F Scott Fitzgerald liked his tipple and perhaps after a drink or two famously remarked that there are no second acts in our lives. You are only given one chance for success. That may be true for some. I am now past eighty and well into my third act, having given a few side performances along the way.

These days my body aches, my walk is slow and my mind sometimes plays tricks on me. Should I piss or have I already pissed? There are other handicaps best not mentioned here. But, touch wood, I am happy as a lark, surrounded by friends, healthy as one can be at my age. I am an agnostic but I do believe someone up there is looking after me.

I am of the Patidar clan that has several divisions and subdivisions. The word “Patel” does not have caste or religious connotations. A Patel can be Muslim or a Dalit. He doesn’t even have to be a Gujarati. I have met Pakistanis and people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh with Patel surname. The vast majority, however, are middle-ranking Gujarati Hindus, owners of agricultural land or descendants of families that once were farmers but now own motels in America and pharmacies in Britain.

Our roots are in villages, and, sometimes, wearing a suit and a tie, we often continue to carry the village mentality. We do not have a past beyond a few generations when our family trees disappear into the soil that we once tilled. Most people of my father’s generation would not know the exact date of their birth.

As a child, growing up in Fiji, I was probably the most unlikely to succeed in my class. I was tall for my age, under-weight and gaunt, a figure of fun for my classmates and a victim of cruel missionary teachers. University life in Delhi and later in Bombay improved me somewhat but nice-looking girlfriends still eluded me. I did better in London and it was as a practising barrister in Bombay High Court that I finally found my stride. Success with women came to me late in life by prevailing standards but I was grateful it came at all.

I was no great shakes in front of a judge but I was young, a bachelor just past thirty and there was no shortage of women in search of husbands. I had a glamorous job as a stringer for a leftist London weekly and my columns in Indian newspapers were getting attention, sometimes more than I would have liked. The only drawback was that I had little money in my pocket and lived in a one-room paying guest accommodation on Malabar Hill with the kind landlady next door sending me a cup of tea for breakfast with a slice of buttered toast. But I couldn’t have been happier.

That was my first act. My second act as an international civil servant with the United Nations was glorious. I spent most of my career in New York, the most vibrant city in the world, with the best of theatre, cinema and restaurants at my disposal. The schools for my children on the Upper Eastside were top rate and one child ended up in Harvard and the other in Cornell.

Now I am on my final act. I live in Delhi, the only city in the world where you can wake up in the morning and listen to birds coughing in your garden. Since retirement I have written columns for newspapers and magazines as well as five books, including a best-selling novel. I am now on the last sprint before the curtain comes down. Some of my prayers went unanswered over the years and I thank the lord for that. Otherwise I would have ended up in a newspaper office or as an executive in a major airline’s headquarters at Nariman Point.

I have not lived in Fiji any length of time since I left as a teenager but I still carry a Fijian passport proudly. The saddest thing about living a nomadic life is that the tyranny of distance prevents you from being around at the time when sudden tragedies strike your loved ones. I heard of my father’s death when I lived in Bombay, my mother passed away while I was in Delhi. I was not there when a brother and a sister died. But I did make it in time for some of the funerals.

My children and grandchildren now live thousands of miles away from me. I will probably need the help of four friends to carry me to the cremation ground and one of them to light the fire. Over the years my friends have become part of my family. Those dearest to me I can count on the fingertips of one hand.

Madeleine Blaise, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, pondered on the difference between autobiographies and memoirs. Autobiographies, according to her, tend to encompass the full span of life and are usually written by people who occupy some kind of public space: ex-presidents and movie stars, for instance. “Memoirs are written by less obviously eminent sorts. Generals write autobiographies, foot soldiers write memoirs.”

Without question, this is a memoir not an autobiography. Make what you wish of what follows but keep some salt handy. “The older one gets the more vivid the recollection of things that have not happened.” That’s a Mark Twain quote!

Ernest Hemingway wrote that in his early years in Paris he trapped pigeons in Luxembourg Gardens for dinner. No one believes that for a moment. Surely Jesus did not do magic tricks like walking on water or turning water into wine. Such stories were inventions of his disciples who wrote the New Testament. Jesus had better things to do: deliver that remarkable sermon on the mountain, for instance.

I am a closet follower of his teachings though for all practical purposes – birth, marriage and death – I am a Hindu who doesn’t like the company he keeps these days.

Writers when they write about themselves tell tall tales just as fisherman add inches and kilos to the size of their catch. They are not always forthcoming when it comes to their uglier side.

What follows is a mixture of fact and fiction.

Excerpted with permission from I Am A Stranger Here Myself: An Unreliable Memoir, Bhaichand Patel,