Category: the hindu 2010


One cannot see all of Paris in just one trip…as it seems to reveal a new side each time you visit.

Le Louvre (most famous for Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa) is an art-lover’s paradise
Tourist’s delight: Arc de Triomphe.

I never figured exactly why Paris was called that till I set my eyes on this beauty that they call the most gorgeous city in the world. Ok so officially it is called ‘ The City of Lights’ but I prefer the love name over the lights, simply because love all but ricochets off every square inch of the city. I felt a flutter in the pit of my stomach even before I took off and I had certainly done my fair share of travelling so it had to be pure excitement.

Landing at Charles de Gaulle was an experience in itself; the quirky mélange of a dozen lingoes is so contagious I promptly traded in my jet-lag for lustful observation. Luckily for me my husband Chirag having made visits here several times for work, knew the map by-heart; which truly is the clincher in Paris. Always make it a point to talk at length to people who have either lived there or travelled often to make the most of your Parisian experience rather than just a run-of-the-mill touristy one.

“Breathe Paris into your being like a Parisian” my French teacher would always say and I recalled that standing at baggage claim. The metro at the airport was the coolest thing I had set my eyes on (strange as it sounds). As I drank in my first sight of this magnificent place, my husband whisked me into the metro and we were on our way — Paris was waiting for me to explore!


For anybody with a limited budget, or not wanting to splurge on accommodation since anyway in a place like Paris you’ re not going to be hanging around your hotel too much — Quartier Latin is your calling. Why it’s perfect is because it’s like this young, hip, artsy corner of the city bustling with students, artists and dancers — with a fusion of languages, music and banter; it’ s a peppy space and any among the string of hotels for you to choose from should suffice.

Street life in Paris and Le Louvre.

Ok so everybody has to make that compulsory visit to one of the seven wonders— so do that, enjoy the view at the Eiffel Tower and once done head to other destinations most tourists don’ t get the pleasure of. Le Louvre (most famous for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa) is an art-lover’s paradise. Even me, who doesn’t have one artistic bone in my body, spent like two full days just glancing at the etchings by world-famous names.

Also try and visit other lesser known ones like Arc de Triomphe or Chateau de Versailles (only if you’ re someone with an artistic eye though). But what truly stood out for me was taking the night cruise on the River Seine (which cuts across the city) then uncorking a bottle of blush right by the river thereafter.

There is a ‘Paris by Night’ option for the ones whose wallets go deeper. Basically though just wake up early and use your feet in Paris, you just never know what majestic sight you might stumble upon. It is a city of layers; she’ll only unravel to you if you really probe.

Wear it, eat it, drink it

Now what’s Paris synonymous with? Fashion, right?! Gosh if I thought I had seen it all as a fashion writer, Paris was my mother ship.

So Champs-Elysees; as though a fashion collection set up just for moi sent me on this delightful trip, with my husband reminding every minute, no, every second that we couldn’t afford even a shoe lace from there so to waste precious time. But was it worth just the peeping or what?!

Another thing that you must do for sure, is visit at least a couple of bistros (Parisian cafes) daily and just spend some time basking in the sunrays and observing Paris walking by; it’ s the perfect way of imbibing the true soul of this city. As for your taste buds, Paris is a gastronomic delight; meat lovers can sample away! A must-try is this meat chain called Hippopotamus (ironic as hippos are veggies) but the succulent noises coming from the hub, showed me how delicious the preparations must be.

Also there being such a heavy influence of Lebanese and Moroccan don’t miss this cuisine that will drive your taste-buds insane with its delectable delicacies.

Friends of the carnivores like me do have to look a little further for vegetarian, but the host of Indian restaurants makes it easier, and if you’ re not fussy the salads are yummo! But it’s always a smart choice to carry some dry munchies just in case. Oh, and even the weight-watchers absolutely ‘ have’ to bid adieu to their diet charts and dip their fingers into the sinful fondue that Paris is oh-so-famous for; don’ t worry your daily walkathon will take care of the calories. Don’t come to Paris and miss this ‘magic in your mouth’; my personal nickname for it. Yes it’s that good!

