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James Joyce called it "the greatest story that the literature of the world knows."

Leo Tolstoy’s 1886 classic tale was about a peasant named Pahom, who, in his lust for land, forfeits everything.

How much land…was part of a series of tales written by Tolstoy in the 1880s after he rejected his great novels as meaningless and elitist, and devoted himself to improving the lot of the common folk. The short stories were written with stark prose and clear morals to raise the human consciousness and spirit.

Seeking security in the acquisition of wealth or land instead of seeking it in the humble family life of a peasant, Pahom mocks God and falls into the clutches of the devil. The moral of the story, summed up in the last line - “six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed” - holds true to this day, and one realises why Joyce called it the greatest.

It’s true that wealth and land are the mantras by which humans continue to live. But there are a few amongst us who realise that “six feet” is what a human needs, in the end.

Mansoor Khan is a cheese farmer, who is currently busy writing his second book focusing on civilisation as a collapsible culture which intrinsically violates other cultures. We know Mansoor for his Bollywood hits like Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (QSQT) and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (JJWS). But the man himself says that his quest for many years has been to simplify life.

Mansoor’s story is beautifully captured in words by journalist Shreerupa Mitra-Jha, who quotes Kurt Vonnegut – “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘it might have been’.”

Of course, there are people who make timely changes, rather than regret it later. Like Chaitanya Nayak, a 51-year-old from Mumbai, who started cycling to work when a sedentary routine and high pressure job threatened to turn into a health nightmare. Nidhi Jamwal’s The Bicycle Diaries is about Mumbai’s ‘corporate’ cyclists for whom cycling to office is not a part of life- it’s a way of life.

Dinesh Thite’s paper turns to events in Maharashtra’s bicycle city, and traces the making of Ganesh Utsav over a century ago, and how the festival has come to promote a deeper interaction between communities in Pune.

In Perspectives, there is an insightful piece by Sumedha Raikar-Mhatre on a students’ production that traces the origins of Kathak, paying tribute to its multi-hued rich repertoire. And Bhavana Upadhyaya, a communications consultant, writing in Inner Space, learns a few leadership lessons from the life of a 16th century queen from Dakshin Kannada Tulu circles.

The highlight of this month is an exclusive interview with Dr U R Ananthmurthy, who passed away recently. It was published in 2011 by Change for Better founder editor Bhanu Kale who met Dr Ananthmurthy in Goa during the centenary celebration of a well-known Konkani poet late B B Borkar.

Anosh Malekar

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