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A New Year’s Resolution for 2012

Originally posted on 5 Jan 2012 :

A New Year’s Resolution for 2012

Inspired by a ‘Middle’ written by Raj Chatterjee 35 years ago

It is said that ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’. In the same vein, borrowing words and ideas from an eminent writer is a tribute to his genius, and not plagiarism, if the source is duly acknowledged. My resolution this year is based on a ‘middle’ written by Raj Chatterjee (1915-2011) and published by the Times of India about 35 years ago. I first read a 550- word story written by him in the early seventies, and got hooked on to him. For those who may like to know, let me introduce him, briefly.

With a ‘Bong- brahmin’ name, Mr. Chatterjee was born in a Christian family in Punjab, and was educated in Delhi. He joined the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun in 1934, but was discharged from military service because the doctors discovered a ‘murmur’ in his heart. He then went to England and wrote the Civil Services examination along with the indomitable Khushwant Singh. They both failed to qualify. On the rebound, he did a course in marketing and joined the Imperial Tobacco Company. Back home he became a sales manager in the ITC and earned the title “boxwalla” because marketing executives carried their documents in boxes, those days. At the peak of his corporate career, Raj left the company to become a full time writer, in 1964. He was at once accepted as the uncrowned king of ‘middle’ writers.

Mr Chatterjee was kind enough to go through my first ever ‘middle’ article and offer some critical comments. When it was published, we exchanged a few letters. I once suggested that his middles be published in the form of a book, but he felt that such pieces are best read in  newspapers. Later, however, the youngest of his four daughters compiled a collection of his middles which was published as “The Boxwalla and the Middleman” by Penguin, with a foreword by Khushwant, a couple of years ago.

Raj Chatterjee chose to take the long road to nowhere on 27 April 2011 at the ripe old age of 96. The ‘murmur’ in his heart did not diminish his longevity, in any way.  As a tribute to his memory, I have decided to abide by the dictums which he enunciated in a piece entitled, “My Five Point Programme” which I read sometime during the mid-seventies. I do not have a copy of that brilliant ‘middle’ and my words may not be as good as his, but the spirit is the same. Indeed, I have taken the liberty of adding two points to the original five, but ensured that they appear in the alphabetical sequence, as enunciated by him.

 Seven Maxims for the Year 2012

By Surjit, based on a ‘middle’ by the late Raj Chatterjee

Always let your spouse have the last word in an argument. Let your soul-mate win for the sake of harmony. Note that the word ‘harmony’ is derived from the Hindi words ‘haar’ + ‘maani’ and therefore, when you accept defeat; conflict will at once be replaced by tenderness and bonhomie. By all means, do exactly what was in your mind when the quarrel began, because there is a good chance that by that time, your other half would have forgotten all about the disagreement. Remember, it is elephants, and not Homo sapiens, who are known for long memories!

Be very careful when talking to people who are younger than you. They are far more intelligent and discerning than what you were at their age. They may address you as ‘Sir’ or add ‘ji’ when talking to you in Indian languages, but that does not mean that they look up to you for advice or inspiration. In the current era of computers, knowledge flows from the Internet, and it is difficult for us to compete with those who are smarter on the keyboard. If you feel very strongly about something, send out a group e-mail, so that your younger friends have the option to ignore your ‘pearls of wisdom’.

Call no one happy, until he or she is dead. Looks are deceptive. People are able to put up a brave front, even when they are in extreme agony. Do not envy your neighbor or colleague for his sprawling mansion or swank car. That wealthy person may have a shrew or a devil for a spouse, while yours is a docile creature.

Daydream as much as you like. Recent research has conclusively proved that day dreaming is not wholly evil. The problem begins when you start believing in your fantasies. As long as you can make a clear distinction between your flight of the imagination and the harsh real world around you, no harm will come to you. In fact, it is possible that you may come out with a creative idea in a daydream. Castles in the sky are near the abode of Gods.

Enjoy to the hilt when any brief moment of happiness which comes your way. Daphne Du Maurier observed, “The point is, that life has to be endured, and lived; but how to live is the problem” And so if, in the midst of the drudgery which abounds around you like the leaves of a dead calendar, there is an interlude of ecstasy, savor its luscious taste to your heart’s content.