Paris comesm to life

Paris is a city with no agenda; you have to assimilate into the feel of the city. The metro here is a masterpiece in itself; public transport due to this becomes a piece of cake.

Easy connectivity to every nook makes the city completely accessible even to first-timers. But what’s really worth a mention; the aspect that highlighted itself in the city (and not just because I’ m high on the green cause) is the ‘bicycle drive’; this intricate network of bicycle stands all over the city that one can rent from any point up to any destination of their choice; making transport just so convenient for citizens and tourists alike. I just pray more cities would have the sense to undertake such an initiative, only to battle global warming if nothing else.

Now I know the secret behind the voluptuous French women (who were the object of my constant envy); they practically walk or bicycle for a living, no wonder! The smell of freshly baked bread even today will always transport me to the streets of Paris; the patisseries (bakery) leave me speechless!

The concept of stepping into a bakery even if to bite into a soft, warm freshly baked piece of bread is alien to the rest of the world. I could’ve survived on just the bakery products in the city, if not for the terror of my trainer back home. Paris is simply ‘unique’ in the true sense of the word; if it is at all possible to contain this maze of wonders in one word.

A passionate globe-trotter, incidentally a travel host today when referring to this city always recounted ‘You can never fully explore Paris; she will open up a new side to her persona with each visit’.

I was overwhelmed with my first one and I honestly can’t wait for adventure number deux; whenever that might be. Paris; je t’ aime beaucoup; I add.


* Travel

Paris is a city best seen on foot, it lets you discover a maze of wonders evasive to most who don’t probe. But the metro makes public transport a blessing for longer distances. Also their meticulously organized bicycle stands across the city is an option for the planet lovers.
* Lodging Quartier Latin – this hip yet affordable part of the city is your solution.
For the ones with the bucks, Paris is your haven, But since most of us are on shoe-string budgets.

* Must-see

The French romantic cabaret ‘Moulin Rouge’ is a spectacular experience in itself. This internationally famous show that threw its doors open in 1889 is unquestionably one of the highlights of your Paris tour.

* Must-munch

Paris a gourmand’s rapture, presenting every kind of delectable cuisine. But it’s the Parisian bistros that are the hidden treasures. Eat your way around these innumerable bistros that dot the city.

* Shopaholic’s delight

So Paris is for the shopaholics. And granted it is criminal to indulge in retail therapy here. But still, for those with a penchant for fashion; save on something else and do take back a style souvenir from the glam capital of the world!

Museums and galleries

* Le Musee des Arts Decoratifs
* Carnavalet
* Centre Georges Pompidou
* Cit‚ des Sciences et del’Industrie
* Cluny
* l’Eglise du Dome
* Delacroix.
* M‚morial de la Shoah
* Jacquemart-Andre Museum
* Picasso Museum
* Les Invalides
* The Louvre
* Mus‚e de l’Orangerie
* Mus‚e d’Orsay
* Mus‚e Marmottan
* Mus‚e National de la Marine
* Rodin Museum
* Mus‚e en Herbe

Don’t miss

* Chartres – The 12th century cathedral of Notre Dame
* Versailles – The Sun King Louis XIV’s magnificent palace
* Giverny – The house of the painter Claude Monet
* Disneyland Resort Paris – In the suburb of Marne-la-Vall‚e
* Fontainebleau – Historical town south of Paris

: It may be countless births that a Jivatma has to take before it can attain liberation. Lord Krishna shows us a ladder that can be used for this purpose.

Knowledge of the essential nature of the Supreme Brahman, the Jivatma and the inanimate objects in the world is the first rung of the ladder. But mere knowledge of these truths and even proficiency in arguing their veracity will be of no avail to step ahead to the next rung of the ladder, said Velukkudi Sri Krishnan in a lecture.

These truths have to be internalised and brought into the very way of life of the individual. The basic truth that the Self is imperishable while the body is subject to constant change involving growth and decay — a natural phenomenon that is witnessed all around — has to be deeply imprinted in the individual’s consciousness.

