The teacher and The Guru!

A couple of days back, we celebrated Guru Pournima. (Full moon night to revere the Guru) It was celebrated with enthusiasm, the latest version. Every sadness, joy, reverence, fear is displayed by us, these days in the only way we can. Forward a label or a sticker and throw in a couple of emojis. We are not supposed to or are allowed to write anything in our own words. We are afraid that we will be stigmatised if we do not find an appropriate thing to forward or publish. Some poor souls can not find the “original” forward; hence they push a forwarded forward. Come on, Pramod! When I was in school six decades back, my teachers had taught me to push forwards. They had such foresight; they knew that social media would take over the world.

Coming back to the title, a Guru means an influential teacher or a popular expert. A teacher means a person who teaches, especially in a school. On Jaya’s school WhatsApp group, there was a bit of a discussion which was confused about who is a teacher and a guru.


My school was Ram Mohan English School, Girgaum, in Bombay. My education was in Marathi till 11th grade, after which I went to Elphinstone College and then Engineering at COEP, Pune. The photo above was shared by my classmate Ashok, and it made my day. I have seen enough things in the world now, but I can proudly say that these teachers were as good as any. They are from left Joshi sir (Sanskrit), Naik sir (He was the head-teacher and taught us Marathi), Sabnis Teacher (Science- we used to call lady teachers “Teacher”), Kundaikar Sir (Maths), Mayekar Sir (English). They were outstanding by any standard, but importantly they were great human beings too! They would accommodate over-energetic students like me, though I ranked first in punishments.

I could write pages and pages about these dedicated people, but I will write only a couple of incidents. Mayekar sir was a Professor of French at Wilson College, but due to some health reasons, he moved to our school. He was simply terrific in his language, both written and spoken. His handwriting was out of this world. When I was in the 11th grade, he once called me to his home on a Sunday. I went there with apprehension. When I reached there, he said, “Panvalkar, I will guide for a few Sundays because I feel that you are good at English.” He simply wanted to help and guide me. He had foresight about me. I had never dreamt during those times that I would become a blogger writing stuff in English. Whatever hints he gave in those days, I was too busy noticing them, are surely helping me. Though Marathi is my mother tongue, the language in which I communicate normally, I think, and write in English, as if English is my first language.

Other teachers who guided me in life were Wadke teacher- I used to interact with her during extra-curricular activities like sports. Somehow she took a liking for me and was like my mother to me. She was the epitome of softness. Her daughter Mangal was my classmate. Dr Satynarayna, my HOD in the Metallurgy Department at COEP, my guide for M E, taught me how to make decisions fearlessly. He ensured that I completed my M E in two years and joined the industry.

Unfortunately, we remember all these souls only on Guru Pournima day. We also make an error in understanding the difference between a teacher and a Guru. We interact with teachers for a small duration. But Guru is one person who is in your life and is around all the time. The Gurus are of different varieties, the Osho variety of 92 Rolls Royce fame. He was also famous for his commune with a “free” life. You and I may not agree with his thinking, but hundreds of thousands of disciples tell a different story. The Gurus have been controversial, they have lived in five-star hotels during their travels. In my view, nothing is wrong with that. It is how they improved the lives of their followers. Pandurang Shastri Athawale was one such Guru of fishermen living in northern Maharashtra and Southern Gujarat coast. We find that the language used by him in sermons is primary. But it was meant for the fishermen who were having a troubled life as they were caught in binge drinking. Osho used to give a high level of sermons because people involved were from different categories. Many Gurus like Satya Saibaba who have done wonders for the society with the help of his followers. His “Gora” followers from many countries come to stay in his ashram and would offer their expertise free e. g. surgeons would go and perform free operations. There are, of course, frauds who have cheated people of their property, and we hear many cases of sexual exploitation of women. The cross-section of Gurus is very similar to our society. There are greats, some are good, and others are bad to horrible. But one thing is common in them. They are continuously in touch with their disciples.

I was lucky to have one such Guru in my life, Mahesh Kothari. He was CMD of Exedy India Ltd. We met in 1981 and were regularly in touch with each other until his death in January 2017. I was his business associate and advisor. When we became close and family, it is difficult to say. He never told me, what I should do in life.

I have traveled with him from Pune to Aurangabad many times, and he used to love driving. He would always share the driving time with me. We have had many chat sessions with only two of us, at the guest house. He would never tell me to do something in any specific way. He would share his experiences, he would explain many things, and for me, they were more of training sessions of life. He would care a lot about his family, and he was 100%, family man. I would absorb his way of thinking all the time. He loved his drink, but I was an occasional drinker. He taught me how to enjoy a paan at Tara Paan House in Aurangabad.

Aurangabad was his second home. He was so much involved in work that if he needed to visit a vendor quickly, he would hop behind on some one’s bike, if required, and rush to resolve some technical issue. All the people at the Aurangabad plant were his family. When someone from the factory was travelling abroad for the first time for work, he would personally make sure that the person had the clothing, suit, and vegetarian food if required. He wanted to ensure that nobody ran into unnecessary trouble in a foreign country.

He was an epitome of a Guru by guiding me through his deeds. He taught me to manage work-life balance. He taught me how to be reliable but gentle at the same time. He taught me how to keep on working all the time, at the same time, enjoying the fleeting moments in life. He was also very open to asking me for suggestions on work-related matters.

Friends, teachers teach you a subject or a skill. Gurus share their experiences; it is up to the disciple to pick up excellent points. Disciples are associated with the Guru for a long time. They see all traits of human aspects in the Guru; do not forget that gurus are humans. But teachers are associated with only the teaching aspect; in rare cases, one gets an opportunity like that offered by Mayekar sir or Satyanarayan sir! In rare cases, the teacher becomes a Guru like in the case of Acharekar sir and Sachin Tendulkar. But here, the disciple was an exceptional human being and continued to play cricket all through his life!

 

Bucket List!

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A bucket list is a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying. Your first question would be why the hell Pramod is talking about death. But the usage of this term has been quite recent. Hitting the bucket is the colloquial term for dying. It is not about death. But do not forget that bucket list need not be life long. You can make short term bucket lists a few times a year. Items could be “I will buy a pair Rayban goggles this month”, or “I am going to meet my long lost friend Deepak in next two months”. Do not forget that these shortlists are also going to give us great joy! My item was keeping a ponytail. If I had done it otherwise, people would have said, “Pramod has gone senile”! I used Corona situation to fulfil my wish!