Forgive and forget all that hurts you. An excellent memory may be good for passing examinations, but it is a pain, when it interferes with psychological well being. I do not know whether the ability to forgiven is divine, but the fact is that it brings great relief to the nerve and the sinew. If the memory of an evil word or act of a friend has hurt you, write it down on a piece of paper, as catharsis, and then destroy the paper. As a more practical solution, our mother suggested that such words should be written on sand or water. In the world of computers, we have an additional option: Just key in all that is hurting you, and then click the ‘delete’ key.

Give more; and seek less from life. The balance of payment in any transaction must always favor the others. If you do not have pots of money to dole out, gentle words and kindly eyes are good enough as offerings. Mother Teresa said,” There is more hunger for love and appreciation in the world than bread”

 … And let us pray for the well being of all creatures on the earth

  1. Dr. Amarjit Singh says:

    The final conclusion and sentence sounds like the right observation.
    Best wishes.

  2. Lt Gen Jagdish Chander says:

    Dear Sir,

    Wishing you and the family a Happy,Healthy,Joyful and Great Year(s) Ahead.

    It is indeed a blessing receiving your greetings; which I opened only today for (a) I am not very regular with the emails these days and (b) I am still some what down with annual-winter-viral-bonanza/gift.

    Read the beautiful middle of Raj Chatterjee and was so happy to see that you continue to enjoy your love for flavour of old school charm and zest for finest in life.

    May you always carry on like this; and be an inspiration for all of us( -your first termer at NDA)

    Uma joins me in greeting you and Mrs Surjit Singh for a wonderful year ahead with very warm regards.

    God bless Sir
    Jagdish

  3. Dave Sood says:

    Happy New year!

    These points are valid even today and for the future.

    Never read his middles but he has a great happy style of writing .

  4. Sandeep Unnithan says:

    Sir,
    Thanks.
    Wish you a very Happy New Year.
    Sandeep

  5. Harman says:

    Enjoyed reading the article Sir- so very meaningful except that whether spouse has the first, middle or the last word in an argument- in present times if one feels he can do the thing which led to the quarrel in first place, it mayn’t come about.
    Regards

  6. AVM SK Sharma says:

    Thanks a lot. I enjoyed reading your resolution.
    Regards.
    SKS

  7. Rashmi Oberoi says:

    Thank you so much dear Uncle. Your blessings always mean a lot to me.
    Thank you for the link.

    I loved reading it.

    Warm Regards,
    Rashmi

  8. J Thomas says:

    Raj Chatterjee, Khushwant Singh and you make a good troika.

  9. Chinnappa Kuppanda says:

    Happy new year Sir, I hope you and Mrs Surjit are well.
    Interesting article, but seriously I never knew there was something called a middle. I wonder whether novel and short are the other ends of the spectrum.
    Cheers

  10. Maj Gen S C Jain says:

    Respected Sir,

    Thank you very for the good wishes and we reciprocate in equal measures.

    Wishing a Happy, Prosperous, Delightful, Energetic and Blissful New-Year 2018 to you and your family.

    May God give immense peace, serenity, success, God speed, boundless Happiness & Joy.

    Our prayers shall always be with you in all your future endeavors.

  11. Vijay Krishna says:

    Dear Gen Surjit , Tks we Heartily Reciprocate and Wish you and ur loved ones a delightful happy Prosperous 2018 , Vijay Neelu

  12. Bhanu Kumar Rai says:

    GREETINGS WARMLY RECIPROCATED,

  13. PremParkash Batra says:

    Thank you, Sir.

    Reciprocate New Years Best Wishes with heart & soul.

    Sir, could you say something about yourself.

  14. Harash Vir Singh says:

    Dear General,

    Read the resolutions. They may have been inspired by another, but are profound indeed.

    Memories of my tenure with SDD come back when interaction with you made me a much more complete person. The atmosphere there was indeed the best. Nowhere in my entire service did I experience the freedom to speak my mind and the satisfaction at the end of the day. You made us all feel important and as if we were contributing to the larger cause.

    Have now finally quit my post army job and moved to Chandigarh. Would love to call on you and catch up.

    Wishing you and Mrs Surjit the very best for a superb 2018 and beyond.

    With warm regards,

    Harash

  15. Soorkhan Suri says:

    Dear Surjit ji,

    Gratitude for your spirit & splendid reminder on this day.