It is very tempting to get carried away by power, wealth, status, intelligence, scholarship, etc., so much so that, our actions are prompted by the feeling that these will continue for ever. We thus spend our life time consolidating these, despite their fleeting nature and fail to strengthen the well-being of the Self that is the indweller in each being.

Knowing the fickle nature of the human mind and its weaknesses, Lord Krishna’s step-by-step recipe of Karma Yoga forms the second rung of the ladder. Its simple and practical formula cuts across all walks of life. Action subsumes thought, word and deed and is unavoidable and compulsory to every one.

The mind of a person who chooses solitude might be filled with worldly thoughts; and one who is in the thick of activity with many people may be mentally in communion with God.

The Lord advises us to get involved in our ordained duties. The emphasis is on the performance of these duties with commitment and detachment. Any contradiction in the two demands is resolved in the advice to dedicate all actions and their fruits to Him.

Jnana Yoga representing the purity of mind — the perfect springboard for striving for liberation — is the third rung of the ladder.

Marcel Proust the great French novelist and philosopher, once said, in reality, every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self…and the recognition by the reader in his own self of what the book says is the proof it its veracity.This is an axiom that underlies not just the best novels but also the ideal reader, who can confirm the best and the worst of his or her life through the experience of reading a good novel.

The offsetting of the cold realities of war with stories of the quirky and plucky members of the book club is essentially a celebration of the written word and its transformational power. This is a book for book lovers, book clubs and for everyone else who needs to reaffirm to themselves the redemptive power of literature.

  • There is still no bar on trying the corporate perpetrators of the Bhopal tragedy, including Warren Anderson.

When it comes to the U.S., international law is the vanishing point of punitive jurisprudence

Crime statistics almost wholly ignore corporate or business crime-

To generate awareness about genetic resources conservation, each year May 22 is observed as the International Day for Biological Diversity. The U.N. has designated 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. Leaders from 170 countries will gather at a U.N. Biodiversity Summit in Nagoya, Japan, in October 2010 to adopt a roadmap to stop biodiversity loss.

A tribal village in the Kolli Hills in Tamil Nadu. These villages are leading the way in revitalising the conservation traditions of tribal families, without compromising on their economic well-being.

These villages are leading the way in revitalising the conservation traditions of tribal families, without compromising on their economic well-being.

Biodiversity loss is predominantly related to habitat destruction largely for commercial exploitation, and for alternative uses such as road-building. Invasive alien species and unsustainable development cause genetic erosion. How can we reverse the paradigm and enlist development as an effective instrument to conserve biodiversity?

During the tsunami, mangroves served as speed-breakers and saved people from the waves. He said everyone in the village now understood the symbiotic relationship between mangroves and coastal communities. The mangroves here are now in safe hands.

……………… adding value to primary products and finding niche markets for traditional foodgrains.  Commercialisation thus became the trigger for conservation.

In Biovillages, the conservation and enhancement of natural resources become priority tasks. At the same time, the Biovillage community aims to increase the productivity and profitability of small farms and create livelihood opportunities in the non-farm sector. Habitat conservation is vital to prevent genetic erosion. In a Biovalley, local communities try to link biodiversity, biotechnology and business in a mutually reinforcing manner. A Herbal Biovalley under development in Koraput aims to conserve medicinal plants and local foods and convert them into value-added products based on assured and remunerative market linkages. Such sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity leads to an era of biohappiness. Tribal families in Koraput have formed a “Biohappiness Society.”

REAP THE BENEFITS Pay attention to your  thoughts PHOTO: AP
REAP THE BENEFITS Pay attention to your thoughts PHOTO: AP “I don’t know the formula for success, but certainly know for failure: it is the incapacity to prioritise between our non-negotiable core values and other fluid priorities”.“Stress is not due to workload. Even with tonnes of work if you are never mentally ill, have time for the people whom you love, laugh merrily, and be content with all your decisions, then you can stop reading this book any further,” writes Elisabeth Wilson in her preface of the book: “Stress proof your life – 52 brilliant ideas for taking control”.Three important questions play vital role: (A) How I want to live? (B) How am I living? (C) What am I doing to shift from B to A?

