Ahead of his time

"Well anyway, I would never join the Army," said my 17-year-old nephew with finality. We had been discussing a career in the armed forces and he had remained unmoved by all my arguments. His objections were well known. An MBA with a multinational firm received a higher starting pay than a General with 30 years service.

I had pointed out the several advantages of a career in the armed forces, like quality of life, spirit of companionship, opportunities for adventure, job security, dignified life in military cantonments. He remained unconvinced. Finally and somewhat hesitatingly, I touched upon the idealistic aspects like patriotism and service to the nation. I knew such talk was out of fashion but I had taken a chance. Perhaps there was still a spark of idealism in our youth which I could ignite. His derisive laughter told me all.

Later that night, as I thought about our discussion, another incident that had taken place more than 40 years ago in my school came to mind. The school had organised a talk on "Career in the Air Force" by a Group-Captain. We listened with rapt attention as he spoke about the thrills, excitement and glamour of life in the Air Force. At the end of the talk, he invited questions from the audience. Most of the questions were predictably dull and dealt with subjects like the procedure for joining the Air Force, training schedules and so on.

Then one boy got up and wanted to know about the risks in flying because parents often did not allow their children to join the Air Force for that reason. The speaker who had been expecting this question proved with well-reasoned arguments that the element of risk in flying was no more than in most other walks of life. He ended up by saying that war in any case was a risky business and those joining the armed forces should be prepared to die for the country if necessary. We nodded in agreement.

It was at this stage that a jarring note was struck. One of the boys stood up and asked, "What is the pay of a pilot?". There was a sudden silence in the hall. We were shocked. What a question? Here we were talking of dying for the country and there was this boy worried about money. Money! We were so ashamed that most of us did not even hear the answer to that question.

We cornered the boy after the lecture and told him what we thought of him. All his explanation were dismissed with scorn. For a few days he was taunted and shunned wherever he went. How naive and idealistic we were! Tainting something noble like serving the country with even the thought of money was considered unthinkable then.

I have never met the boy again after leaving school but wherever he is, he must be feeling vindicated. He knows that had he asked that same question today, those very boys would have nodded their heads and eagerly strained to hear the answer. His only fault had been that he was ahead of his time.

- by Pran Pahwa. Originally published in the Times Of India on 21st Jan. 1997

All copyrights acknowledged.


Der Alte

On Saturday, I was browsing DVD's in the local library. Suddenly I remembered 'Der Alte' (a.k.a. The Old Fox).

This is a TV serial I used to watch on TV when I was a young kid. It is originally produced in german, but it was dubbed in english. I don't understand german anyway ;) It's about a german detective Herr Koster played brilliantly by Siegfried Lowitz. I still remember the story about a person who used to poison his victims giving them chocolates.


10 things a Renaisance Person Knows

  1. A well diversified portfolio is a solid one.
  2. If the majority were right, the majority would be millionaires.
  3. A great investment plan starts one step at a time.
  4. Compound interest is a beautiful thing.
  5. The most important investment you'll ever make is in yourself.
  6. Quality of life is just as essential as a quality portfolio.
  7. Getting there is half the fun.
  8. A fine wine with dinner is just as important as the dinner itself.
  9. The golden touch is more valuable than gold.

Who moved my cheese

  1. Having cheese makes you happy.
  2. The more important your cheese is to you, the more you want to hold on to it.
  3. If you do not change, you can become extinct.
  4. What would you do if you weren't afraid?
  5. Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.
  6. Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.
  7. When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.
  8. Imagining myself enjoying new cheese even before I find it leads me to it.

Chanakya Quotes

  • Learn from the mistakes of others...you can't live long enough to make them all yourself.
  • A good wife is one who serves her husband in the morning like a mother does, loves him in the day like a sister does and pleases him like a prostitute in the night.
  • Before you start some work, always ask yourself three questions - Why am I doing it, What the results might be and Will I be successful. Only when you think deeply and find satisfactory answers to these questions, go ahead.

Do you remember

Do you remember, dear, the days so long ago when we were at school, and the chemistry lab where you and I worked over messy experiments and grew to know each other. Your family had just moved to our town; I learnt that your father came from a distinguished family and was a government official. My father was dead, and I lived with my mother in an unfashionable street. We let half our house, and my mother did fancy sewing for the well-to-do people in town. She did it proudly, with her head held high, but you did not know that. All you knew was that I was a dressmaker's son.


Man's best friend

I want my children to have a dog
Or may be two or three
They'll learn from them more easily
Than they will learn from me.

A dog will teach them how to love,
And have no grudge or hate
I'm not so good at that myself
But a dog will do it straight

I want my children to have a dog,
To be their pal and friend
So they may learn that friendship
Is faithful to the end.

There never yet has been a dog
That learned to double cross
Nor catered to you when you won
Then dropped you when you lost.