Someone said that life is not happening to you, but is responding to you.
When you meet the old fellow (sic) you could hardly relate that to him, though the phrase ‘old fellow’ is a misnomer here in his case, though he is eighty three. Talking to him, listening to him, watching him relish the third single malt (and nothing more than that) made me feel growing young- sort of aging backwards. At least for the short while he spent with us! After he was gone I began to think of the time spent with him, not many people would challenge you without virtually doing so to take personal responsibility for all that is wrong in your life and everything that is inordinate and derailed in the world. Without saying he conveys the truism that the world is that we create for us individually.
Joe as he is called, perhaps that is a moniker, is a sprightly man who would pass off to be in his teens, if his bald-pated head and furrowed skin doesn’t tell a different story.
I met him some years ago and spent a few minutes with him. His extraordinariness as a person of gaiety touched me then too. I have been since then hearing of him from a friend who introduced me to Joe.
Joe lived most part of his adult and student life elsewhere in India, New Delhi and Kashmir being the highlights, I gather. As a young man he represented the Delhi Ranji trophy team in the 1940’s. He reminisced the times when Pataudi ( Sr) was frequent at the nets and the elite social company he kept , mostly flocked by memsahibs. He smiled mischievously while narrating the social high profile life in Lutyen’s Delhi in the 1940’s. He rubbed shoulder with Nehru and shook hands with Lord Mountbatten. His prized possession is the bloodied soil from the spot where Gandhi was shot and killed.
Joe’s father was employed up in north and that took him places, then his own job with a petroleum company made him a Mallu in love with the diversity of India and its varying geographical locations.
I can well presume that he has had his share of adversities personal and external. While sitting with him I wondered if the aura of optimism and sheer plank of avidity that he stands upon will rub on me and the rest who often find it difficult to be even half alive, let alone to be exuberant and radiating elan vital when confronted even by the shallow irritancy of quotidian life. Robert Prigg says in his book Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “Is it hard?” “Not if you have the right attitudes”.
I asked him while he was helping himself with dessert after a good dinner of chicken byriani and chicken grill if he was a believer- if besides the 18 hole game of golf that he ventures to play at early dawn three times every week, going to church was in his agenda. His reply was a wave of his hand – like you keep away an unwelcome irritant fly and slightly contorting his face he said sternly,"No”. He was not deluded, I found and that must also be the reason for his sprightly mind.