A bad student feels guilty for his lifestyle; however much might he show off outwardly.Real thrill lies in the satisfaction that you are going in a correct path. Life is not measured with the quantity of breaths you take, but with the quantity of moments that take your breath away. – The book with the tempting sketches of the hedonist resting against a tree and drinking cups of heady wine from the hands of a sinuous saki under a full moon, sketches which, in a summer of artistic delusion, I copied on chart paper and hung all over my room.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: One of the most famous and oft-quoted books

Handle with care: At the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Photo: Sally Bair Handle with care: At the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Photo: Sally Bair

A critique of the globalisation concept, this collection of papers — presented at a seminar held by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study at the Goa University in 2006 — reflects a morbid obsession of the authors with cataloguing what they see as its malevolent consequences.

As Yogesh Atal succinctly puts it, the conceptual confusion arises from the persisting tendency of viewing the paradigm of development as globalisation, the much-used term signifying different things to different people. Right from the introductory chapter, the refrain is one of indicting globalisation, which in the post-1991 Indian context comprised “a trinity of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, popularly known as LPG.”


The fault-lines indicated by the authors make a litany of woes: the neoliberal economic policies widening the gap between the rich and the poor; the free enterprise imperialist ideology promoting market-oriented capitalistic and privatised economy; and the transformative project of global capitalism turning into a hegemonically negotiated process of economic and cultural flows across borders.

Globalisation not only makes inroads into our economic and political life but invades our social and cultural spheres as well, breeding a culture of consumerism, and ultimately leading to a trivialisation and distortion of local cultures.

Surinder Kumar and Sohan Sharma, in particular, seem to revel in railing at institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO, which are termed the “repositories of neoliberal, free enterprise imperialist ideology.” No doubt, in the current global context, the iniquitous asymmetry of the Bretton Woods institutions is well acknowledged. But the authors here identify them as “the roots of financial enslavement.” Witness also the statement: “As a loan condition, the World Bank group requires the recipient governments to reduce wages, suppress working class rights and demands.” Sherry Sabbarwal argues that globalisation, besides bringing inequality, mass poverty and desolation, has violated the workers’ fundamental right to work.

Murzban Jal endorses the view that the World Bank and the IMF function “as the policemen of the American State which the Indian State readily succumbs to…” In a similar vein, T.R. Sharma says the United States, “the global hegemon,” operates through the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, TRIPS and patenting laws.


Yogesh Atal infuses a sense of moderation into the debate by presenting an erudite appraisal of the globalisation process across the world, a process that was not faulted by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz; according to him, only the way it has been “managed” is faulty. Describing globalisation as “a major turning point in development”, he cites Marshall McLuhan’s view of the concept. To McLuhan, it is a process of making the world a ‘global village’, emphasising the inevitability of interdependence, and the need to tackle various problems — such as environmental pollution, population explosion, violence and crime — and deficits in social development in a way that requires each society to think globally, yet act locally.

To take a balanced view, as Atal points out, the evolving transport and communication technologies have knit the continents together and any attempt to resist or impede the process would be detrimental to public interest. The western paradigm of development has created disenchantment since it engendered serious disparities and falsified many tenets of modernisation. What seems to endure worldwide, no less in Asian cultures including India, is a kind of heterogeneity — modernity juxtaposed with tradition — and “sandwich culture”, a phenomenon that is still evolving. If anything, whatever diffusion is happening has in fact been enriching the cultures.

Countries are becoming heterogeneous in their cultures and plural in their social structures. Like the bamboo, cultures bend, but do not break, when winds of change blow fast and strong. It needs to be realised that globalisation is a process, not an ideological dogma imposed by some agency. As the editor of this volume, Mehta argues in the introductory chapter, we should not shy away from the globalisation process but, as a part of the knowledge society, prepare ourselves to derive maximum advantage from it, even while upholding our values.