    Wishing the saint & adherent followers a path nobility.

    soorkhan.
    Bishkek.

  16. R mehta says:

    Dear Sir,
    Wishing you and the family a very happy and healthy New Year.
    Regards,
    RK.

  17. Surendra T.S says:

    Wish you and Mrs Surjit a very happy 2K18 Sir.

    Surendra & Latha

  18. Gurmeet Kanwal says:

    Thank you, Sir! Warmly reciprocated. Best wishes for 2018 — good health, happiness and success. God bless. Neelu and Gurmeet Kanwal

  19. Seema Singh says:

    Colourful like the rainbow
    and brilliant like the sun
    Fragrant as roses and
    filled with cheer and fun.
    May there be happiness
    the whole year through
    Wishing you a very Happy New Year 2018
    regard Seema n Paramjit

  20. SBS Kochar says:

    sir. pleasure to read your message. wish you a happy new year
    sbsk

  21. Prabal C Sen says:

    Sir, wishing you and Madam a very happy new year.

    Regards
    Prabal Sen

  22. Surendra Rishi says:

    Hi Surjit,

    Thanks for sharing!

    Bala joins me in wishing you and Surinderji a very happy New year

  23. Perminder Singh says:

    Wish you Surjit & Surinder and your family, a very special Year! – - – - from – — – ‘Old Lang Syne’- — – -

    Robert Burns sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum with the remark, “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.”[8] Some of the lyrics were indeed “collected” rather than composed by the poet; the ballad “Old Long Syne” printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns’ later poem,[6] and is almost certainly derived from the same “old song”.

    Should old acquaintance be forgot,
    and never brought to mind?
    Should old acquaintance be forgot,
    and old lang syne?

    CHORUS:
    For auld lang syne, my dear,
    for auld lang syne,
    we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
    for auld lang syne.
    And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
    and surely I’ll buy mine!
    And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
    for auld lang syne.

    CHORUS
    We two have run about the slopes,
    and picked the daisies fine;
    But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
    since auld lang syne.

    CHORUS
    We two have paddled in the stream,
    from morning sun till dine†;
    But seas between us broad have roared
    since auld lang syne.

    CHORUS
    And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
    And give me a hand o’ thine!
    And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
    for auld lang syne.

    CHORUS

  24. Harikumar Krishnannair says:

    Thank you Sir for sharing such a great piece. Great thoughts.
    We wish you s Great New Year ahead.
    Warm Regards
    Harikumar

  25. yoginder sharma says:

    Dear Surjit and Surinder

    May 2018 be a blessed Year, for you and yours, in every way and respect. Good health, happiness, peace of mind and contentment be your heritage and legacy. Om Shanti!

    Yogi

  26. Jai Oberoi says:

    Gen & Mrs Surjit
    Got your good wishes here in NewYork where we are spending some time with our son Vivek.
    Couldn’t have got warmer greetings and more practical advice. The latter also thanks to the middleman Mr Raj Chatterjee.
    So, Uma & I very warmly reciprocate your wishes and look forward another year with friends and family. I think I can be presumptuous to include you in both categories.
    Love
    Jai Sheel

  27. Samresh Sinha says:

    Hats off to your resolve. Wish you a very happy New Year 2018 and success in your mission

  28. kulbir singh says:

    Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous New year full of joy, excellence of health and prosperity.

  29. Brilliant & so practicable, Surjitji.
    Thank you so much.

    Wishing you a healthy, happy, prosperous & joyful 2017.

  30. Dear Surjit,
    Thanks for remembering us. Yes, I have a copy of advice from the blog for refereance (just to mention about the extent I liked it); adhering to it… I suppose it is for others to notice difference in my behaviour!
    Nice of you to comunicate ‘Good Wishes’ which I need as badly as always.We do sincerely reciprocate them. Best Regards.

    Moru

  31. Dear Course mate General Surjit Singh,
    Please accept my Good Wishes for a very happy and prosperous New Year 2018.

    I read your Resolution from beginning to end with great care. Every resolution has a great meaning. I think not a word is extra and not a word has been left out of it which ought to have been there in the noble context that you have written.

    With your permission may I adopt it, this New Year, albeit with one modification; “let your spouse, without argument, have both the “first” as well as the “last word’ .

