There are five men in New Delhi who redefine what it is to be old and give hope to those younger that the best is yet to be. All of them are above 90. All of them are active and alert. And, all of them have that mellowness that comes with a life well lived and successfully. These are: MK Rasgotra, former foreign secretary of India; Karan Singh, politician, writer, poet, and statesman par excellence; KP Singh, chairman emeritus of real estate giant DLF; K Natwar Singh, former external affairs minister of India and writer, and Prem Prakash, founder of India’s leading news agency, Asian News International (ANI).
I have the good fortune of knowing all of them well. Rasgotra is the oldest at 98. The other four were all born in 1931, making them 91. There is so much to say about each of them. I have often asked myself what makes them tick even at this ripe old age? Certainly, genetics — and some luck — must play a part. But there must be something more. It is not as if they have lived insulated from the normal turbulence of life: Loss, grief, loneliness, failure and disappointment. I believe what sets them apart are three things: A positive attitude to life and to what it still has to offer; the ability to set themselves a goal and work tirelessly to achieve it; and discipline.
Rasgotra saheb, a neighbour, still hosts intimate and elegant lunches. He attends dinners, has a glass or two of wine, and carries a walking stick, making him look even more patrician. Karan Singh, the best President the country never got, still writes incessantly and is much in demand for public lectures. KP Singh is the fittest of them all. Over six feet tall, he stands ramrod straight and can play 18 holes of golf even today. His irrepressible zest for life is summed up in a mantra he gave me: QTR, Quality Time Remaining. K Natwar Singh writes a regular column and is a voracious reader and commentator. And, Prem Prakash attends office regularly.
These are men who are involved as witnesses to an era. Fortunately, they have all written about their eventful lives. MK Rasgotra has penned A Life in Diplomacy. Karan Singh has written his autobiography. KP Singh has recorded his journey in Whatever the Odds: The Incredible Story Behind DLF. Natwar Singh has retold his life in One Life is Not Enough. And, Prem Prakash has documented his career in Reporting India: My Seventy-Year Journey as a Journalist.
These are inspiring books. They have much to teach us if we want to know the secret of success and long life.
The Diwali Whirl: The festive season is always a busy time. There were three book launches I attended: The talented Amish Tripathi launched his latest, War of Lanka, former law minister Ashwini Kumar, a friend from college, released his new books, Book of Wisdom and Ehsas-e-Izhar, and poet-writer Ashok Lal, his latest work, Raushnai.
Suhel Seth and his charming wife Lakshmi, a top model, hosted their annual festive dinner. Leading lawyer, Rajiv Nayyar, and his wife Kavita were gracious hosts at their Diwali bash. Former United Nations bureaucrat Bhaichand Patel, an inveterate party-giver, celebrated his 86th birthday with elan. Noted Bharatnatyam dancer, Pratibha Prahlad, served delectable South Indian food at her do. And Smita and Sanjeev Prakash, who run ANI, had their Diwali celebration.
Pioneering journalist Madhu and Naresh Trehan, of Medanta fame and one of India’s leading cardiac surgeons, have small dinners, classy but not showy. They have rebuilt their house, and it is an aesthetic delight. Their architect was their exceptionally talented daughter, Shonan Trehan. The amazing wave-like exterior brick work, the lines written on the main door — Om sarve bhavantu sukhinah and Vaishnava jan to tene kahiye, the designing of the floors and the ceilings, all create an ambience that is a triumph of detailing and good taste.
My choicest Diwali greetings to all readers.
Pavan K Varma is author, diplomat, and former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha).Just Like That is a weekly column where Varma shares nuggets from the world of history, culture, literature, and personal reminiscences with HT Premium readersThe views expressed are personal
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