Month: August 2007

High Life

High Life

They are beautiful. They’re rich. They are famous. But the similarity doesn’t end there. Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Nicole Richie have other things in common…like being booked for drunken driving, doing drugs, serving prison terms and going for rehabilitation.

To common folk, these girls have a dream life: looks to die for, good fortune, wealth, fame, fan-following. Or do they?

Having to go to rehab at 20 is not exactly the kind of life anyone would want. But maybe I am old-fashioned, conservative, or even downright boring! “High life” is about taking the risk, get on a high, and indulging in all that is proscribed — after all life’s nothing if not adventurous. Going by this logic, these girls are living their lives to the fullest, aren’t they?

To me, life is a constant high. Unlike what abusing artificial stimulants and substances produce in us, life’s challenges produce a genuine high. Its varied trials, tests and hardships make it adventurous. Its unpredictability makes it risky.

Perhaps the irony is that these are the very things that are missing from the lives of these rich and famous girls. They get everything on a platter. For them, life is easy. They have lived, and are living, a life of utmost comfort. No worries or challenges whatsoever — at least not the kind we common folk have. They have nothing to look forward to. If life is simply great all the time, it becomes monotonous. Much like, if there was only happiness, it would quickly lose meaning because there isn’t anything to compare it with.

The following extract from Tao Te Ching (The Book of The Way) by Lao-Tzu sums up the irony:

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad

Being and non-being create each other
Difficult and easy support each other
Long and short define each other
High and low depend on each other
Before and after follow each other

So, essentially, opposites define each other. And, too easy a life loses definition. I suspect that Lindsay & Co have too much of a good thing going for them — so much so that they get bored of it and therefore “manufacture” worries and challenges to make their lives interesting. When I ponder on what makes celebrities do drugs, indulge in outrageous acts, or break the law (à la our own Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Fardeen Khan), I am tempted to veer towards thinking that they create their own problems to keep their lives exciting even though they may be doing so entirely unbeknownst to themselves.

Of course, this is just my hypothesis and I may be entirely wrong. But it’s worth thinking about…it makes me wonder whether our hardships and difficulties are a blessing in disguise?



Years go by, unchanged. Then life changes, suddenly. What seemed unthinkable for years happens, without warning. This unpredictability is what gives life its character.

That change is imminent is universally accepted. But incremental change doesn’t affect us too much. It’s those sudden, discontinuous, changes that are disruptive. To be sure, disruption is not always negative. It simply ensures that the way things were done or the way life was lived doesn’t remain the same.

Technologically, we have seen many discontinuous changes that have changed our lives forever. It’s easy to think of a tech example. For instance the Compact Disc introduced by Philips & Sony in 1980 suddenly changed the way we listened to music. Prior to that, tapes were the gold standard. CDs disrupted the music scene. We had to now buy CD players because CDs couldn’t be played on tape players. Similarly, digital cameras (still photography) have changed the way we click pictures. Films for still photography are almost extinct.

A discontinuous change also disrupts the invisible realm of our personal lives. Such a change can be a voluntary choice or something inevitable that we must accept.

A career switch into unexplored territory is a voluntary change. It’s planned and its consequences are anticipated. I made a conscious decision a few years ago to be a full-time writer against my original career choice of advertising and marketing management. This was a discontinuous change that changed my life forever. It also disrupted my life…and ensured that it was never the same again.

When we fall in love, most often it produces discontinuous change. Falling in love is involuntary, not a choice we make. But we still have a choice whether to follow those instincts. Of course human beings are not always rational, least of all in love. So love, even though it’s not, appears to be involuntary.

Finally, bereavement is an example of a discontinuous change that is involuntary and in which we have no choice. Such a change is perhaps the most difficult to come to terms with. When someone we love dies, life changes forever. It’s irreversible.

Change, incremental or discontinuous, is an indelible facet of life on planet Earth. Yet ironically, we find resistance to change equally common.



My friendship is not a favour
Nor is it a fleeting flavour
It is a lifelong promise
An oath of eternal bliss

My fidelity is not coerced
Nor is it an act rehearsed
It is an urge intrinsic
Like truly inspired music

My love is not an obligation
Nor is it a fascination
It is a choice I’ve made
An instinct I obeyed

My dream is not an illusion
Nor is it a conjured delusion
It is a glimpse of the imminent
A preview of the blessed event

~© Manoj Khatri~



I am waiting
carrying love
in my heart
I am striving
while we’re
far apart

I am weeping
as I miss you
every second
I am thinking
when will my soul
be beckoned?

I am struggling
with faith
as my prop
I am dreaming
that someday
yours fears will stop

I am praying
to win your
heart over
I am living
that I’ll wait
for you forever

~© Manoj Khatri~



The mind’s garden is fertile
As we sow, so shall we reap
A good seed produces a smile
A bad one makes us weep

Resentment leads to anger
Prejudice promotes hatred
Fear is a synonym for danger
Guilt kills before we’re dead

Doubts raise uncertainty
Envy is the root of pain
Blame generates toxicity
Is there anything we gain?

To avoid a harvest of weeds
We must plant noble seeds
Like those of genuine love
Blessed with grace from above

Love dissolves all sadness
Helps us deal with madness
Wipes away all the gloom
Causes the garden to bloom

So what would we rather breed,
A love seed or a hostile weed?

