A 95-year-old writer shares a lifetime’s worth of perspective.

Conscience is inborn. It enters with our first breath and remains as a guiding light. It always points to the truth. Heed it. Your first instinct is the right one; before the mind brings its motives of self-interest. It is a hard task master; not comfortable to live with. Guilt is its companion. Be on guard for motives. True altruism, or a cloak for a hidden agenda? It is so easy to rationalise ones desires.

Like conscience, happiness is inborn. We spend our lives seeking it, sometimes selling our souls for this elusive Nirvana. Yet, unknown, it often enters our lives, its touch as light as a butterfly’s. A baby’s smile brings forth instant joy and a responsive reaching out. True friendship warms the heart. Treasure it. The beauty of nature brings a calm soothing happiness for the wonders of creation. Above all, feel the joy of giving. Give when you see need, give without expectation of return. Give even when it hurts — and then forget about it. That is the hardest part. An appreciative word, a gesture of affection makes life so much easier.

Renowned philanthropists, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, establish foundations which will continue to manage their vast wealth for charities around the world. Our own House of Tata is a shining example. In a recent interview with Rockefeller representatives, Ratan Tata mentioned that 4.5 per cent of their income went to charities.

The world needs more goodness, less greed and lust for power, which have engulfed our country in a sea of corruption. The next bought election is not the answer. We need to pray for an Avatar.

Everyone wants to be happy, yet we sow the seeds of our own unhappiness. Life’s sharp edges can rub us raw but angry response will solve no problems.

Nurturing grudges is like ingesting slow poison. It affects the health, robs the day of joy and makes for dreary companionship. Once we decide to forgive and forget, suddenly a load is lifted from our shoulders. Love enters the heart and we can be happy again. There will always be regret for the lost years, but don’t let it spoil the present.

Possessions do not buy happiness. They merely encourage greed. Nothing is ever enough. The mindless consumerism that TV has brought into our homes has set in motion a huge discontent. Everybody wants everything and they want it now, especially the young. They also realise that education is the key to prosperity. For the first time it is open to all. Parents work over-time, take on multiple jobs, and the children show boundless ambition. It is common to be introduced proudly to “my M.Com. daughter” or “Engineer son”. Their self-esteem has soared. In a single generation they have joined the middle class. We rejoice in the rising new India. May they fly far, yet not forget their roots.