THIS ABOVE ALL
A relationship to
long have we known each other?" asked the Jhabvalas, who
were on their annual visit to Delhi. They had lived in Delhi for
many years. Their three daughters were born here. He was an
architect. She, a novelist. All her novels were based on
middle-class people. Her best-known novel Heat and Dust
won her the Booker Prize. Most of her novels were made into
films by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory.
Ismail died in
his early 50s. It broke Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s heart. Then
suddenly, for reasons unknown to me, they decided to migrate to
the US and set up home in New York. Their eldest daughter Renana
decided to stay in India to work for Ela Bhatt's Sewa and
shifted to Ahmedabad. She married Harish Khare, who had worked
for Hindustan Times and The Hindu and is today
media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
All novels of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala are based on
So they come on
an annual visit to see her as well as other friends they had. At
one time their friends included Nirad Chaudhry and his wife
Mehra Masani, myself and my wife. All are gone, only I remain.
So they make it a point to spend an evening with me, take my
daughter Mala Dayal and grand-daughter Naina Dayal out for
dinner at India International Centre.
I repeated my
question: "How long have we known each other?" Jhab
waived his hands to indicate he had no idea. Ruth had no doubt
and replied: "Fiftyone years." So I calculated we had
known each other for over half-a-century. I know Ruth has a
strong sense of her Jewish identity, and I asked her: "Are
you religious?" She replied: "Not really."
"Do you believe in God?" "I am not sure,"
she replied evasively. "What happens to us when we
die?" Jhab gave me the Zoroastrian belief. There is a
half-way bridge where dead persons — good or bad — are
sorted out. The good ones are sent to heaven. The bad ones to
It was evident
that neither of them subscribed to it.
Why not become
And lead a
life, lavish and bright;
For which there
are opportunities galore;
on paper build a colony;
Or float a fake
And run away
with the needy;
And like Bacha,
the A. Raja aide;
Be in murder or
Ours is a free
So it is great
To use scam or
And climb atop
the fortune's tree;
It is time that
the swindlers of the country unite;
And for their
statues in Sansad Bhawan fight;
For, they are
God's chosen creation;
builders of a great nation.
Kuldip Salil, Delhi)
A nice, calm
and respectable lady went into the pharmacy, walked up to the
pharmacist, looked straight into his eyes and said: "I
would like to buy some cyanide."
asked: "Why in the world do you need cyanide?"
"I need it to poison my husband."
pharmacist's eyes got big and he exclaimed: "Lord, have
mercy! I can't give you cyanide to kill your husband. That is
against the law. I will lose my licence. They will throw both of
us in jail. All kinds of bad things will happen. Absolutely not!
You cannot have any cyanide."
reached into her purse and pulled out a picture of her husband
in bed with the pharmacist's wife. The pharmacist looked at the
picture and replied: "Well, now, that's different. You
didn't tell me you had a prescription."
(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey,