Vicaji Jivanji Taraporevala, my father, is a sprightly 97-year-old. He is the author of five books on legal topics and another on humorous stories about life in the law courts. A seventh book has just been completed and awaits publication, and he has started work on his eighth book.
My father was born in 1923, one of nine siblings. My paternal grandmother had a long (she passed away at 98) and happy life but said that never a day went by that she did not remember the child she lost when he was just seven years old. My paternal grandfather was a lawyer who sustained and looked after not only his large family but a large number of my father’s relations who were less well off. My father is still amazed at how they all managed to be fed, schooled, and brought up. My uncles and aunts became engineers, teachers, and businessmen. My father was the only sibling who followed my grandfather’s profession and became a lawyer.
Many of the twentieth century’s greatest events were lived through and experienced by my father. His elder brother fought for the British Army in Burma (Myanmar) in World War II. My father experienced the riots and upheavals, leading to the independence of India from the British. He attended inspiring speeches given by Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders in the maidans and public halls of Bombay (Mumbai). He saw with dismay how India’s independence turned into nationalization and remembers how in the 1970s, an Indian Prime Minister turned democracy into a brief dictatorship. Lessons from here he feels need to be examined by the U.S. today.
He has lived through the cold war, the economic rise of China and now the rush of populism that has engulfed the U.S. He is passionate about cricket and tennis. He remembers being taken to see the first test match between England and India in 1933. He still cheers while watching Wimbledon on T.V. and can discuss the tennis prowess of players from Rod Laver to Roger Federer.
Despite having lived through a bloody twentieth century and experiencing our tumultuous covid-19 times, my father remains positive that his grandchildren and other youth of today will do better and that the world will move forward towards greater liberty under the rule of law. What words might he give us as we move into 2021? He gave me the following:
Be of Good Cheer
By good cheer, I mean a mind with gentle thoughts about the past and the present. It is a genuinely happy, always unagitated spirit. Think and live in the present in a creative manner.
Kindness Spreads Goodwill and Peace In the World and In One’s Mind
When I was young, I had a hot temper. It did me and those around me no good. The family helped gently correct me. I also fell under the positive influence of a work called “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen. Allen’s tenets are those I still strive to live by. They are: As you think, you become, and, As you love, you then act.
Stay Physically and Mentally Active
Until 20 years ago, my wife and I used to swim every day. Now I do my own exercises in the morning when I wake up and again after my afternoon nap. I then take a short, vigorous walk in the evening. I also read and write every day. I believe that it is most important to intellectually occupy one’s mind as an unoccupied mind is a dangerous wandering vagabond.
Remember the Difference Between Obsession and Focus
If you are obsessed, you cloud your mind and cannot keep your vision and concepts with all their main and detailed aspects. In such a state, you cannot effectively resolve problems. Focus, on the other hand, is required to keep the aim and goal constantly before you. Otherwise, you get waylaid into the irrelevant.
Have Sweet Patience
Let patience have its perfect work. By overstepping, we may miss steps on a ladder and fall. By patience, I mean the careful, wakeful march of progress. By patience, we can attend to necessary details as well, and as Einstein demonstrated, lift your head and take a comprehensive view of what you have done. This enables you to correct mistakes and add what needs to be done.
Cultivate Strong Positive Habits of the Mind
If one is negative or with anger, one cannot think with clarity or creativity. Depression too dampens one’s enthusiasm and zeal, which are needed to continue living and working usefully and happily. With a positive mind, one can face whatever destiny throws at us.
We all have our weaknesses. We cannot help it. We are all mortal, mundane, and human. To err, however unwise, is human. This is the reason for humility and for embracing the lessons life gives us.
After each visit to meet my father, when I am about to leave, my father says the following, which I now share and also wish for all of you:
Great good health in mind and body
Prosperity, prosperity, prosperity
A very happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2021 to all.
© Kaikhushru Taraporevala