The Difficulty Of Being Good


An interesting experience from the “Horror File”, in my Secret Diary:

I shall call him Corporate-Executive-Turned-Pseudo-Intellectual. Though I had read him much before I had read Ayn Rand or Mises, I remembered him only when I was doing a “story” on FDI. When I said that I had read three of his books, he talked with much enthusiasm. But, I did not know that it was because he wanted a plug job for his book series. He invited me for the launch of his book series on the history of Indian business near the Lodhi Gardens in the evening. I will not tell you his name, but as a side note, I will just say that it is NOT Gurcharan Das.

When I met him, I said, “We had met before, at IIT Madras. Early 2006. You looked much younger then.” He winced, and said, moving backward, “Younger? Am I old now?” I said, “No. You do not look old now. But, you looked much younger, stronger.”

“Did I become very old in seven years?”

“No. I did not mean to say that.”

“I was 62 then. I am 69 now. You will become old too. Everyone will become old at some point in their lives.” he said apprehensively, counting the fingers on his hands. “Seven”, he said.

“I know. I was just…..” I said.

When I was talking to him, I saw my prime detractor standing near us. I said, “Hi” thinking, “Bastard!” He turned his face, embarrassed, pretending not to see me. This clever cookie goes to every function in the city. I wondered how he could quickly pretend not to have noticed, without being shaken. He must have had experience, having handled many such situations in his life.

The Corporate-Executive-Turned-Pseudo-Intellectual talked to me as if I were a child, on having his book series reviewed.

Months later, when I called him to talk when I was doing a story on philanthropy, he said that he was busy and that I have to call him the next day. When I called him thrice, he picked up the phone and said that he was busy, and that he will be free at 6: 15 in the evening. When I called him, he did not pick up the call. Finally, when he talked, he asked me to hold the call and started talking to his cook for five minutes on the grocery list.

“Onions, Milk, Potatoes, Sugar, ……..”, he said while coughing occasionally, and making a cheap noise all such senile men make. I remember that Miss Books editor used to stand behind my desk and make such a noise after she had cut my favorite passages. 

I thought, “Sheeesh….Rat!”

I was grinning, thinking that I shall withhold my judgment on him. I recorded the conversation thinking: “Hehe. But, this was not how you had talked to me before. I had reviewed the book you had edited. It was not a positive review. For whatever reason, it did not get published. But, I am sorry, the book was simply not good enough. I agreed to review it only because you have moderately interesting views in a third-world country where the range of publicly debated political positions is quite narrow. But, I will be using you in my writing.”

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