Thursday, February 14, 2008


Today I had occasion to visit a lawyer's office. The last thing I expected was for it to be a pleasant experience. The office was in a beautiful (and beautifully kept) building that smelt wonderfully of coffee, on an arterial road in Mumbai's Fort district. On the textured white walls were framed paintings and engravings of lawyers, courtrooms, and judges, all very nineteenth-century-British-looking in a grave and quiet way. They fit the context, since it was a British building in the Fort, and the partners all belong to communities that comprised Bombay's genteel elites even during the Raj. The high-ceilinged office reflected the genteelness (is that a word?), and was calming. I saw no art there that I could call modern-looking. But right inside the door was a poem - soothing thoughts that were not at all what I expected to find in a law office. It was Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata":

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

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