When you are a journalist, it is ‘maha’ easy to come to the conclusion that a good life is not about getting rich or staying rich—it is about filling your life with rich experiences.
It is easy, not because we are “the most dishonest human beings on Earth”, as certified by the ‘short-fingered vulgarian’ now showing the civilised world his middle one.
It is easy, simply because we know of no other way of rationalising our pathetic fiscal fitness than by using the one commodity honest “news traders” deal in: words.
As a punny man in the office once said, “They call it a ‘pay slip’ because the pay slips out of your pocket even before you can reach the ATM.”
So, bad news, non-journalists: you have effectively wasted half your allotted time on the third rock from the sun, chasing the most worthless things under it.
You should have asked us.
A life well lived is not only about big bungalows, country homes, fast cars, chunky watches, elite clubs, luxe brands or exotic holidays—but lasting Experiences.
Experiences with a capital ‘e’.
Material acquisitions have their place, sure, but they also have a price; they are things the guy in the next cubicle can buy, give or take a few stock options, and who hasn’t heard of the one thing money can’t?
Thankfully, (super-rich) doctors are with us on this.
They say great Experiences, ones which give you a warm, pleasurable feeling when you think about them years later, can provide lasting happiness, as opposed to the passing joy that the consolidated monthly statement brings.
(Sadly, the doctors themselves don’t seem to have the time and/or the inclination to test out the psycho-babble they comfort ordinary mortals with.)
Since not all of us are “presstitutes”, as declared by a General asshole who clearly frequented them in civilian clothes, yours truly has spent the better part of the 30 years racking up cashless Experiences along the way.
In no particular order, a few spring to mind instantly:
# Talking to Neil Armstrong alone in a hotel room (on Earth)
# Bowling leg spin (twice) to a young Sachin Tendulkar
# Drinking in a Chicago bar Al Capone sat every night
# Listening to Bhimsen Joshi, live, three times in one week
# Ordering gin in a joint called Rick‘s in the real Casablanca
# Standing atop the “world’s leakiest nuclear reactor”
# Watching the opening day of a Boxing Day Ashes Test at MCG followed by lunch with Greg Chappell
# Pronouncing Salman Khan ‘guilty’ as a judge on Rajat Sharma‘s Aap ki Adalat
# Smelling an adult tiger’s urine seconds after it has pissed in the wild
# Hearing Dilip Kumar noisily eat soup from a bowl at your table after begging pardon
# Bumping into and shaking hands with Denzel Washington at a New York traffic light
# Allowing Dhirubhai Ambani to overtake you to work for three years
# Helping Merryl Streep practice her lines before a film shoot
OK, OK, not the last one, at least not yet.
Admittedly, there is some major-league preening here (for which, my apologies, mitron) and admittedly, a couple of these were accidents in the line of duty.
But the thing about Experiences is they are personal, exclusive. The thrill is difficult to explain to others, and they are nearly impossible to replicate.
Experiences are not Accomplishments, but they sure beat selfies as the apogee of personal achievement.
I have several more Experiences in mind. For years, I have wanted to attend ‘Neujahrskonzert’, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual New Year concert but every year I have lost in the lottery for the tickets.
I surely would like to do a Grand Slam—watch Wimbledon, the Australian, French and US Opens in the same calendar year—before the Great Referee upstairs calls time.
And maybe Ilayaraja will one day invite me to be part of a chorus, as promised.
This long yarn is by way of introduction to a gargantuan Experience I had last week in Thailand, where we had gone for my co-conspirator Aniruddha Bahal‘s 50th birthday.
We were in the lovely island of Koh Samui, in the Gulf of Thailand, and among the activities lined up was a day safari with a stomach-churning crocodile show.
And then, this happened.
All the zeroes at the end of your bank balance count for nothing if you haven’t gone under an adorable baby’s foot.