THE SECRET of youth, says the famous architect and urban planner Charles Correa, is to keep making decisions all the time – big ones about life and work; little ones about which new route to go for a walk, for instance.

Charles Correa
Charles Correa
Age: 79
Profession: Architect, planner, activist; pioneer in urban design in India
Current obsessions: Lisbon’s Champalimaud Centre (stunningly located on the Atlantic coast), the Ismaili Centre in Toronto, the NOIDA Authority Building, several urban planning projects in New Bombay Photo: Deepak Salvi

The trick, as his friend, Dr Farokh Udwadia likes to say, is to keep doing something new every day. More, teach yourself to do it: dig it out personally; don’t ask for help. It keeps the synapses alert.

The other secret is to wake early and grab a few hours of pleasure and solitude each day. It is something Correa does religiously: wake at 6.30 am, drink tea, play sudoku, solve crosswords, make phone calls to friends before work begins. “Abroad they jump up, throw on their clothes and ten minutes later, they are waiting at the subway – this is what kills them.”

Friends and family play big roles in keeping Correa happy, but at 79, work still remains the driving passion. Big projects, small projects, and constant activism on behalf of Mumbai. “I thought I’d quit at 60,” says he, “but I love it so much, it isn’t work, it’s pleasure. If I didn’t have so much psychic energy invested in each project, I’d have thrown in the towel long ago.”

There is a fourth axiom that Correa has built his youthful life on: happiness is not what you own, it is what you do.

“This is the best advice I can give to the young,” says he. “I always tell my kids that if you pick something you like, you have a higher chance at being good at it.”