Pay it forward

The Karamazov Brothers


“The more stupid one is, the closer one is to reality. The more stupid one is, the clearer one is. Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence squirms and hides itself. Intelligence is unprincipled, but stupidity is honest and straightforward.”

I love this quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in “The Karamazov Brothers.” Truth be told, I have not read the book. After I started ‘gift a book’ project few months back, this is the first time I have gifted a book that the receiverhad wanted. There was a special reason to why I did that.

Dhivya is an eclectic reader of Tamil literary fiction. Earlier this year, she introduced me to Sundara Ramaswamy. ‘Su Ra’ as he is popularly called, has to his credit many short stories, poetry and three novels in Tamil. I fell in love with his writing instantly. I feel that there is some kind of magical realism in his words, which is simple, funny but profound at the same time.

Sample this; in his short story ‘Crows’ he writes,

“Whenever I told the older crows, ‘I am a poet as well,’ they looked at me with a little smile. It seemed to me that they said, ‘That is really not very important to us.’ It struck me as perfectly fair that as long as I took no notice of the poetry of their world, they were at liberty to ignore the poetry of mine.”

Or this from “Children, Women, Men”

“Once you learnt English, you never understood other people’s misfortunes.”

His works have also been translated in English. “Children, Women, Men” and “Under the Tamarind Tree” are my favourites.

So when Dhivya demanded a book of her choice, I had to oblige.

People, introduce me to new writers. And if I fall in love with the writing you can demand a book of your choice.

‪#‎GiftaBook‬ ‪#‎PayitForward‬ 17/100

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Very good lives

JK rowling

“I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless,” begins Rowling in her book ‘Very good lives.’

J.K. Rowling gave a lecture to the graduating students of Harvard in 2008 but it is a speech that everyone needs to hear. This book has this lecture along with beautiful and evocative art. She talks about trying, about failing, and trying again, and about being a human being and living a good life. It is a beautiful gift for anyone, both young and old.  So this will be my 13th book that I have gifted after I started this “gift a book” project. I gifted the book to Madhavan who is organizing the very interesting Coovam Art Festival. Read about the festival here (

Here are my 10 favourite quotes from the book.

There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.

I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates.

I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution.

Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

Many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are.

Those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: ‘What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.’ That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”


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The Last Lecture

Last lecture

For those who aren’t aware, Randy Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He had been diagnosed of pancreatic cancer in its advanced stages which could kill him in a couple of months. He was invited to deliver a lecture to his students on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” This was his last lecture. You can see the video here – ( The lecture wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment. It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

I was in Bangalore yesterday and had planned to meet Mukesh, a youngster whom I have been mentoring for a few months now. I gifted this book to Mukesh at Starbucks on Indira Nagar 100 feet Road, one of my favourite hangout places in Bangalore.

The book has the lecture and a few more anecdotes from his life. His writings are honest, humourous, straight forward and filled with optimism. Here are some pearls.


“The key question to keep asking is, are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have. ”


“No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.”


“Look, I’m going to find a way to be happy, and I’d really love to be happy with you, but if I can’t be happy with you, then I’ll find a way to be happy without you.”


“If I only had three words of advice, they would be, ‘Tell the Truth’. If got three more words, I’d add, all the time.”


“Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I’ve always believed that if you took one tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out.”


“When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.”


“Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress. When you’re pissed off at someone and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time. Just give them a little more time and they almost always will impress you.”


“Follow your passions, believe in karma, and you won’t have to chase your dreams, they will come to you.”


“All my adult life I’ve felt drawn to ask long-married couples how they were able to stay together. All of them said the same thing: “We worked hard at it.”


“Time must be explicitly managed, like money.
“You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.”
“Want to have a short phone call with someone? Call them at 11:55 a.m., right before lunch. They’ll talk fast. You may think you are interesting, but you are not more interesting than lunch.”


“Never lose the child like wonder. It’s just too important. It’s what drives us. Help others.”


“There should be some lessons learned and how you can use the stuff you hear today to achieve your dreams or enable the dreams of others. And as you get older, you may find that “enabling the dreams of others” thing is even more fun.”


“What is the most appropriate thing to say to a friend who was about to die. Tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Whenever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone”.


“Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories and they will figure out how those stories apply to them.”


“People lie for lots of reasons, often because it seems like a way to get what they want with less effort.”


“If you want something bad enough, never give up.”


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Khushwant Singh on Women

Khushwant Singh on Women

‘Khushwant Singh on Women,’ and you are already thinking what India’s dirty old and ‘lecherous’ (in his own words) man could have written. And you guessed it right, the book has his and other imaginary tales of his raunchy adventures with beautiful ladies from around the world. I have always wondered how was he such a ladies’ man. He was not a handsome man. He himself laments about his unfortunate physical fact of life. Possibly, it was Khushwant Singh’s brain that was considered sexy by tens of successful, great looking ladies of varying age groups from across the world. And no one tells stories about the fairer sex better than him.

In this book, he tells stories of his dalliances with an American teenager, a drunken actress of yesteryear, a muslim fundamentalist from Pakistan, a tantrik sadhvi who claimed she was the mother of the illegitimate child of  Nehru and many others. Besides these pulpy stories, he also talks about his grandmother, with a poignant portrait on the twilight of her life.

I decided to give away this book at one of my favourite restaurants, Indigo Deli at the Palladium Mall in Lower Parel in Bombay. I have stopped gift wrapping the book as it makes cafe managers feel anxious. But they still had some issues with my ‘leave the book on the table’ plan. So I placed the book at Moshe’s. Another favourite cafe of mine in the same mall. The food is just fabulous here. And now they are even more dearer because they allowed me leave the book. So if you are in Bombay do visit Moshe’s and Indigo Deli. Absolutely great food, service and ambience.

So stranger, enjoy the poignant, insightful and equally wicked writing by the peerless Khushwant Singh.

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Nine Lives

Pay it forward

This week, while waiting to meet a friend, I ventured into a small bookshop at the Defence colony market in Delhi. As soon as I entered, a bright red book fell on the floor right next to me. It was “Nine Lives” by William Darlymple. The book sensitively profiles the lives of nine mystics from different parts of the country. The story of a Jain nun who undertakes “Sallekhana,” a Jain practice of undertaking voluntary death at the end of one’s life, had made a big impression on me.

I bought this copy and decided to gift it to someone. Why not a stranger? Maybe.

So the impulsive idea was quickly put into action when I returned to Chennai. The plan was to write a brief note inside the book, gift wrap it and leave it silently at a café, so that someone would pick it up. After writing a brief note, to my utter surprise, I found that the book had been autographed by the author William Darlymple himself.

Earlier this evening, I dropped into one of my favourite cafes in Chennai, Ashvita Nirvana in Besant Nagar and left the book on a table, informed the staff about my idea and silently walked out.

I hope that the person, who picks up this book, reads it and feels inspired, like I do.

I am praying that this book continues its magical streak in the life of one more person. ‪#‎PayItForward‬