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Typical lists have different items on each individuals’ list. From visiting the standard places like Tajmahal, Niagara falls, Eiffel towers and so on, the list will be endless. See the Wall of China, Visit Machu Pichhu, Meet Princess Diana or Marilyn Monroe are some other favourite items (Ladies let me know your preferences). Watch a cricket match at MCG in Melbourne with the capacity crowd was on my list- I did it in March 2015.

But the first half of the year 2020 has made a drastic change in the thinking of people. In my case, it is a dramatic change. I feel as if I have achieved Nirvana of sorts! Thanks to Coronavirus. It appears that this situation will continue for three to six months more. Have I been a person who prefers to be home-bound? Marathi term for this is घरकोंबडा! Not really. We always used to go out, meet friends, see movies when possible, travel. Going to restaurants, inviting friends at home was our regular routine. Post 22nd March, everything has stopped.

I live in an eleven-story condo tower and live on the 7th floor. All my windows and the balcony face the west. In summer times, the harsh sun is so bright that we were forced to put sunscreens which blocked the light a hundred per cent. With this change, the weather inside is controlled, we do not need an AC. It is so dark within the room, we need to put on the light if we have to do some chore. But this is only a small irritant. The benefits of west-facing home, on the 7th floor with an unblocked view, for miles together, has its advantages. The lockdown brought out the benefits to the fore. What have I been missing?

Even before this lockdown, we sometimes had our cuppa early morning with a beautiful breeze, fresh directly from the hills. It is invigorating, to say the least! Yes, the fog or smog sometimes made the view hazy. I have been enjoying the misty Pune rains of the monsoon sitting there. But never had I even thought of that I would be looking forward to being in the balcony every day! I am there, every day in the evening for at least 30 to 40 minutes. Watching the movies created by nature. With the monsoon in the air, there are clouds. Clouds, in many shades of grey- from light grey to ominous grey in different formations, are seen every day. Even at this age, the real dark ones bring a tinge of fear in mind! But since Pune does not get high rainfall, these clouds hit the hills in around water bodies around Pune to quell their fury! The fascinating canvas that gets unrolled every day, with the sun playing hide and seek, is to be seen to be believed. The holi of colours is played every day! From bright gold to enchanting red, from dark grey to emerald blue the combinations will beat the colour shades offered by computers, hollow.

                                             (Oneplus 6T cell phone Camera)

A couple of weeks into lockdown, we started hearing chanting and cooing of birds loud and clear! Unfortunately, as I am on the 7th floor, even the tall trees are well below my line of sight. So I am not able to see any of the birds unless they are flying. I do see some parrots and pigeons resting on the terraces of the buildings nearby with a few squirrels thrown in. I am sure they were infrequently seen even before lockdown, but I never made it a point to watch them. Honestly, in my lifestyle before and after lockdown, there is only 10 to 15 per cent change. Post “almost retired” status we went out much less compared to working days. But it is the mindset change that has made the difference.

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                                                     Cannon 1100 D Camera 70X300

I take advantage of my being at the vantage point to see nature regularly. I cursorily looked at Sinhgad, a Shivaji time fort, about twenty km from home. The pollution, the smog was simply missing, and I could clearly see the fort. I started taking photographs of Sinhgad as many times as possible. The clarity is stunning! On one day Sinhgad was looking hazy, and the lockdown was just easing out. I got worried and shared with Jaya that the beautiful site will now be eaten up by the pollution. But the next day, things were “normal”! I could take photographs of Sinhgad. I had forgotten that fog is a normal phenomenon of nature; I had simply concluded that it was lost to pollution!

My favourite example of such adversities is based on how to take advantage of the difficulty. Sachin Tendulkar in a match versus Pakistan in South Africa was facing Shoib Akhtar at his best. He was fast and furious on that day and bowled a nasty bouncer to Sachin. He simply raised his bat at the last moment and slashed hard as the ball was moving at high speed and an awkward bounce. Next moment the ball was in the stands travelling ten rows over the spectators.

The lockdown has been thrown at us by the destiny, hit it for a six. Do not get into “I am bored”, “I do not know what to do mode!” You have not suddenly become older by ten years. Our generation has been lucky that many diversions onscreen in different formats are available to us at our fingertips. The important thing is there is no one to limit our screen time. In fact, our family and friends are worried if you are not able to use technology to your benefit! Play that computer game, see the old Hitchcock movie Psycho! See the brand new Swara Bhasker serial Rasbhari! You will be able to watch free webinars ad nauseam. See those old dramas or one-act plays which you missed in your busy schedule and chat with friends. Look for your seventy-year-old ex-flame and see what she is up to. In fact, you will not get time to say “I am bored”, “I do not know what to do mode!”

 

                                                     Entrance Beach, Australia

                                                Cannon 1100 D Camera 70X300

With reset of mind due to lockdown, my thinking about bucket list has changed. I would rather be with nature. Trees, clouds, mountains, birds and the beasts would enchant me more, and I would rather be with rivers and ocean! The idea has been in mind since I visited the Entrance beach in Australia. It was a majestic, serene and enchanting beach on the Pacific ocean. Over a period, many of our travels included nature rather than large cities. Lockdown has converted me. I am getting to tick mark some portions of the bucket list sitting at home!

Do not worry about me! I am not balcony bound. I am also into video calling and doing different things. With my engineering college groups, I have started to interview friends who have achieved many things in life. These interviews keep me busy in logistics, coordination and other stuff. Plus of course, family video calls are there. Life is home-bound but busy! It is about resetting your mindset as per the situation. One of the significant change could be to modify your bucket list! Taking photographs regularly was one of them!

Turn it into an opportunity! 

 

It is said that happiness is a trait that comes down to you genetically. It affects 50% of our ability to remain happy. Remaining 50% is what you learn in your life. Even if 20% ability to be happy is under your control, try to optimise it. If you consider yourself to be a victim of circumstances, then you will never understand what happiness is. We end up saying “Happiness is something which I cannot understand.” But you are not bankrupt, and you have that 20% ability; use it.

In the so-called regular times, those who tend to get depressed, sometimes binge-eat. In today’s times, people binge on social media; and the majority are making a mistake of being a lot on social media. It is like they are eating “social junk food”. Research says that you get lonelier, the more you use social media. Those “friends” are no real friends. When humans have eye contact or touch each other, it stimulates Oxytocin to get secreted in our brain. Please note that this is the Happiness chemical. Should I stop using social media? Should I throw away the screen from my life? Then what do I do? I will go crazy. My statement has created at least some excitement in your mind, though, of the wrong kind.

Use your Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WA video calling. You can see the faces. If you have a meeting of 4/5 people, the chances of being happy are more, instead of binge chatting on WhatsApp groups. Once your text chatting is over, you are likely to feel gloomy; what do I do next, I have already sent many forwards. I have seen that on these groups if someone shares a thought-provoking item or a story, people ignore, generally. They try to take up easy way out by trying to solve puzzles. Puzzles do have an important role to play, but do all puzzles activate your grey cells? If you take Google help to solve puzzles..

