.

The house is dissected by a bridge.

The construction was challenging and required considerable soil stabilizing work .

The bridge that threads the house, starts with ordered nature, passes art,  and cuts through one part of the built, to ride the cusp of wild nature on one side and a more ordered cultural space on the other , before it descends in wilderness again.

The house had turned  out well , and there is great trust between the client and us and this lead to this office building that we opened a few months back.

 

While doing research for the building we came across this painting. The client is an art lover and somehow we wanted to find a way to make a connection.

Paul Klees , 1929 painting, “ Uncomposed Objects in Space” is a image that is wound like a tight coiled spring; it’s the stillness of a galaxy that is on the edge of implosion and yet it does not.

             

   

    

   

   

                      

Ark; Baroda.

We wanted to create a space that was on the edge, tense, and yet still. One that would get the heart racing, before people moved into the calmness of their work spaces.

The basement was a space to park, but also a large space to host art shows, and in this, we hoped to create a sense of wonder, a magical space that would transform people as they came into work.  For this we designed columns with some very difficult shuttering.

The walls of the basement are just gabions; and they can bleed in monsoon. Walter  D’souza that gentle artist , decided to make the last layer of the pebbles his canvas, and started telling the story of Baroda, the city that took him in its fold. And slowly trees made of pebbles started appearing.

Other parts of the basement were cast in washed concrete; rough and hewn- like this object that actually supports the staircase of the building. And on the façade of the building Walter imagined a water mark of an actual Banayan Tree; and that was slowly cast.

The building then is approached by a rather strict  façade, its lines dissolved by Walters water mark, and you begin to get a glimpse of what may be inside ; a little orange  framed by the black china mosaic of the stair well.

The steps are cast carefully and encased in black.

But as you step in the open atrium you are hit by a space that unsettles; orange boxes that hang in space. Still- but ready to implode.

Framing the sky in many ways.

Hung in space , seemingly floating.

And then they slowly reveal a giant screen that terminates the court.

Walters work that becomes a backdrop for this drama.

And yet all this hides the sensuous delight in the basement.

A stair winds you down.

And you start getting a sense of the space, till its fully revealed; and along the walls you start reading Walters narrative.

The building has offices, an art gallery and a café; and celebrates with wild abandon the desire to be emotive, to be free, and to be alive.

 

 

We do work ; a lot of it, and we work incessantly and enjoy every moment of it.

The truth is we love what we do and we do a whole lot.

I have been often asked how or why do we enjoy so much work, or even get to do so many things in life.

For some very ordinary people we do some rather extraordinary work ; and why does that happen?

Every one in this world  works hard. Most are more talented than we are. And I don’t really believe its about luck.

The more I think about it , it all comes down to being a gentleman, or trying to in every action. To be ethical and honest.  And to find the truth all the time.

In Roman mythology the Goddess  of truth  Veritas is depicted as a young virgin, dressed in white,hiding at the bottom of the well. The daughter of Time and the mother of Virtue, she is elusive in nature. She cannot be found without considerable expense in time and purpose for those who wish to discover her character and whereabouts.

The Greeks on the other hand believed that truth is a matter of perception of who is looking.

Clearly the Romans had it right .

Today, we live in a world where truth is losing. We see it all around.  In America for instance ,an honest and sincere campaign based on facts lost to one full of emotional appeal, half-truths, false promises and even blatant lies. Similarly, the Brexit campaign in the UK won with similar tactics. In a country where the belief that “Gentlemen do not lie” originated way back in 17th Century, those who perpetuated hatred, lies and baseless claims emerged victorious.

Its not very different in our world today.

However, despite the seeming pessimism, we are in fact in a  time of tremendous opportunities

Its a time when the tyranny of a forced modernism is slowly loosing its stranglehold;  and we are free to discover and interpret our own rationale ;a time when in architecture we are free to pursue the many paths that all promise great adventure. New technologies emerge each day. The idea of architecture is amorphous and has many tales to tell.

