There are moments in life which touch the soul almost unknowingly. Over the weekend, I was in Mumbai for my book promotional tour. The venue was Crossword book store at Kemps Corner, a wonderful place for bibliophiles in the heart of South Mumbai. I spent an hour talking and taking questions on my book. It was hugely energising to sit amidst book lovers.
You return from the Kashmir valley with a sense of overwhelming melancholia: it is a beautiful but tortured land. What should have been the Switzerland of the sub-continent is a depressed place. The large army presence and the fear of the terrorist has created a universe where anger and resentment co-exist uneasily with traditional Kashmiri hospitality.
The tragic death of Phil Hughes on a cricket field has revived memories of another day. My late father tells me the story of the mood in the Indian team on the 1962 tour of the West Indies when their captain Nari Contractor was hit by a bouncer. As Contractor was rushed to the hospital, my father was next in to bat.
Every 26/11, I offer a silent prayer for the victims of the Mumbai terror attack. Like so many south Mumbaikars, I felt directly connected to the act of terror. A school friend Sunil Parekh died in the attack while dining with his wife at the Oberoi; a college friend Ashok Kamte was one of the senior police officers who was killed; Sabina Sehgal Saikia had been a colleague at the Times of India and Ashok Kapur, a member of our club, Bombay Gymkhana, was also shot dead.
I suddenly felt 'old' this morning when at 5 am I got an sms saying Murli Deora had passed away. Murlibhai was the first politician I became a 'friend' of: you could not but be a friend of the ever smiling Mumbai Congressman if you were a journalist in Mumbai 1980s. Murlibhai, who was then the city Congress chief, knew just about everyone in the city: he had friends and 'contacts' across party and ideological lines.
Here's an honest confession: I hadn't heard of Rampal till the last few days. This is partly due to ignorance, partly because I do remain deeply sceptical of ordinary humans who see themselves as Godmen. I once saw Rajneesh at an airport many, many years ago. He had a beatific face but I just couldn't fathom why he should be seen as a 'God' as some of his followers chose to.
Interviewing some politicians can be injurious to health at times. Over the years, I have had the good fortune of interviewing almost all the country's top netas. Each one poses a different challenge, but few can be as difficult as Mamata Banerjee. At a personal level, Didi has been good to me: she has cooked a Bengali meal for me, makes it a point to call up during Pujo, and even sent me a tin of rosogullas once for my birthday!
We live in a world of 140 characters; where twitter is the new conversation, where attention spans are often reduced to a nano-second, where a 15 second soundbite is seen to be a substitute for a profound observation, where 'Hell Yeah' trends for days! In this age, is there space for a 135,000 word, 350 page book?
Two days ago, I received the first copy of my book. I must confess holding the first copy was a bit like lifting a new born child, utterly joyful. A book is a labour of love, it can emotionally entangle you so completely that it leaves you completely exhausted.
I have followed Narendra Modi's political career since the Ram Janmabhoomi rath yatra in 1990. Through good times and bad, what has always marked him out is a sense of the occasion: Mr Modi knows what will make news perhaps better than any other Indian politician I know.