~© Manoj Khatri~

Beyond here

Beyond here

Am I afraid of death?
No, I am not
In fact I am eager
for it
to take me away
To the unknown
From where I came
I am eager to cross over
To the other side
Which is my own
Where physical boundaries
Don’t limit me
Where I can love
And be loved
Where no one says
Till death do us part
Because we never part
Where love is not contrived
No meanings are derived
No, I am not afraid of dying
Death is a friend
It will take me
to where I belong
Where no fear exists
I can lie all day long
in the lap of my beloved
And dream without fears
and tears
I don’t fear death
In fact
I fear life
Yes, I am afraid of living
alone, without loving

~© Manoj Khatri~

Madhukar Talwalkar: Meet a young man of 75!

Madhukar Talwalkar: Meet a young man of 75!

That the name Talwalkars is synonymous with fitness is common knowledge. But few people know that its Chairman, Madhukar Talwalkar, is all of 75 and still raring to go. His fitness levels may put even 25-year-olds to shame. I caught up with this enterprising and dynamic young man, to learn his secrets of being in a state of complete wellbeing. Excerpts:

What role has fitness played in your life?

My father, Vishnu Ramakrishna Talwalkar, was a well-known wrestler. At a young age of 22, he came to Mumbai for work and during his spare time, worked as a trainer at Hindu Sarvajanik Vyaamshala, a gym in Girgaum. During this time, his boss offered him to conduct personal training for him. This encouraged some of his friends and associates to prompt him to set up his own gym. So, in 1932, he opened his first gym at Linking Road, Khar, which he called Ramakrishna Physical Culture Institute. Thus began our journey of spreading fitness.

As I grew up, my father encouraged me to finish my education. I completed my textile engineering from VJTI, and joined Khatau Mills in 1953. It was in those days that I began to take fitness seriously and started exercising. You see, my weight was a mere 96 pounds [45 kg] at the age of 25 and I had begun to suffer from an inferiority complex. So I started working out in my father’s gym and soon I gained about 59 pounds [72 kg]. I was proud of myself.

Significant events took place soon afterwards. I was looking good and, in 1959, I took part in Mr Bombay Competition and won the second prize. Then I got married in 1960. In 1961, I started planning to set up a gym of my own. I took the risk of leaving my job. I worked for some time, though, because I had to repay a loan of Rs 1,800, which I had taken [My salary was just Rs 300 then]. I started my first gym at Linking Road in 1962. The rest, as they say, is history,

So you can see, my life changed because of fitness.

What do you attribute your success and good health to?

I have practised what I preach all my life. I consider exercise as my prayer [puja] and I do it regularly with a lot of dedication. I do not have any bad habits, and I am a vegetarian. For a while, I did have non-vegetarian food while I was doing body building. Then, I reminded myself that I’m a Brahmin [chuckles] and I decided to stop eating non-vegetarian food. I take egg as a protein source, today.

I have given up tea/coffee. I want to stay fit, and live for 150 years.

Fitness is not just physical; it is also about the mind. I believe in the attitude of gratitude. So, besides being conscious about physical fitness, I have enjoyed every day and every moment of my life: whether it was failure, success, or times when I didn’t have money.

I also believe in positive attitude. Negativity has no place in my world. For example, you will never read a notice saying that, “Gymnasium will remain closed on [Holiday].” Instead, we say: “There is a special holiday on the occasion of…” You can convey the same meaning by being positive.

You should be a giver. I donate to cancer societies, and others. I never refuse anything to my members. At times, people make exorbitant demands; they also have misused my kindness. But I think it’s all right. I believe that if God has never said no to me, I have no right to say no to anyone.

Read the complete interview here »

Reform better than mere punishment?

Reform better than mere punishment?

So finally, after 14 long years, sentences in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case have been announced and all the accused, including the high-profile film star Sanjay Dutt, have been convicted. The punishments vary—from death sentences to probation.

Everyone has an opinion on the judgement. I am no exception. I am sharing mine here.

After I heard about the conviction, I pondered: What is the purpose of punishments? The idea of punishment strikes me as odd. The law of the land is not about getting even, is it? I think the law is for protecting the society from anti-social elements. In my opinion, punishing people with death penalties or rigorous imprisonments doesn’t serve the larger goal of the society.

I am strongly in favour of reform and rehabilitation in place of punishment. We must aim at eliminating the crime, not the criminal. This is not to say that we leave criminals free to roam. By all means confine the convicted in closed spaces like jails. But give them an opportunity to get reformed. In fact, active steps should be taken towards changing the criminal’s bent of mind.

In my column, I have covered fragmented efforts of some jailors, police officers and NGOs in bringing reformist activities such as meditation camps to jails. Read All in the mind. Also read about Bihar Government’s initiative: Fresh move for reforms in jails.

However, the best-known reform activist I know of is Kiran Bedi, winner of the 1994 Ramon Magsaysay award, whose initiative of introducing Vipassana meditation brought about a change in the outlook of inmates of Tihar jail, one of Asia’s largest prisons. Bedi is definitely a role model for police officers anywhere in the world.

But initiatives like hers should be taken by the central government at the universal level. Every prison in the country should become a reform centre with one objective: eliminate crime.

Any opinions?