There are many ways of keeping yourself busy during these tough isolation times. Meditation, Yoga, Inhouse jogging (in front of the mirror) or walking in your home can be some of them. But don’t go for walks on the road, gardens or hills. Viruses tend to be anywhere though we might think that these don’t come in your isolated colonies. The other day, on my way back after visiting a doctor, I saw four seventy plus people in a high-end locality, taking their evening walk. Oh, rules are for hoi polloi, not us! Oh, and my maid is somehow managing to come for work. How can mem Saab do this manual work? I can’t force the maid not to come. I am paying her the salary, anyway! There is no rule that maids are not allowed in our locality! Excuses galore! Social distancing, only milk walla in the society, leaving bags at the gate, Not for me!

In Pune, people have found a new way of exercising. They go out for walks and get caught by the police. Police make these 50 /70 people stand to keep social distancing and force them to exercise, which could be different than what you like. I have seen a photograph in which those not wearing masks were asked to remove their T-shirt and use it as a mask! 🙂🙂

These tough times create anxiety in the minds of people for two reasons, uncertainty and loneliness. We forget that life is uncertain otherwise, too! When you are in a happy state of mind the life’s unpredictability is masked, and we feel confident that ten years hence your business would have grown by leaps and bound; or you would become the general manager. Your children will be settled, and finally, you and your wife will become globe trotters. In our fables, we have a famous one about Shaikh Mohamad. Such daydreaming is called Shaikh Mohammadi! Certainty makes us feel secure and safe, falsely.

I read an important saying for fearful people. “I don’t know what the future will bring. But I do know that I am alive and well right now. It is a God-given gift to me, and I will not waste it.”

About loneliness, I have already explained how social media binging increases loneliness. In Indian culture, we rarely say, “I Love You” except when you are with your beloved, at a young age. We never say it to our parents, children and siblings. Why not say “I love you.” I am sure it will give a great feeling of closeness and take away loneliness and anxieties. In the case of your close friends, they are your second set of relatives; you can say to them, “I like you.”  We have these feelings in our minds, but we are trained not to express ourselves right from childhood.

Another way of feeling happy is to do something different. That different need not be something fancy like painting, creative workshops etc. Under the Indian context, the lockdown has brought in a significant change in our lives. Many families have a maid or two for cleaning of homes, washing of clothes and utensils. We have gardeners to water the plants. With lockdown, we need to do all this work. Do not do it with creases on your forehead. Enjoy doing this work. The logic is quite simple; the work must be completed anyway. Is a sour face or creases on the forehead going to work? Do it responsibly. The family should decide who should do which work, and there should be no further discussion on this subject, ever.

Time has slowed down. Will you ever get such an opportunity in your life again? Take advantage and hit that sixer over the point boundary. Introspect, plan to do things for which you never get enough time. It could be looking at old photos, getting in touch with friends, doing home chores with fun; after all, it is your home.

In these tough times, I hear stories of educated families having small parties. Oh, we are just visiting my brother. The virus does not know brothers, sisters, cousins, and a man or a woman. It is impartial.

So, try to be a responsible citizen of this world. The bug spreads not only in your neighbourhood but could become a vehicle for spread all over the world. Simply follow guidelines and rules and hit the virus for a six!

Be the solution! 

As we meander in our life, we follow specific ways. These ways are based on traditions. The meaning of tradition is handing over of customs/ beliefs or even thought process to the next generation. Many times, we continue to do things in a certain way without attempting to find if what we are doing could be done differently. Norms are fixed in our mind such that we are surprised if we find something is said or done differently.  

In Australia years back there was an incident in a Kinder Garten school. The teacher was teaching the children to sing the song “Rain, Rain Go away”. It appeared that the children did not enjoy it, or they could not understand the meaning of the song. During the lunch break, she shared her experience with other teachers. She was surprised to know that children in that area had never seen the rain before. For the previous five years, that region had received no rains. The children had never seen the rain!  

We eat ice cream in summer, and for the children, the ice cream is the treat for which they eagerly wait. We had gone to someone’s home and saw their child enjoying the ice cream in a bowl. I asked the child, “How is the ice cream?” He said, “Yummy and warm!” I was surprised, but his mother said that the child had food allergies so he could not eat regular ice cream. In the US where they lived, they had started getting the ice cream made of rice, for allergic childrenHis father had brought the ice cream on the way back from the office for the first time. The child had a cough and cold. Since the child was going to eat the ice cream for the first time, his mother decided to warm the ice cream. Hence the ice cream was “Yummy and warm!” 

Both of these stories show us that we go away from the norms occasionally. We are surprised when there is variation in the behaviour. But in the current situation, when it gets over, is it going to change the norms? If not, at least here is my wish of things that should happen.  

To begin with, let us go to Leo Tolstoy’s short story “How much land does a man need”? At the end of the story, he has concluded that everybody needs 6’*3’ of land to bury. All the rest is craving, and it is superficial. In Hinduism and many sects, even this is superficial. We only need a crematorium. Let us not go into the usual discussion of our culture is superior to their culture. It is possible that in the culture where cremation was done, it was easy to create, maintain and control fire. Period! But now in many burying cultures, they are switching over to burning of bodies due to pandemic. In some western countries, the casket, land for burial and the overall cost of funeral service are going out hands; cremation would be a better option. 

How much of clothing, footwear and such accessories do we need? If you do your washing regularly, three sets are more than enough. Friends, go and check your cupboards. How many suits and ties, wedding dresses and sarees do you have? Principally, I have nothing against this, when people who have excess money buy these it is okay. But what about those with a shortage of funds also emulate rich peopleI had a colleague who used to manage my office work. He bought more sets of shirts than I did in a year; his shirts were costlier than mine. One I asked him about it. He said, “There was sell going on, buy two get one free. Hence I bought the shirts.” He had spent a big chunk of his salary that day; he has been working with me for twenty years. I gave him an option. I said, “If you stop spending foolishly on clothing, I will take full responsibility for your two daughters education till their college degree, including coaching classes.” He did change somewhat, but I am not sure. I have not gone back on my commitment. 

It is the same about inviting people to various functions. From the naming ceremony to marriages, to 60th birthday’s we welcome many people. For funerals, too many people come on their own (they are not “invited”). Is it essential? A friend died recently during the lockdown. Only four members from his family went to the crematorium. Others could not attend does not mean they did not love him. A few days after his death, I spoke to his son for about half an hour sharing memories with him. Can we not change our “culture” of inviting hundreds of people for joyous occasions like marriages and birthdays? I have been guilty of this. Again, the logic is the same. Those who can barely afford expenses for the marriage ceremony, end up inviting hundreds of people. Finally, the loan sharks are after them leading to some suicides.  