Man Booker Prize winner Yann Martel’s second novel, Beatrice and Virgil, is in many ways a book of memory and remembrance. The artful metaphor is our only ally against forgetfulness, he says. Excerpts from an exclusive interview…

Yann Martel’s second novel has been a long time coming. Recently released in Canada and the US, Beatrice and Virgil has received polarised reviews. That it has been trashed as well as praised, he says, is a sign that it has elicited active engagement, not indifference, from the readers. The controversial reception is a sign that it is getting people to think and act, he says from San Francisco where he is on a promotional tour. Excerpts from a telephonic conversation…

Are you planning on coming to India to promote the book here?

I have a nine-month-old son. Before I can promote it — I am not going to Australia, New Zealand — I want to get back and be with my son. So, as much as I would love to return to India, for any reason, not just to promote my books, just to be in India — I haven’t been there for about nine years now — I don’t know when that’ll be. India has changed a lot, I would love to go back and see that.

Lest we forget: Yann Martel. Photo: MACARENA YANEZ

Is this novel about the primacy of the imagination? You think we live in a world where the profusion of facts is working against making sensible meaning out of it?

Reality is a 100 million details. Right now where you are, if you think about it, you are surrounded by 100 million details on which you could focus your attention. Everything, from chemical, scientific details to cultural details to personal emotional details… now some of that has to be lost. Time, you know, is an eraser. It all goes. [We need] something we can hold on to. It’s called history. But even history has hundreds of thousands of details and sometimes it’s overwhelming and it’s hard to get to. The forte of the arts, the forte of the imagination is that it can take some of those details and give them immortality. A painting, a story, a song can float across the ocean of time like a lifeboat. So you can get to the essence of an event and convey it in the form of art. It can be like a suitcase, taking the essential and preparing you for a trip to elsewhere…

Does ‘getting to the essence’ necessarily bring a moral perspective that is lacking in mere facts?

It can be but art isn’t necessarily moral. Art could be immoral too. Art is witness. But in some stories, yes, it can also have a moral edge. It can also, in telling a story, convey certain moral situations. Which is what my novel does at the very end — In “Games for Gustav” are these 12 situations that are morally, existentially difficult. So, yes, it can make a moral situation fresh again…

You dwell at length in the initial stages of the novel about the concrete, everyday circumstances around writing /publishing that are usually glossed over. Is it autobiographical and are you saying that though there is a market built around imagination, it is essential to our being and identity?

I didn’t do it because I wanted it to be autobiographical, it was more because of the idea of a writer who stops writing, whose message has stopped, suited me because I was discussing the Holocaust. And any great horrific event, the Holocaust, war, has a tendency to erase language, to make us at a loss for words. You know, famously, when people encountered the Accounts, their language was full of clichés to do with “there are no words to describe”, “I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing.” So, to have a writer who is at a loss for words and then to meet the taxidermist who is also in some ways at a loss for words suited my purpose when discussing the Holocaust…so that’s why I have that theme.

I did indeed have a meeting with my publishers, I did want to do a flip book with them but their argument was different. They were saying, “listen, an essay is a specialised product. A novel is not.” They were afraid the essay would drag down the novel.

You keep coming back to the notion that is art is about joy. The taxidermist is shown as someone who is joyless, cheerless, who plods through his play. “My story has no story. It is based on the fact of murder,” he says at one point. You think the character of the taxidermist is too steretypical, he and the novelist falling easily into opposite sides of a too-easy divide?

Art is joy in a general way. Any art, music, dance, painting, to create at that level is deeply joyful, it involves your whole being. Art and religion are the two ways in which we fully engage with life. In this particular case, I enjoyed wrestling with that subject. I wanted to make the taxidermist ambiguous. He clearly has some sort of a creative impulse, he is working on a play, he is quite rude with the writer. I wanted someone whom we wouldn’t understand why he was doing the things he was doing until the very end and even then we are not sure what his intent was.