But even more importantly its a time of great challenges . From the 60s the world was on a trajectory that made all liberals and free thinkers rest their feet and sleep next to a warm fire . The world was going to a plan. Communism was collapsing. Democracy and the rights of the individual were being ever celebrated; and the world was inching towards becoming one happy global space. The last decade has stopped that happy train.

The Arab spring has turned to winter, and the world is becoming  feudal  and authoritarian. Absolute power is centered with  a few, who have no  empathy nor the mind to use it judiciously. Look around you and you will recognize it.

Its hence a wonderful time; a  time for the liberals, the free thinkers to rise again, and engage , and become lighthouses in the storm.

For those who love the challenge and the sense of purpose it is an exciting time around the world. A time where ideas of life , and civility and the idea of society are once again being tested .

And its equally true that we  live in the world where the youth, young people like you have the power ,and ability to write its script. And all you need is to find the balance to do so.

And so dear students if  I have one thing to say, just one thing, I would propose to all of you, that the pursuit of truth; the desire to be a gentleman is perhaps the greatest asset you can have today; the greatest thing that you can aspire to find.

Or to put it simply, let us all strive to be a bit like Prof Varkey ; and if we can become so, I can almost sense that we will be graced by his  shy smile of satisfaction.

I would start like to  start ending the talk and in doing so I would like to share with you what I wrote to my daughters when I turned 50.

While looking for it , to include in this talk ,I learnt a few days back that not only had they read it , but had saved it ; which means it is of some limited value.

Let me read a few paragraphs.

Turning 50  allows one to believe even more forcefully whatever it is that you believed in when you were younger. After all, if you have reached this age, with the beliefs that you held dear, you have not done too badly and  it is too late to change anyways. The moral is to believe in your self and have convictions when young, and don’t worry about their rightness or wrongness. The important thing is to believe and walk the path.

The other important thing that you realize is that being convinced by others , to what you felt instinctively was not a good idea,  was infact always a bad idea. There is no reason to be convinced about what your heart does not believe in , even if what you believe may be proven wrong at a later date. To learn it your self, is better than borrowing wisdom, or having it pushed down your throat.

And of course you were wrong when you believed that people who lied, or were self serving, or ill mannered, or mean, or tried to monopolize the space they were in, were not good people. You were wrong completely!

They were worse! And staying away from them is always a good idea. If any one tells you that it takes all kinds in the world, and one needs to deal with them all; you can choose to ignore them too!

Being hurt is a good thing. Do not  ever hurt any one ever. But being hurt is as powerful an emotion as being happy. So do not shy away from it. And dont panic , when you get hurt. Its just one more emotion. Experience it , enjoy it and move on.

The grays don’t matter. They matter for those less talented, or those dishonest, or those who seek easy acceptance in life. Life can be black and white and in sharp focus.  Having said that, don’t ever be less kind. Kindness rules. That does not mean you need to suffer fools. Just be kind to your self and don’t!

Write. Each day, a good letter, a good essay, a poem on the cell phone; whatever. But write. It’s a liberating experience; as liberating as bungee jumping from a cliff.

Move fast. Learn that. To do a thousand things in a day. All well. It’s not a gift; it’s a hard earned skill. The trick is to do many things in a day; many seemingly impossible things, and keep increasing the quantum each day, and at the same time bring superb immaculate focus to each tiny moment. Focus; that is the key.

If you know people who have no vices, or do not listen to jazz, be suspicious of them. They are clearly uneducated, and you may help them with a scholarship, or there is something very fishy about them.

Learn to listen. Carefully. Observe every moment around you. More importantly listen to the gaps between the words. They reveal more than the words at times. Listen , decipher and make judgments . React only if you feel if its worth it, or really have nothing better to do.

Counting to 10, when you are angry works. It allows a measured response. My problem is that I forget the numbers when I am angry; but I am working on it. Though not advised often, yelling, screaming, swearing is good yoga. One must do it from time to time.

And finally, watch lots of hindi films, eat on the streets, swig good malt when you can, The old, though corny  Munnabhai bollywood adage is true. Its not important how many moments you live in this life, but how many lives you have lived in each moment

Thank you.

Aniket Bhagwat

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