These days I hear that the pathology testing labs have suddenly stopped getting patients. The hospitals have stopped their OPD’s (outpatient’s departments). Many doctors have switched over to telemedicine. Does it mean that people do not fall sick? How can they manage without getting treated? But I understand that in large hospitals, with one patient, four or five people are accompanying. Is it essential? I am sure that those who “need” to see the doctor get themselves treated anyway. But does it mean that people did not need the treatment but still crowded the clinics? I am not sure about this phenomenon! But where possible, patients/doctors should switch over to telemedicine. 

My wish is don’t go overboard in anything. (Definition of overboard? – I have been to a marriage where about eight thousand guests were invited!) Those who are financially comfortable will be left with a significant corpus which can be used for things other food during marriages. But is it essential to invite so many? Those lesser endowed people try to emulate the rich and run into issues.

I am by no means a socialist or a communist. Enterprise is a must to make this a better world. But the accompanying wealth generation can be better utilised for many things in this world. There will be some families whose needs may be different- like perpetually sick children or their children are not doing well in life. But when such an issue is not present, what is the point in “wasting money” on optional things- Jaya and I are sometimes amazed when we introspect and see how we have spent (wasted?) moneyFor example, we have three gadgets or four/five; I don’t know why we need so many devices to listen to music!  

Pandemic is an excellent opportunity to improve our social behaviour. Standing in queues is essential for discipline as well as health. Will we continue to do so, post-pandemic? Have we understood the meaning of migrant workers and their requirements? Now we know that their only requirement is to survive on the day-to-day earnings. Once they think that they cannot fulfil this requirement wherever they are, they will walk out and go to their native place.  

Do we really need to socialise the way we do? Is alcohol a must in our lives? Do we need to go to restaurants so many times?  

The pandemic has shown us that we are addicted to many things. Does it matter if there is no coriander in your favourite dish? We should enjoy life, but nothing is a must! Have we finally understood the importance of maids in our lives? Those who are financially better off, hopefully, will keep on paying the support staff even though we do not use their services. Could we continue doing this even after the pandemic is over?   

As usual, I could go on and on! But when we start doing everything on our own, we know how much wastage is done by support staff. How much water do they waste? How much fuel do they waste by misuse? It is not about money, but it is about efficiency and resource wastage! If all families become more efficient in these small things, we will have more water and electricity available.  

Use these times to meditate and think in solitude. It is a once in a lifetime chance to rethink about life, the ways of life and the way we look at life. Following lines may be appropriate at what I am trying to say! 

I don’t want to run away from the world – I want to rediscover myself within it. I want to know what happens if we again take doses of solitude from inside our crowded days, along our crowded streets. 

 

 

 

From the COVID Patient’s mouth! 

In English, there is a term used, “from the horse’s mouth”! It means from the person directly concerned or another authoritative source. It is the story of a family living in London. Both husband and wife are in the early ’40s with a ten-year-old child.

The information becomes more authentic because both husband/wife in the medical field,; they are dentists! Another important point is that they are family! Today I chatted with them on the Facebook messenger. He was down with COVID 19 for a couple of weeks! By God’s grace now everything is all right, and he has come out of it. I have given below the chat verbatim. I have removed my side of the discussion as I thought it is not important. Secondly, I have removed the references regarding family matters for obvious reasons.

Unedited comments from the patient are below:

I’m good now, just had the most horrendous two weeks when I was down with COVID 19 along with pneumococcal pneumonia. But now fully recovered.

Nice. All three of us at home as well ….no work, no active school (for the child) for the next three months, except for online teaching/learning

Different times. Make the most of it

Most happy to share, no shame. So started out typically with tiredness and mostly mild fever on day1….fatigue, the malaise started to get worse and felt slightly bunged up from day 2 …no cough though. Fever persistent so was taking paracetamol, and grandmom cures like steam, warm lemon juice etc. Just normal measures boosting Immunity and Vit C. Fatigue, tiredness kept increasing…by day 6 the “lady of the house” and myself felt symptoms were worse and was getting very tired. Obviously, I was self-isolating -stuck in a room. Day 7 called up NHS helpline- went through the rigmarole of talking to call centre, a nurse then doctor. Once doctor Heard- I could not even complete sentences- she booked me at the local hospital as a walk-in emergency patient- From then onwards – I went in- all sorts tests ECG, blood, urine, chest X-ray, swabs for normal flu and COVID etc. I was advised to go home with broad spec antibiotics that day and next day the call confirming diagnosis – noticed patch in the left lower lobe of one lung

Problem was that the fever was not abating despite paracetamol even after antibiotics, but then day 10 onwards things started improving. Greatest relief was the drop in heart rate – so much peace within yourself …throughout the illness due to breathlessness or drop in lung capacity or due to fever – heart rate was above 110-115. So literal palpitations. Also total loss of taste and smell.

It was certainly a ride of a lifetime….never before felt so tired and exhausted. Luckily I was eating and drinking fine…and great care from the wife.

From day 10 everything improved …antibiotics were given for 14 days…finished course. Slowly limping back …still feel tired after doing work…but every day improving.

Braver is the lady of the house …because I think there were a few days when I was in delirium. The wife told me that she was really scared but kept her pecker up

Doctors and nurses – I think are the bravest

About locking down- Us too….for months to come

Especially in this era of ever-evolving knowledge…concepts today debunked tomorrow. Scary times.

Chat ended.

Friends, we have been flooded with a lot of information (or misinformation), most of which are “stories”! I thought that I should share with you the experience from the “patient’s mouth”!  One thing I have understood is that COVID 19 is a serious illness and should not be looked at lightly. If a forty-year-old fit person can suffer so badly, what will happen to older persons? Our friend also did not suffer from any other ailment. But still, the severity of suffering could be felt from what he has shared with me. Imagine the fear and suffering of his wife and his child. Please understand that it is a very difficult situation for migrant diaspora living in other countries. The difficulty is that they do not have any family members to support them. It is both physical and mental support that you need in tough times! A bit of hand-holding, caressing of cheeks can go a long way in helping the patients to handle the illness.

The lesson for all of us is that we should follow all the instructions given by authorities to the last T! Don’t be over smart and definitely don’t be foolish. It is an illness, which consumes you easily as currently there is no cure in sight.