And that to me was the parallel of the encounter of the Jews of Europe with the Nazis who did not see it coming. By the time they realised fully what the Nazis’ intents were, it was too late, they couldn’t escape and that’s why so many died.

How has the novel been received?

It’s been very interesting and very polarised. Some critics absolutely hated it. I got absolutely trashed by The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and there’s some blogger on the Internet named Edward Champion who absolutely hated it. And then you have reviewers who absolutely loved it. The USA Todaythought it was positively a masterpiece. There were very positive reviews inNewsweek and the LA Times. So it’s been very polarised, which is good. The one thing you don’t want with art is indifference. You don’t want people to shrug. Even when people hate it, they are engaging with it.

Is there some sort of thematic continuity or evolution between Life of Pi and Beatrice and Virgil? If the former was about God, faith and religion, the latter is about imagination and art, isn’t it?

In some ways they are very different books. Yes, they both feature animals but that’s just on the surface. In Life of Pi hopefully the reader loses himself looking at those animals. Forget may be his humanity. In Beatrice and Virgilthose animals are anthropomorphised and are meant to bring us back to our humanity.

And as for the role of the imagination, to me it’s something more immediate like life itself is an interpretation. We cannot choose the reality we live in, but we can choose how we interpret it. In that sense, imagination is not something whimsical, fairy-tale like, I am simply saying that reality is a co-creation, reality is something which is out there but it is also how you take it. To that extent, I suppose there is a similarity between the two novels in the sense that how you represent reality will speak of how you see it, of what that reality is. A person of faith reads transcendendance into the world, sees a divine plan; I suppose it is the same with reading history. You are representing an event that is past, and in that representation there is an element of interpretation, of imaginative reading. In that way there is a thematic link between the two novels.

To me this novel seems to come behind a line of books from the West dealing with the Holocaust. Why this obsession in the West about the Holocaust? There are historical continuities to the Holocaust in the contemporary world like what is happening in Palestine, Gaza today, injustices, perhaps of equal magnitude. Nobody seems to talk about them much…

Well, aside of the politics of West Asia, which poisons everything, just looking in terms of history, the Holocaust still remains unique: every other genocide before and after has to some extent been politically expedient. The Armenians in Turkey were killed because they were in the way of the Turks who were trying to start their nation. Excesses in Gaza were committed because of political enmity between the Palestinians and the Israelis. In both cases you killed people who were in the way, who bothered you but the ones beyond a certain border were irrelevant to you. But the Nazis were obsessed with killing the Jews everywhere, as if they were a disease. That does remain unique. And the reason I think it is still relevant, not a piece of historical arcana from several years ago in the backwaters of Poland, is because what led to the Holocaust is still absolutely contemporary.

The act of hate, the thinking of hatred, the disrespect in the mind of an individual that eventually in Germany led to the Holocaust, that little beginning, that seed of hatred is found everywhere. The Holocaust is not rooted in Auschwitz, in Poland. It is rooted in the human heart. And that applies to India too. There are people in India with holocaustal thinking, for example the BJP, the Shiv Sena, you know, that kind of hatred of the other whom you don’t even know, who is just a construction in your mind to relieve tension, to relieve whatever… that is holocaustal. Now because India is democracy, there is a free press, it is unlikely that there will ever be a genocide but the roots are there…

The thing about this novel is that it is not an orthodox Holocaust novel. There is no history in there, there are no Germans, there is minimal reference to the Holocaust yet it is soaked in it.

So I do choose the Holocaust but not just as a historical artefact, I am looking at what is to me relevant. At the very end, there are 12 more situations where there is no historical colour or detail that put you at the heart of it. And those 12 situations could take place in India. You could be in a line of people about to be executed and you could be holding your grand daughter’s hand and she asks you a question. And what might that question be? What would a child be thinking when it sees people being massacred? That completely fits in with realities in India today. That’s why I think it’s still relevant…

The passage of years

Pranay Gupte

I was not quite 19 when I left shores of my native India for the promise of America, an only child of accomplished parents whose ambitions for their son did not necessarily embrace the possibility of his going away from home forever.

