I am reading a compilation of articles - More Salt than Pepper - by Karan Thapar. The articles have been appearing for many years in Hindustan Times under the title Sunday Sentiments.
Although I had read some of the articles, most were unread. The pieces are not about observations on politics and current affairs but reflections on anything you can think of - humour, people, books, trivia, including politics and current affairs.
The book has clubbed together similar articles under different sections and each section starts with a cartoon; each cartoon reflects an aspect of Thapar’s personality and illustrates the common theme of the articles to follow.
Those of you who are familiar with Karan Thapar and his interviews will find the pieces just like him: incisive, witty, sarcastic, and patronizing and grumbling at times. But above all, the pieces are fun to read and also very short.
Here are the nuggets of some of my favorites.
London the most civilized city in the world:
“I have just returned from a weekend in London, the city I consider the most civilized in the world. Civilized is not just a heritage or history, not merely culture and it’s a lot more than manners and behaviour.
London is a microcosm of the world. Oxford Street is witness to almost every nationality, skin colour, sex and dress style known to man, woman and transgender.
London has the best of everything – television, theatre, museums, shopping even news papers and magazines.
However, it’s the third quality that is the most important of all. It’s the Brutishness of the Londoner – and here I mean the natives – that makes the city truly special. I mean two characteristics – the British upper-lip and their sense of privacy. No matter what happens, they don’t make a fuss. If you spill your red wine over a damask table cloth, your hostess won’t get into a tizzy, If you stumble out of a pub and puke, no one will shout at you. They will just step aside and move on.”
I have never been to London. If you have, let me know your views.
Now in his middle or late fifties (I don't know the exact age), Thapar is a widower for over a decade, but people who don’t know that often ask him whether he is married – and he finds it difficult to answer the question. He doesn’t want to say 'no' because it’s untrue (he is married although his wife has passed away) and also because 'no' is a cruel reminder that his wife is no more which is emotionally wrenching.
Nor can he say 'yes' - because it’s only partially true (his wife is dead). However, he finds 'yes' more appropriate, and he settles for it. But at a party – where he is mostly asked this question – it leads to another question – where is she.
See what happened when he once tried to get out of the ‘yes no’ trap – and plainly said his wife is dead.
But once – and only because I was a wee bit tight – I answered with a bald, blunt, brutal truth. This is how it went.
‘Where is your wife?’
‘What do you mean? When did that happen? Oh God, how terrible! You poor, poor chap.’
The person got into a terrible fluster. In fact, he went beetroot red. I knew I was being heartless but who told him to start (the conversation) by assuming I was married and that my must be around? The fault was his. However, after a bit, I decided to soften the blow.
‘Don’t worry. She died thirteen years ago. You weren’t to know.’
It worked. His face broke into a smile. ‘Well,’ he said, his confidence restored. ‘Time for round two. I’d try again if I were you. You need a woman by your side when you head for the grave. Your second wife is bound to outlive you.
And then she can face the question, “Where’s your husband?’”
Check out this video where Thapar is interviewing his guest. Once you know him, you will be able to relate his views and wit with him.