When the going is good, life is good for the diaspora but this unprecedented situation has brought in a tricky scenario. Uncertainty, lack of family support, no clarity about the time frame can make life extremely difficult and uncertain!

It is not only illness but any tough situation that one goes through must be shared with others. People write biographies of people who have gone through life’s ups and downs bravely and smartly. Sometimes one wonders who is bothered about someone else’s life. But people look at the heroes because of what they have achieved. If we did not know about such heroes where will be the beacon for other normal people to take the bull by the horn. There have been athletes, and there have been pilots. We know how Armstrong won the French Road cycling cup despite battling cancer! How Pistorius overcame his birth defect to use Prosthetic on both legs (artificial limbs) to become para Olympic champion is a fairy tale!

Friends, be brave, be open in life. Share how you have achieved great things life but also share how you have overcome the setbacks and the fears accompanying them. It is a great service that you can share with others.

I want to share with you again a blog about my cancer treatment six years back. Falling sick with any illness is not a shame. Destiny gives you a great family, brilliant physique and brains; it also gives you illnesses, accidents and setbacks. You feel happiness in life because the life cycle is made up of happiness and sadness! If one is absent from your life, you may not feel the other! They are a part of the sinusoidal wave of our life.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/23rd-december-2013-to-28th-june-2014/

Next link is about how my friend Prakash Nirgudkar handled a catastrophic event in his life.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/23rd-december-2013-to-28th-june-2014/

What can we do in five minutes? 

Namaste2It is more of a rhetorical question. Our life has been moving on an expressway for some time. For those born after ’70 s of last century, the life journey has been on the highway all the time. Now suddenly, that highway traffic is stuck up in a traffic jam with no signs of emergency vehicles with blaring sirens in the vicinity. It appears as if the police and the fire brigade phone numbers are perennially busy. People don’t know when the jam will be cleared.

Okay, the above scenario could be a horror dream that would be quickly converted into a great novel, which will be finally picturised into a successful movie. But friends, the bad dream is a reality. Currently, half the world is caught in this conundrum with no immediate solution in the view.

Humans are great adaptors to all situations. After all, we have developed from the stage of wearing the fig leaf to wearing fancy clothes, suitable winter clothing to live in harsh weather. We survive in the wettest of the jungles to the most stringent of the deserts. We have adapted mentally to all situations, but no one had ever imagined the current lockdown!

The home lockdown was one situation nobody had ever imagined. As usual, humans have started adapting. With no proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, there is hardly any other option. Husbands and wives are struggling to handle work, conference calls, Skype meetings with a three-year-old kid suddenly barging in between; it was a scenario which was never imagined even four wees back. People have worked from home before this too, sitting in their den with rooms locked.

But work is a significant part of one’s day, and there are other things to be achieved too. We need to be physically and mentally fit. Now people have started understanding the meaning of getting locked at home at minus thirty degrees in Montreal. What can we do in five minutes is a metaphorical statement!

Each person has her way of staying sane and calm in the eventuality of the times that are suddenly forced on you. If this happens because of an illness or an accident, it is a different issue. Your time is physically and mentally taken up by the recovery process. But in today’s situation, you need to find activities to keep you sane.

In those proverbial five minutes, you can do push-ups, you can do your sprinting in front of the mirror. In those five minutes, you can write half a page of the secret book you are writing or the blog you want to write. You read a few pages of the novel you have been reading. Of course, your yoga and deep breathing also could be achieved in those five minutes. It is about adapting.

Those five minutes could be utilised to help your kid completing craft! Those five minutes could be used to cut veggies and salads to help your better half. Remember the better half sometimes does not get even two minutes in today’s scenario. So, five minutes is the time slot you have in hand that you need to utilise properly. There is no magic wand solution. For once, everybody is really on his own. Those who have tried this five-minute concept must have realised what I am saying. What I am saying is that give focused attention to what you are doing. Focused attention will allow you to accomplish a lot. While you are confined to your home boundaries, there are a lot of things that you could do.

The situation for each individual and each family is going to be different. Similarly, it is going to different for each age group of people. The example I gave about three-year-old child above is generally about young families with young kids. These families are the ones that will find it difficult to have those five minutes. The whole family is energetic. Kids can’t go out, and parents can’t party! The home is going to be stressed up all the time. They need to find their ways of bringing temperatures down.

On the other side, for families like ours have different issues. We already have enough time on hand. We utilised our time in doing nothing per se! Not exactly nothing. We had our alumni meets, we travelled and went out leisurely for our purchases in the evening. During the evening stroll, we would have tea or a Wada at our favourite kiosk. But all this has stopped. At the same time, our maids have also stopped coming for work. Home cleaning, dish washing, cooking is keeping us busy; at the same time, these jobs tire us out a bit more than usual. But still, we have more time on hand because one can watch only so much TV and read.

We can use those five minutes to meditate and introspect. Do we get time for those five minutes for such essential aspects of life? A most crucial point of all this is we should continue to find “five minutes” when things are back to normal. Now there is a question, what is normal? If what we have been doing all these years is normal, then God Bless us! In future, there will be a new normal. An appropriate word for human life on the earth after current issue will be New Avatar! In computer jargon, let us reset the whole system and come with a new version of how we live life, how we look at life! What should be the aim of our new operating system? Let us try and list. I found this list somewhere on the net.

  1. Eliminate our discontent
  2. Reclaim our time
    1. Natural?
  3. Live in the present moment
    1. We are always rushing to ensure that our future is secured
  4. Pursue our passions
    1. Crucial in life
  5. Discover our missions
  6. Create more, consume less
    1. Be environment friendly
  7. Focus on our health
  8. Contribute beyond ourselves
  9. Rid ourselves of excess stuff
    1. It could include reducing your social circle
  10. Discover purpose in our lives

Friends, you can add and delete from this list. You should also change the sequence to suit your priorities in life. I have added sub-points to some of the points. Points without subpoints can be achieved by successfully handling subpoints.

Namaste3

Today’s unprecedented situation has forced Microsoft to delay the significant patch release of their Windows 10 OS. Like them let us also get ourselves ready for our new avatar after the current crisis. The change the whole society is going to select will guide the world for the next step of the journey! Whether we decide to do it together or keep on arguing, as the society will determine the new OS!

Namaste is one gesture on which we all have agreed, and it has become the universal way of saying hello when we meet! That my friend is a good starting point. Let Namaste be our beacon when we take any decision. Any decision that achieves 70% of what Namaste has achieved, should be a good decision for our future!

Judging each other! 

We are living in a different world today and observing an unprecedented scourge that is threatening us. More than a hundred years back, there was an influenza epidemic in the world. Millions of people died. In those days, the communication in all formats was so primitive that for us, Europe and America were as good as Mars and Venus. We first started seeing these aliens about four hundred years back when Vasco De Gama landed in India. Rest as they say is history.

