|Saturday, September 6, 2003||
THE other day I turned 89. I went to have a look at my face in the mirror; I looked 89. Bleary eyes, scraggy beard with lines of grey and henna-reddened hair. I did not like what I saw. When one is old, one must not look oneís age: strive to look younger than your years and you will feel younger. So I put a fresh paint of black, hair-dye on my beard. I did in fact look somewhat younger and friends who came to wish me a long life said I looked many years less than 89. It uplifted my spirits. My eyes, though bleary, got back some of their youthful sparkle and twinkled with mischief when they fell on a comely, curvaceous lady young enough to be my grand-daughter. No harm done to either side: I felt better for still retaining a little of my youth. She felt better for the compliments I paid her. The point I wish to make is that if you want to defy age, do so with some zest.
I have some other
suggestions to make to people in my age group. As we grow older, we must
pay more attention to our bodies than we did in our younger days.
Strenuous exercises are no longer advisable. Even gentle walking or
swimming begins to tire one. There are alternative ways of exercising an
aged body: pottering round oneís home, dusting books, talking to
plants in your garden if you have one. To offset inability to take
vigorous exercise, cut down drastically on the intake of food and drink.
Strict punctuality should be observed for meal times.
A good nightís sleep (minimum seven hours) and an hour or two in the afternoon are essential. For getting them you must have peace of mind. If your mind is disturbed or you are upset over anything, sleep will elude you. Insomnia can take a heavy toll of both the mind and the body. If necessary, take sleeping pills. They do no harm and have no side effects. I am fortunate I have sound sleep without pills.
Cut down on social life. If possible, eliminate it altogether by taking sannyas in your own home. Discourage visitors from descending on you, and when they do, tell them politely to leave after half an hour. Donít allow yourself to be stressed out by people. You will discover that a day spent alone and in silence can be very rejuvenating.
Having entered the final stage of your life, you must discard all worldly ambitions and envy of those who got what, in your opinion, they did not deserve. Envy is the enemy of peace of mind. It is too late to aspire for anything except a peaceful, painless end. It is equally important to keep your temper under control; People prone to anger get high blood pressure which may bring on a stroke followed by paralysis and helplessness. Everyone gets angry sometimes or the other. There is nothing wrong in reprimanding a child if you think he or she is doing wrong. There is no rancour in it. What you have to guard against is persisting irritation which turns to rage. You have to teach yourself to dissolve it and put it out of your mind. Nourishing it like a grievance can be counter-productive: it amounts to what in Punjabi is described as andhar andhar kurhna (letting it fester inside). This is dangerous to health. Bad-tempered people have short lives.
Most aged Indians turn to prayer, visiting temples every day and seeking the company of people as old as they are. Both are inadvisable. Overindulgence in prayer and worship is in fact an admission of defeat, of having given up the will to live and an attempt to come to terms with life hereafter about which no one has a clue. The company of old people only confirms your fears that you have lost the battle of life. If you feel the need for company, seek that of much younger people still bursting with energy and zest for life. More advisable is to find a young soul-mate of the opposite gender with whom you can communicate. Sex may be out of question, but the flickering flame of desire to have it should be kept alive because with that comes the desire to cling to life as long as possible.
Philosopher Bertrand Russel, who lived to a long age, had two wives and innumerable mistresses. In his autobiography, he wrote the following lines to a lady named Edith:
Through the long years
I sought peace
I found ecstasy, I found anguish,
I found madness,
I found loneliness
I found the solitary pain
that gnaws the heart
But peace I did not find
Now, old and near my end
I have known you,
And, knowing you,
I have found ecstasy and peace
I knew rest
After so many years
I knew what life and love may be
Now, if I sleep
I shall sleep fulfilled.
I am not talking about myself. Though I drink the wretched stuff every evening, I am no connoisseur. I canít tell the difference between Johnnie Walkers ó Red, Black, Blue and Gold. The Gold costs three times more than the Red, or any other premium brands like Chivas-Regal, Dimple or Black Dog. But I can tell the difference between Indian, Irish, American, Canadian and Japanese whisky. I can also tell the difference between ordinary whisky and single malts.
However, there are two sardars (father and son) residents of London who own an off-licence liquor outlet Whisky Exchange and claim to be "purveyors of single-malt whisky and other fine spirits." It was started by Narinder Singh Sawhney and is now operated by his son Sukhinder Singh. It was the son who made collecting rare malts from different Scottish distilleries a hobby. His collection now exceeds 3500 bottles, the largest in England. A bottle of old Strathmill, which could be bought in the 1930s for `A3 800, is today valued at `A3 3000. Such prices sound silly and fantastic, but there are suckers who are willing to pay them. Twelve bottles of Macallan distilled 60 years ago are priced at `A3 15000 each. I wonder whether those who pay such prices drink the stuff they buy or only worship the bottle from a distance and boast about what they paid for it.
One thing I share in common with Sukhinder Singh is preference for Bowmore and Glenmorangie over other single malts. He can afford to drink it regularly; for me it is a rare treat. He also has a problem of storing his stock. He lives in Ealing but is anxious to move into a larger house in Central London. He canít find a house with a cellar large enough to contain his accumulated hoard. I would happily help him out with his problem.
Mr Shrewd was suffering from cold
God knows whether his disease was new or old
He went to an airport in the chilly breeze
His cough was aggravated by a mild sneeze.
It so happened as he did expect
He was taken as a "a SARS suspect"
He was driven to a hospital, good and grand.
Where he was examined by a doctorís band.
They kept him in an isolation room
And treated him like a phantom groom
They ran all tests on him there and then
That would normally cost him thousand ten.
As he did not test positive in the SARS test
He was sent home for three-week rest.
Nobody demanded from him any consultation fee
The fellow also got the check-up free.
(Courtesy: G.C. Bhandari, Meerut)
Note: Khushwant Singh is away
on vacation; there will be no column for the next two weeks.