A relationship to cherish
Khushwant Singh

How 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 middle-class people
All novels of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala are based on middle-class people

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 hell.

It was evident that neither of them subscribed to it.


Becoming rich

Why not become rich overnight;

And lead a life, lavish and bright;

For which there are opportunities galore;

For instance, on paper build a colony;

Or float a fake company;

And run away with the needy;

And greedy peoples' money;

And like Bacha, the A. Raja aide;

Be in murder or suicide paid;

Ours is a free country;

So it is great opportunity;

To use scam or bribery;

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;

And the builders of a great nation.

(Courtesy: 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."

The pharmacist asked: "Why in the world do you need cyanide?"

She replied: "I need it to poison my husband."

The 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."

The lady 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, Delhi)