In the last fifty years, with the help of Airbus and Boeing, every place on the earth is less than a day’s journey, including the airport transfer time. So, merging with “aliens” is complete. All of us have realised that humans are the same everywhere. What makes them different is their culture, the way they are brought up. Culture is the way they lived during the isolation period before the globe-trotting started. Culture is the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.

When you live in proximity to the same people for a period, you slowly get to know everything about them. Sometimes you see the beautiful, occasionally angry, generous, or petty – everyone’s drama unfolds in front of you. You know how they think and feel. Consequently, you may become hugely opinionated about everyone.

Whatever opinions, ideas, and conclusions you may have about other people and yourself – now is the time to drop them. Whatever thoughts, views, and deductions you may have about other people and yourself – now is the time to lose them. Everyone can flower into a beautiful being. The more opinions, ideas, conclusions, and prejudices you have, the bigger the distance between you and that possibility. Allow yourself and everyone else a fresh start.

I have a home in a harmonious society with all row houses. It is representative of Bharat. People from all over India live there peacefully, most of the times. But in today’s times of Coronavirus, a lot of discussions take place. For such societies, there is an elected committee who handles the affairs of the community. But for some reason, the current committee always seems to be riding a high horse. They forget that others have given them a POI- power of attorney, to handle day to day affairs. But the way some things are handled surprise me and makes me sad. When I got thinking about it, I suddenly was reminded of Ravana with ten heads. What are these ten heads? What does it signify?

Everyone has ten or more heads. One day, your head is full of greed, another day full of jealously, hatred, love, lust, beauty, or ugliness. Or you go through everything in one day. If you see someone in a moment of jealousy, you conclude that he is a jealous person. If you see someone in a moment of greed, you suppose that he is a greedy person. But, at different times, different heads are working in everyone. Everyone has at least one head of love, beauty, generosity, or compassion.

Just follow a fundamental principle – if you see something wrong in someone, condemn that, not the person. If you bring this wisdom into your life, you will be free of baggage. When you do this to others, the same will happen to you.

Someone once said, “Love is a thing that happens between a man and woman who do not know each other.” That is true only if you live a frivolous, judgmental life – a life without wisdom. The more you know someone, warts and all, the more you realise that all of us have the same traits. In the case of some people, poor qualities are more predominant. Why is that so? Consider our life before the stone age. We acquired all the traits as we progressed. Those in the cold region ate whatever was available during winters, but those in warm weather had flowing rivers and could grow crops and vegetables of different types. So the cuisine of these people became varied and more vibrant. Those who have faced abuse during childhood behave differently. A famous line from Wordsworth’s poem, The Rainbow, is “The child is the father of the man!” It means that our childhood shapes our adulthood!

Ravan2

The more you get to know someone, the more love and compassion should arise. When you know all their struggles, you know they are as human as you are. We should not give up on people when they behave unexpectedly, at least in the initial phase. Probably, all through their lives, they have seen such behaviour in the family and their neighbourhood. So, they think it is the only way to behave.

Ravan1

I will tell you a story of a young boy. Brilliant and smart he was. But every day in the evening, he would meet up with friends on a footpath outside his college, and they would have a beer. He was still in his teens. His mother knew about this and met one of his favourite teachers to explain her apprehensions about the child. The next day his teacher called him. She said, “What do you do on the footpath outside the college in the evening.” He said, “Oh! My mother met you.” On further questioning, he said, “Now I have understood what you have explained. Starting just now, I will stop taking beers. But you know madam, from my childhood I have seen that my father comes home from his factory. Takes a bath and starts with his whiskey. Nobody explained to me the wrong side of alcohol. Since he did it, I was just copying him.”

Don’t forget that every soul has a right side to it; try to recognise that good side even in these people who you otherwise consider to be horrible. A rose plant has more thorns than roses, but we still call it a rose plant because we recognise its beauty. A mango tree has more leaves than mangoes, but we still call it a mango tree because we know the sweetness of its fruits.

Every human being has at least one drop of sweetness in them. Why don’t we see this? Please do this with everyone around you – try to recognise that one drop of sweetness in even those people who you otherwise consider to be terrible. Only if you understand it in others, it will reflect in you. On the other hand, if you see terrible things in other people, that is what will reflect in you. It does not mean you should become blind to everything. You see the leaves in the tree; you see the thorns in the rose bush – but you acknowledge the flower and the fruit.

That is all you need to do. Let’s make this happen and let us not judge people on an incident. Let us not be judgemental. Give the long rope to others, and you will find that people are okay after all. Maybe they have some quirks like everybody else, including you!

How closely do we know others? 

In our life, we meet many people. First of course is our mother and then the family. The journey continues until you die. At various stages, you make friends starting from KG to completing your education. If you are lucky, you continue to live in the same city where you were born and educated. During this phase, you make lifelong friends. Later, you start your career and get married too. For your professional work, you may be anywhere in India or may even migrate to different countries. You get additional close family members after marriage. Later, during your work phase, you meet more people. But rarely you make new friends. But now since last 10 to 15 years, you are making lots of “Friends” on FB. Many of these “friends” you hardly know them. Then you make “Friend’s Groups” on WA.

I will be writing about some friends from school and college days. It is their journey that was sometimes normal, and at other times shocking or painful.

Social networks have found us a lot of old friends (real ones), but you forget that a lot of water has gone under the bridge (in my case sometimes 50 to 60 years). I was looking for a dear friend school days. Somehow, I managed to get his cell number. The person who shared his cell number with me indicated that the friend had changed a lot. I was apprehensive when I called him. But once we started speaking, we continued almost for an hour. We did the usual things like exchanging photos, shared what we did in life. He was the good old jovial friend that I remembered from school days. But since then, whenever I call, he responds and shares life experience in general. But he has never called me, ever. I later understood that he had met with an accident in which he had a head injury. That has put him in difficulty. It has changed his personality.

I recently came in touch with another friend who was at Elphinstone College, Bombay with me for two years. All of us in those days were from lower-middle-class families trying to come up in life via education. The friend used to live in Girgaum in one of the wadis- a cluster of houses. He was studious, showing the usual lack of confidence for those days, especially in Elphinstone College. The college was well known for scholars both in science and arts stream. But the college had many students who had taken their school education in English medium schools. So, most of us were not sure-footed in the initial phase. Some continued with the same mindset until they passed out. The friend has not changed much even now and has remained the same as he was. It is an excellent tribute to him to have maintained his values from childhood.