    With warm regards.

    BDM

    Course Mate

  32. Brilliant indeed. Many thanks sir for sharing.

    Raj

  33. Thank you Sir,

    Wonderfully narrated. I remember Mr Raj Chatterjee’s middles very well. However, I like your seven principles as I adhere to most of them.

    We wish wish you and the family a Very Safe, Prosperous and Happy 2018.

    Please keep our soldiers and their families in your prayers through the years.

    Ata & Sabiha Hasnain

  34. Lt. Col. HS Bedi says:

    Dear Surjit,

    What a wonderful blog. All the dictums are do-able if we want to lead a peaceful life!

    Happy New Year to you and Surinder ji.

    Harindar

  35. Lt. Col. HS Bedi says:

    Dear Surjit,

    What a wonderful blog. All the dictums are do-able if we want to lead a peaceful life!

    Happy New Year to you and Surinder ji.

    Harindar

  36. soorkhan says:

    A blissful reminder Surjiji, for bliss of peace and attainment of a purposeful lifespan.

  37. PT Gangadharan says:

    Sir,

    These resolutions are pearls of wisdom which transcends time.Great work.

    Gangadharan

  38. Parminder Singh says:

    Delighted and enlightened as ever on reading your blog.Thanks ever so much for sharing it.Incidentally I too was a fan of Raj Chatterji and never failed to read his :middles:Will try to get hold of the book publshed by his daughter.
    Happy New Year,have a great year,have a great life.

  39. Neeraj Varshney says:

    Very well written Sir. Wish you a rocking 2018.
    Nasim Taleb also writes in ‘Fooled By Randomness’ that human beings enjoy or suffer in relativity and comparison. If I remove your neighbours and peers from the equation a simple Maruti car will give greater happiness than a BMW car. Most human misery is due to us running on a Hedonistic treadmill.

  40. colls says:

    My whole view of the middle piece is
    JUST HOLD ON TO THE ”MIDDLE”
    THERE WILL ONLY BE
    PEACE
    you may spell as
    PIECE
    but sure enough
    I have often quoted
    LOUDLY
    to all those who were deaf
    ”I AM THE BOSS OF THIS HOUSE
    and in smaller words
    softly spoken
    ”I have my wife’s permission
    to say so…
    SO MAKE your resolutions
    each one to his own
    there is no better solution
    till date known
    HOW to live life
    but
    D O N O T MOAN
    GOOD BYE 2017
    WE ARE JUST ABOUT TO USHER IN
    2018
    Ameen

  41. K D Singh says:

    Excellent material and composition! Even limited compliance with the Seven Maxims above will go a long way in increased happiness and success in life. Congratulations Surjit. Happy New Year.

  42. Ashoka Kumar says:

    Thanks a lot for reinforcing, well almost, all my beliefs for living a blessed life. Happy new year.

  43. yoginder says:

    Priceless words of practical wisdom-thank you for sharing, Surjit.
    Whether or not/how much one can follow/implement shall depend on respective sanskars/vasanas/gunas?
    None can right those but each one, from within oneself.
    yogi

  44. Surinder says:

    Life is not as simple as you make it out to be!
    Sages down the ages have been going to great lengths to discover the right path, and they aver that “The path to salvation is as difficult as walking on the edge of a razor” (Kathopanishad)

  45. SK Chawla says:

    The one sentence of Mother Teresa is more powerful than the rest of the story. Just look at what happens to a person when you praise him!
    Remember the sweeper in “Munnabhai MBBS” whom the hero commended for his work?

  46. Hemant Sharma says:

    Surjit very well put across-thank you. I also used to read Raj Chatterjee’s middle. May even have a few of his middles some where in my old cuttings.
    The way I look at it – we all generally know the correct course of action but just when we have to act the instinct takes over. And I find getting old does help in getting the correct answers.
    I definitely shy away from advising any one- especially young, as you rightly put it.

  47. J Thomas says:

    Thanks for the pearls of wisdom. I have also enjoyed reading Raj Chatterjee’s middles. Your additions do him justice.
    Best wishes for 2012

  48. KKKhanna says:

    Hi Sir,

    Good advice indeed. let us see how much can be implemented.

    The biggest problems are in implementation, not in knowing what to do.

    Happy 2012!

    KKK

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