Monday, 22 August 2016

Wednesday's Child Is Full Of Woe..

This time, I skipped my normal annual birthday piece on `Mitti Pao!’ and was pleasantly surprised to find that it had actually been missed! By the teeming millions (ok 47, give or take) who hang on to my every word.

I kid you not, dear readers.

The fact is that I had struck a bit of a writer’s block, and anything I came up with seemed to be brushed with the blues. Melancholy, as the venerable Thomas Gray, has so succinctly put it, seemed to have marked me for her own!.

Nothing one can put ones finger on. Just happens. Occupational hazards of creeping age, I guess.


Rakhi last year - Puja n Sid
So the other day, when my sisters were over, tying the traditional rakhi, we got talking on the Puri family fads, foibles, disasters and debacles. The jogging of memories, the good humoured ribbing (particularly of those not present). Typical family gup-shup, if you know what I mean.

Leo Tolstoy begins his epic `Anna Karenina’ with the observation `All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’.

As a family, the Puris averaged somewhere in between Tolstoy’s extremes. Neither overtly joyous, nor woefully miserable. Just your typical, lower middle class family struggling to beat the odds.

Happy families, of course, are a rarity. And, let me be a bit snarky here, they can really drive you up a wall!

One can only try and do ones bit, play ones part, hoping that whatever one does fits into the scheme of things, the outlooks of the other players in the game.

At best, it’s a long shot.

Siblings, less Shukla
We are five siblings. The eldest, Shukla is nearing 80, and the youngest, yours truly, has just turned 65. The Puri genes have done well, both on the mortality as well as the morbidity index. We tend to live longer than average, and with fewer chronic maladies.

Touch wood!  

We have also not fared badly in the brains department. My brother is the brightest bulb in the Puri chandelier, with an IQ in the genius range. His scientific fundas, from how integral calculus can help to compute the volume of a samosa, to why jam must be applied to a toast before you butter it, are the stuff of legend.

Siblings less Prem
He recently developed an intricate algorithm to determine in which order we five siblings would kick the bucket. One of my sisters tops the list, and no doubt has been having sleepless nights since. Satish’s theses, nor his prognoses, have ever been proven to be without scientific basis - probably because he’s the only one of us who can actually prove that sin squared theta plus cos squared theta equals one! 

So when we siblings meet, it is not with a `Hi’ or a `Namaste’ but with an `Oh so you’re still among the living!’

The hottest topic these days, of course, is my imminent entry into grandparenthood. It’s just a couple of weeks away, and the debate was on the `when’. The nursery rhyme was quickly recalled (all of us being `Convent school’ types), and a debate started of whether being `fair of face’ trumped being `full of grace’.

To save you the trouble of googling it, here’s the complete rhyme.

Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

That’s when it struck me. My frequent `blue’ patches were quite simply because I was born on 8th August, 1951, which was, you guessed it, a bally Wednesday! (An aside here. So was Mohammed Morsi, the deposed leader of Egypt, which would certainly explain his woes!)

Apart from Mohamed Morsi (we were probably born barely a few hours apart), I also share my birthday with Dustin Hoffman (1937) and Roger Federer (1981).

All that I’ve learnt of life, said Robert Frost, can be summed up in just three words – it goes on.

We are simply too old to carry grudges. Look at life through the windscreen, and not the rear view mirror. So learn to let go of any negativity that holds you back.

A few homilies I uttered last year bear repeating.

What `people’ think is not half as important as your own convictions. Facades that cannot or will not stand up on their own should not be propped up, they will just wear you down.

Never underestimate the wisdom in that old adage - Those that matter don't mind, those that mind don't matter!

Dare to dream, to look ahead, there is always a future out there, and the future lies, where else, WITHIN US!

As only the great Faiz Ahmed Faiz coud have put it,

Nahin nigaah mein manzil, toh justaju hi sahi
Nahin visaal mayaasar, toh aarzoo hi sahi..

My (rough) translation, though the great Faiz defies any such attempts, would be..

Destinies and destinations, may at loggerheads lie
But the search, the hope, the belief cannot die..

Cheers folks, and a here’s wishing me a Happy 65th!!


  1. Wonderful article. And many happy returns of the day belatedly.
    Nahin nigah me manjil to justju hi sahi.

  2. Sir, please connect with FAUJI INDIA Magazine at

    Would like engage with you for articles etc.

    Jai Hind!

    Team Fauji India

    1. Is this magazine is related with soldiers of India....?
      Please let me know more details about your magazine. Thanks

  3. Great piece, Harish Bhai. And I had always wondered if you and Col Satish Puri were brothers.

  4. Glad to know your Puri lineage is hale and hearty. Aap jeeyo hazaaron saal, saal mai din ho ek hazaar :)