It reminds me of another friend who was with me at Elphinstone College, but we were also from the same school. He was a reticent, smart person. He was brilliant and did quite well until we joined engineering. We were together in engineering too; he did not enjoy his engineering course, probably! He flunked in one year. After engineering, I met him again after ten years. He had entirely changed. He had started smoking and talked of alcohol enthusiastically. He was in the construction business. He would speak of millions of Rupees which was a lot of money, in the early ’80s of the previous century. Jaya was impressed with his talk. When we were coming back to Pune, I told Jaya that this is not the old friend I knew. I don’t believe in his boasting of a large amount of money.

Over a period, we started receiving the news of his failing business and some wrong business deal with people very close to him. He started drinking and smoking heavily. Funds began dwindling. He would come to Pune occasionally. He would smile the way he used to, but he had started looking haggard. He was never in a mood to listen to others. His sister suggested to him that his two children could live with her in Bombay for education. He agreed, luckily. Both his children are well settled.

Now the sad part! The friend hurtled down continuously in the vicious circle of the lack of money, alcohol and could not put the brakes on. His wife valiantly tried to support home by taking tuitions. In his final couple of years, I came to know that he would sell his household items to quench his thirst for alcohol. About fifteen years back, I got the news that he had passed. From a typical god-fearing family, an intelligent person with a pleasant personality was wasted. It would have been okay had he not been successful in business. Is it destiny that took him on the wrong path? I am aware that addiction to alcohol can ruin people, but during childhood, if someone had predicted about him, I would have simply said, Oh! Come on, not him!

The last friend I am going to talk about is a sadder case. It is because he is still around. He and I used to live in the same building and had a similar background. We were batchmates. Later as we grew, I realised that he was a little less endowed in smartness- both in studies and otherwise. He meandered through his life the way hundreds of thousands of people move. He had a routine job from which he took premature retirement. It enabled him to get some lump sum money; he had a daughter who was perpetually sick. She died about ten years back. Her illness probably hit his corpus badly. But his brave wife continues to work even today. He lives around twenty km away from Pune in a rented home. In India, suburbs are not as costly as they are in developed countries. He has lost his “Will” to do anything. He has become a chain smoker. His wife gives him an exact amount for him to buy a packet of cigarettes before she goes to the office. But my friend wanders around during the day. Once his stock of cigarettes is finished, he looks for butts. Sometimes he goes to an ATM near his home and begs for money for the cigarettes. Another friend from those days has been in touch with him all through life. He has tried to help in many ways, including psychiatric treatment. But it seems he has crossed the primary threshold. It appears that after some medicines, he will be shifted to an institution.

My eyes are still moist when I write about him. We had fantastic 6/7 years together during our childhood. We fought; we were partners in table tennis. I spoke to him a few months back, and I told Jaya that something is seriously wrong with him. I will be able to handle his death, but I am too much of a coward to meet him in this condition. I have now made my resolve to go and meet him once this lockdown situation is over. Now I have found a valid reason to avoid visiting him! 😒😒

Friends, life is beautiful, but there are peaks and troughs of happiness and sadness. I know that I will overcome this phase. But life is full of surprises, either way!

I am fed up with this routine! 

Another sentence regularly heard by me in our peer group. Some people feel that once they have retired, they need not plan anything. I have heard some people saying, “Now that I am retired, let me be the boss of my own time! I was a prisoner of time all the time.” It means that the person making this statement was an organised person. He had a routine during his working life. So, he was following a routine. Now that he retired, he wants to become a free bird.

Keep in mind that it is okay if you decide that you only want to follow your routine on weekdays and not on weekends, or if you have a different method on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, etc. It is also perfectly okay to set aside specific times to do nothing. The point is that you have thought about it carefully and are mindful about your choices. After all, having a routine is nothing other than a conscious decision to live your life in a certain way through healthy repetition. It is one of the keys to success and happiness.

Each of us is different and has different goals, needs, desires, and resources. That is the reason it is essential to develop our routine after carefully deciding what we want to achieve in our lives. The rewards to be reaped are worth the effort. Today is a brand-new day, and it is never too late to start your routine. Even in retirement, you need to have a method to your life.

The other day I met a doctor friend of mine. He is a couple of years senior to Jaya and me. We were at his clinic. He wondered and said, “Pramod, do you think, I should continue working? I had casually checked with some of my patients and asked them if I should retire. The patients flatly said, No, doctor, please don’t retire.” It encourages him to continue. Then I told him about my brother in law, Dada. Dada is all of 86 years of age. He is Pune’s well-known general practitioner and could be the oldest who still goes to his clinic to see the patients, every day. For the last few years, Dada has an assistant with him in the clinic. But he goes to the clinic both in the morning and the evening. Dada said, “Pramod, it is a good idea to have some routine to our lives. It does not keep me worried about what to do today. My patients start taking my advice at my home from 8 am. Then I go to the clinic around 10 am. I follow a similar routine in the evening.” Other than this he travels, goes on holidays and meets friends.

I told this story to my doctor friend. He thought about it for a moment and said, “I think it is a great idea.” I am sure he will work for years to come. I feel that every person should keep on doing some activity regularly depending on his/her health. Such routine and activities help people to look forward to their days ahead. Our mind is happy when you have something to look forward.

Near our home, I see a gentleman sitting below his condo. He is around a hundred years of age. He sits there in the morning and the evening if he can. He has difficulty in walking. A couple of times, I have chatted with him. He told me his life story and said that he finds the open-air invigorating. He is challenged because he cannot walk much but sitting inside his home would be even more annoying.

If it is possible those who could continue working, even in a small way, should continue to do so. We continue to do some professional work. Post my retirement- (I call it almost retired 🙂🙂); I do have a routine. I write a blog every alternate day. I go to the gym or go for a walk, and Jaya goes for her a walk. Whenever we need to make some local purchase, Jaya and I trundle down to the market. We both look at the finances more carefully than we could while we were working. Jaya is invited to various organisations to give keynote addresses and speeches. She calls it technical, social work.

Working for as long as possible automatically creates a routine in our lives. Our other activities are organised around the work we do. “Working” makes us feel wanted. Whatever work you do, you need to prepare, and you need to get ready. You need to have appropriate clothing. I am a consultant to a large Japanese conglomerate. Besides routine work, I have observed that whenever there is a crisis, technical or commercial, our customers involve me. One of them called me yesterday. He said, “Pramod, I know that once you are in the loop, the matter will get resolved quickly.” It shows my usefulness in what I am doing.

Does it give a boost to my ego? No, not really. But what it does is to keep me interested in the work I do. It has also made me think about how my usefulness could be utilised for social work. I am looking at various avenues of finding out where my experience could be utilised.

