Popping the ‘Ogden Nash Question’ on turning 45…

Nalaka Gunawardene at 45: Captured on 13 Feb 2011 by Dhara Gunawardene

As I turn 45 today, I can’t do better than to quote one of my favourite poets, Ogden Nash, who wrote these ‘Lines on Facing Forty’:
I have a bone to pick with fate,
Come here and tell me girly:
Do you think my mind is maturing late,
Or simply rotting early?

I first heard these words quoted by the late Tarzie Vittachi, a pioneer in development journalism – and an early influence on my career – at a talk he gave circa 1990. At the time, Tarzie was already in his late 60s, but he hadn’t lost the capacity to poke fun at himself.

More than two decades later, I can better appreciate both Tarzie Vittachi and Ogden Nash. I’m now more convinced than ever that a good sense of humour – whether plain, wry or wicked – is an essential element in our survival kit as we fumble along the path of life. In my case, I’ve pledged never to take myself too seriously; however, I’m passionate and serious about what I do.

I used to give this simple caution to all my newly recruited staff members:
“If you take me too seriously, you will lose your mind.
If you don’t take me seriously enough, you might (possibly) lose your job…”

After a while, I was told that it was prone to be highly misunderstood, partly because not everyone shared my play with words, and partly due to some people lacking any sense of humour. I no longer utter these words; the practical implications remain!

On more cheerful matters, my photographically keen daughter Dhara offered to shoot me as part her birthday present. I’m always happy to face cameras (and just love to make faces), so I readily agreed. Here are some of the better results, carefully chosen by the editor-publisher of this blog:

Nalaka G - with Mouth and Mind wide open...Photo by Dhara Gunawardene
I promise never to act my age!
Posing with the family photographer!

By the way, I’m perfectly happy with my salt-and-pepperish hair, and have resolved never to join the growing number of my friends quietly signing up to the ‘Godrej Brigade’ (I have no objections to others dyeing their hair: each one to her own self…).

In computing terms, I’m a WYSIWYG (pronounced: WIZ-ee-wig): an acronym for ‘what you see is what you get’. The term is used to describe a system in which content displayed during editing (on-screen) appears very similar to the final output.

Author: Nalaka Gunawardene

A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 30+ years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing.

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