But that’s what happened. It wasn’t as though I never returned to India — but those were occasional visits, mainly on journalistic assignments. I was, however, never to make Mumbai my home again. Never again would I live in my parents’ apartment overlooking the Arabian Sea, never again would I wander aimlessly through the clangorous byways of the city where I was born not long after the British Raj ended. Whenever I visited, there would be a purpose – a story to be pursued, a book to be researched, perhaps an important birthday of a close friend, and, saddest of all, the deaths of my father and mother in the same year, a quarter of a century ago.

The choice to move my home was, of course, entirely mine: I completed college in the United States, I began a career as a reporter and then a foreign correspondent at the New York Times, I became a columnist for Newsweek International, I wrote profiles and investigative stories for Forbes, I produced documentaries for public television, and I published a newspaper on environmental and sustainability issues for more than a decade.

That choice was driven by an ambition to succeed, no doubt a characteristic that I’d absorbed watching my mother develop into an acclaimed academician and a widely published author in Marathi – one of India’s major languages – and my father apply his legal training in the field of banking. There’s a major square in Mumbai named in honour of my mother, and whenever I’m in my native city I make it a point to walk past the plaque in silent admiration of the sheer courage that it took Charusheela Gupte to lift herself out of poverty into the limelight of a public career.

I realize in those moments, and also at other times, that while I am her son, that while I am also the progeny of my father, Balkrishna Gupte, that’s where the linkage stops. They had far fewer privileges than I did while growing up, they had far fewer opportunities to traverse the world, and while their own lives exemplified the enduring values of tolerance and understanding, they never quite got the chance to study intensively how those values played out in societies such as the United Arab Emirates — where I currently live — which exquisitely embroider diversity into their national fabric.

So it would be fair to say that I’ve been far more fortunate than my parents. But it would also be fair to ask, has my life been as fulfilling as theirs? To what extent has my work in journalism and public diplomacy been a catalyst for change in the societies where I’ve lived and worked? Has my life made a difference to those around me?

There are surely those who’d contend that my presence in their lives was less than salutary. My painful divorce would be testimony to that argument. The estrangement between my son — an only child — and myself would also suggest that my parental behaviour might not have been a role model. Along these many years since I first left the shores of Mumbai, so many friendships were lost — lost not necessarily on account of disputes but because of disregard. I rarely apportion blame to others, but I readily accept responsibility for my actions.

I reflect on these matters now because I’m about to attend a very big reunion of my college class in America. I haven’t kept up with very many of my classmates — my loss entirely, to be sure — but I have, from time to time, marvelled at the temporal triumphs of some of them. I also confess to dismay over not having sustained the narrative of our collective youth.

That youth was tested and tried in the cauldron of major social and political upheavals in the United States: my college years coincided with those of the waning years of the war in Vietnam and Cambodia. The bodies of young Americans sent to a senseless conflict were being brought back in coffins; I covered that conflict not in the jungles of Southeast Asia but from Boston Commons, where students staged massive protest rallies. The anthem of our college years was “Fire and Rain,” that haunting composition by James Taylor that has been the soundtrack of my life in the years since.

Where did those years ago? I know where I’ve been, but did I sufficiently recognise the places that I visited, particularly those lodged within myself? Did I ask the right questions, especially of myself? What explained my judgment calls, notably those that proved unwise. Did I love enough? Did I care enough? Did I give enough of myself to those who extended themselves for me? Was I kind enough? Was I considerate enough? Did I show up on those occasions when my presence would have provided solace for those in distress?

So many questions swell within me as my class reunion approaches. But my former classmates aren’t going to be able to address them; they, too, would have their own inner demons and danseuses that inevitably gather force with the years.

I realize that when I see the men and women I went to college with all those decades ago, even more questions will arise about the life I —and they — have led. I realise, too, that no one but myself will be able to offer the answers, at least about myself. There may well be time to put off those answers until another big reunion comes our way. But, at my age, I also realise that I’m really not so sure about that either.