The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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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 one’s 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 got back some of their youthful sparkle when they fell on a comely, curvacious 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 for my age group. As we grow older we must pay more attention to our bodies. 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 one’s home, dusting books, talking to plants in your garden if you have one. To offset inability to take vigorous exercise, cut down drastically on food and drinks. Strict punctuality should be observed for meal times.

You are bound to have problems with your bladder and bowels. Age makes them sluggish. You must keep them going by artificial means and don’t rely on nature to set them right: nature is no longer on your side. Unclean bowels and bladder breed diseases within the body and shorten life.

A good night’s 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, sleep will elude you. 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. Don’t 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. It is too late to aspire for anything except a peaceful, painless end. It is squally 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. 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 undur undur 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. Over indulgence 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. 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 onto life as long as possible.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell 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.

Love of the bottle

I am not talking about myself. Though I drink the wretched stuff every evening, I am no connoisseur; I can’t tell the difference between Johnnie Walkers Red, Black, Blue and Gold, 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.

However, there are a couple of 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 3,500 bottles, the largest in England. A bottle of old Strathmill bought in the Thirties for £800 is valued at £3,000 today. Such prices sound silly and fantastic; but there are suckers who are willing to pay them. I wonder whether those who pay such prices drink the stuff they buy or only worship the bottle at a distance.

One thing I share in common with Sukhinder Singh is preference for Bowmore and Glenmorangie over other Single Malts. He has a problem of storing his stock. He can’t find a house with a cellar large enough to contain his accumulated hoard. I would happily help him out of his problem.

Failing a health test

Mr Shrewd was suffering from cold

God knows whether the 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 Doctors’ band.

They kept him in an isolation room

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)

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