A Little Work, A Little Play is a chronicle of the times during the early twentieth century by a man for whom, as he says, above all life was enriched by its spiritual content, by his unshakeable faith in his religion, by his family and by friendships made through the years.
H.S. Malik never wanted to write his autobiography but his wife and children urged him to put pen to paper 'just for the family'. He finally was persuaded to do so in the late sixties, completed it over a couple of years, and refused to touch it further. Now, almost four decades later, we have the story of a man moved by a spirit of adventure from boyhood.
At the age of 14, his thirst for adventure took him across the seas to England to spend the next eleven years far from home and family. Once done with school and university, he took part in the biggest adventure of the time as a fighter pilot in World War One. Lucky to survive, he spent the next decade as a district officer in the I.C.S. in rural Punjab. It was during this period that he faced very different challenges.
He tells his story simply, with a touch of humour, in the elegant language of his times.
His life spanned years of great change in India, and he sensed adventure at every stage. He was the first Indian to represent India in the United States before Independence; then was Prime Minister in the Princely State of Patiala during the transfer of power; he then was the representative of free India abroad as its first envoy in Canada and in France.
After retirement began the challenging task of making a contribution to India's industrial development.
H.S. Malik died on October 31st 1985, about three weeks before his 91st birthday, exactly one year after having suffered a massive stroke. He played golf regularly until a few weeks before his stroke. A few years after having completed his memoirs, he was elated at scoring a 79 on his 79th birthday at the Delhi Golf Club. He had always said he wanted to 'go on the golf course' but it was not to be.
I have had a very full and interesting life and have finally been persuaded by my family and friends to write about it, though I myself am still doubtful about it being worthwhile.
Opportunities have come my way and I have, I hope, made good use of them. One of the great mysteries of life is why some people, eminently worthy in every way, seem to miss success in life while others not so worthy do much better. For lack of a better explanation, many people put this down to karma, merit earned in a previous life or lives. However, I am well aware that such success and fulfillment as have come to me cannot be due to any particular merit on my part. I can only put it down to good fortune. Moreover, time and again, when I have made mistakes-and I have made many-I have somehow escaped the expected consequences of those errors. The many tight situations I have been in, which I have survived without experiencing serious harm, the crises I have successfully faced, the successes that have come my way, all this has left me with the conviction that in some mysterious way I have been protected.
My life has been enriched by the many friendships made with fine men and women in India and in countries which I have lived in; some of them distinguished in many walks of life often exercising authority and influence in national and international affairs. These friendships have lasted through the years and have been a source of great joy and happiness to me. I have been particularly fortunate in meeting people who have become close friends even later in life when one would think that new friendships could not be formed.
These contacts have helped me grow. I feel life is a continuous process of education. I have learnt to assess the importance and significance of the great and rapid changes that have taken place in my life spanning the 20th century. Apart from the opportunity of being actively involved in World War One, my life in the I.C.S. was rich and interesting at a time when district officers enjoyed so much responsibility and authority. Service in the Central Secretariat came at a turning point in India's economic and political evolution, followed by years in an Indian Princely State during a period of revolutionary political change, and finally the fortune to serve as Free India's Ambassador in 1947 when when we were just beginning to have direct relations with other sovereign states. It has been a fascinating and rewarding experience.
A full life, rich with opportunity, service and some sense of achievement, enriched immeasurably further by having a happy family life with a wonderful wife and children, the love of friends, good health, much fun and laughter, and what has always sustained me, devotion to the noble principles and traditions of my faith, which has given my life a spiritual content without which it would have been dry and barren. It is this faith that has helped me always in discriminating between the trivial and the important.
As a young man I found myself one day dining with some friends in a restaurant in London which was a favourite haunt of artists and writers, among them were Augustus John, the great Rupert Brooke, Gerald du Maurier and others. One of my friends pointed out to me a quotation by Hilaire Belloc on the wall of the main room which was said to be a favourite of the friends who frequently met there, and I have always thought it to be as good a guide to living as any:
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