In Journalism-school, one of the things they drill into you is the difference between a private person and public figure.  A private person is given all kinds of allowances when it comes to writing a piece.  A public figure, less so.  You handle a private person (the average Joe Bloe) with kid-gloves because the assumption is that they aren’t used to dealing with the press.  You run their quotes by them; you make sure that they understand the context in which they are being used and so forth.  Public figures don’t merit as much hand-holding.

Sometimes thought, the lines between the two categories of people blurs.  My friend, Stanley Pinto, is one who falls in the middle.  He is a private person for sure.  He is retired and leads a life of leisure in the best sense of the term: listens to jazz, reads widely, rabble rouses, collects art, drinks wine, acts in plays, has a memory for trivia, and organizes The Bangalore Black Tie to dine on the last Saturday of every month.

There are two people who I look upon as role models of my life after retirement.  One is Stan.  And the other is Rameshbhai Kacholia of Bombay.  Ramesh Uncle founded and runs Caring Friends of Bombay.  Stan run TBBT.  Both Stan and Ramesh-Uncle are very similar in some ways and very different in others.  They both know what they want and have fashioned their lives to gain it.  They are both men of deep faith and are also very secular.  They try to influence the world.

Now, to the point of this post.  Ok, I get fan-mail.  But below is one that Stan wrote, which I am posting here.  For three reasons.  One, Stan pointed out mistakes in the book– he was right; they were embarrassing; and I am not going to state which ones they were.  Second, Stan is not one for political correctness.  He has famously picked fights and they are always amusing.  Third, I like the way he writes.  And fourth, he is sort of a public figure, which is the point of what I wrote above.  Hence, I don’t have compunctions posting his message here without his permission.

Someday, I hope to introduce Ramesh-uncle and Stan to each other.

Begin forwarded message:

From: Stanley Pinto
Date: 22 September 2012 10:49:46 AM GMT+05:30
To: Shoba Narayan
Subject: “Return to India”

My dear Shoba,

I used to be a voracious reader of “serious” books. For years I set myself a target of one a week, and usually made it. This, in addition to business magazines like Fortune and International Business World (?) and news mags including TIME, Newsweek, The Economist.
But over the last few years I have found it difficult to even complete a book I had purchased with enthusiasm. Concentration flagged, started to speed read, leaving out many portions – and finally giving  too many of them up half read. The loss is mine, I know, but I can’t seem to deal with it.
Then along came your book. Even though I did speed read much of it, and skipped some segments and paragraphs, I was totally taken with it, and read it to the end. (despite operating on just one good eye for the moment!)
What attracted me? Mainly the manner in which you approached what could easily have been a maudlin and uncomfortable ramble. The reasoning, the angst, the joy of your many discoveries in living in the USA, the ability to set the joys aside and even counter them after internalising them, the clear and unbiased criticism of many things we hold dear as national paradigms in India. And the un-patronising style of the narrative. 
Loved it all, Shoba. It deserves to be widely read. Not just by expatriate Indians wrestling (or not!) with considerations of returning home but people of every country who go away to new pastures for whatever reasons. And, equally important, by Americans and Europeans who need to recognise that even the most enthusiastic immigrants have concerns that they, their hosts, must understand, and respond to, if their societies are to get the best from their new fellows.
It’s why I am copying this message to many others on my Contacts list, in India and abroad. (I hope the latter group can find a way to get your book.)
Well done, Shoba. Congratulations.
Best – Stanley
(The book is Return to India, published in India by Raintree, an imprint of Rupa Publications. An elegant, handsomely designed hardback, described quite accurately as “vivid and eloquent. . . a powerful reflection of a country lost, and then found, by a writer of exceptional talent“. Price in India: Rs 399.00 the equivalent of less than USD 8.00! The author is Shoba Narayan, who has contributes features over the last decade and more in Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, Conde Nast Traveller, and more.)      

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