But why do all this? Why don’t I just put my legs up and do nothing? Yes, one can do nothing! Jaya and I do nothing when we go on holidays. A couple of years back, we had taken a holiday in Manali. We did “nothing”, and we lazed around the lawns of our cottage. We sat reading, chatting, playing cards with the snow-clad Himalayan mountains in the backdrop. Yes, we did nothing!

In Madikeri, this year, again we did nothing, other than listening to birds, the flowing streams. The rustling of leaves with breeze helped us further to do nothing. We met many new people during our stay and chatted. We did nothing!

Friends, in our life you can never do “nothing”. What we do is that we change our routines to suit the situation. When it is raining heavily during monsoons, you sit by your window or your balcony, doing nothing. You have the beauty of nature to absorb. Such situations rekindle your memories. You may suddenly remember an old friend and call him. You will chat about how you had fun during heavy monsoon rains in Lonavala, during your college days. Jaya would suddenly say, “Hey, let us have one more cup of tea, to suit the mood.” Go and get a Kachori but you can eat only half of it. You have never done that before! But do it, your new routine of following your gut feeling.

In your golden years keep on doing “nothing”. Go with the flow, go with nature. It is a new routine that you are following inadvertently. “Doing nothing” is a myth that most of us hope to earn, but we keep on doing something with a different method or way than we used to do. That different method is called a routine. So, follow your instincts, go and do what your mind tells you. Decide to go for a movie or a drama, on the spur of the moment. That is a new routine for you.

I thought I told you! 

The sentence is regularly used in our conversations these days. Last year I celebrated my 70th birthday, and Jaya will celebrate it this year. It is widespread to hear such statements among our friends and at home. It is supposed to happen this way as we grow old. Everybody says so. It must be right. The statement is as accurate as a statement when one of my nephews told me years back. He said, “It must be true; I read it in the newspaper.” My nephew was young and naïve. We are supposed to forget things as we grow old is a statement that makes us old and naïve!  

Then what is rightYes, you may forget a few things, but that is not much related to ageing. People forget things when they are young, they are middleaged, or they are old. It can happen more if there is damage to brainrelated functionsBut otherwise, it is common and human to forget.  

What is human memory? 

Memory refers to the processes used to acquire, store, retain, and later retrieve information. There are three major processes involved in memory: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Human memory consists of the ability to both preserve and to recover information we have learned or experienced. 

The memories are two types, short term and long term.  

Short-term memory contains the contents of your thoughts right now, including what you intend to do in the next few seconds. It’s doing some mental arithmetic, thinking about what you’ll say next in a conversation or walking to the hall closet to get a pair of socks. 

Short-term memory is easily disturbed or disrupted. It depends on your actively paying attention to the items that are in the “next thing to do” file in your mind. You do this by thinking about them, perhaps repeating them repeatedly (“I’m going to the closet to get socks”). But any distraction — a new thought, someone asking you a question, the telephone ringing — can disrupt short-term memory. Our ability to automatically restore the contents of the short-term memory declines slightly with every decade after 30. 

But age is not the primary factor so commonly assumed. Some teachers who have been teaching undergraduate class, attest that even 20-year-olds make short-term memory errors. They walk into the wrong classroom; they show up to exams without the requisite No. 2 pencil; they forget something told to them just said two minutes before. These are like the kinds of things 70-year-olds do. 

The relevant difference is not age but rather how we describe these events, the stories we tell ourselves about them. Twenty-year-olds don’t think, “Oh, this must be early-onset Alzheimer’s.” They think, “I’ve got too many things to do right now” or “I need to get more than four hours of sleep.” The 70-year-old observes these same events and worries about her brain health. It is not to say that Alzheimer’s- and dementia-related memory impairments are fiction — they are genuine — but every lapse of short-term memory doesn’t necessarily indicate a biological disorder. Like every growth anywhere in the body is not cancer. Alcoholics can have liver cirrhosis, but so can teetotallers! Memory impairment is not inevitable in the absence of brain disease even at an age beyond 80.  

Some aspects of memory get better as we age. For instance, our ability to extract patterns, regularities and to make accurate predictions improves over time because we’ve had more experience. We call it grey hair! (This is why computers need to be shown tens of thousands of pictures of traffic lights or cats to be able to recognise them– that is the way face recognition was developed.) If you’re going to get an X-ray, you want a 70-year-old radiologist reading it, not a 30-year-old one—the reason for this is straightforward. The seventy-year-old has seen many more x-rays in his lifetime than the thirty-year-old doctor. He has discussed hundreds of more x-rays, diagnosed many patients. With no brain damage, the doctor can recall from his database. After all, today’s AI systems do the same thing. They are fed massive data and retrieve data based on the query sent.  But when doing procedures or surgeries, a 30-year-old may be more adept to using modern equipment than a seventy-year-old doctor.

So how do we account for our subjective experience that older adults seem to fumble with words and names? First, there is a generalised slowing with age — but given a little more time, older adults perform just fine. Then there is a problem regarding bodily functions. Eyesight slowly deteriorates, hearing goes down over a period. Sometimes the balance also a problemI take a precautionary step of holding the railing while climbing down the steps. All these precautions slow down our other processes like memory access, but it is not because of memory issues.   

The older brain must search through astronomical data collected over time. Younger adults search through much smaller data when they try to retrieve things. It’s not that you can’t remember, but you are going through a lot of data; people think that you have slowed down. The studies performed to simulate the young brain, and the old brain show this crowdedness. 

Last year during Holi festival, I was passing by the kids who were splashing balloons filled with colour. One of the balloons splashed on me, by mistake. The kids were scared, but the colours reminded me of my childhood when we used to splash balloons on older people purposely. I laughed, took a balloon and threw it on those kids. We all enjoyed it. It is this ability to remember what I used to do 60 years back is easily recalled than what happened six days ago, looks surprising to us. 

When I thought about this in peace, I was not surprised. I understood that I am the same person, even today. My thinking has not changed much. I would still like to drink cola, which we would have in childhood, after pinching a coin from home. When I saw the strong sea waves crashing on Marine Drive in Bombay, for the first time, I was thrilled. There are some things that we still enjoy as we did in childhood. But the same landscape of Lonavala may not thrill me so much now because of the familiarity. Then what we need is to reinvent what we love. Go to different places; they have their lovely trees and birds, wind and the flowers. I had fun recently when we had a holiday in the hills of Madikeri in Karnataka. The trees and bushes there emanated a different smell than what I get in Pune. 

It is the combination of enjoying new and fresh things that reinvent us. We do slow down a bit, but if we are free of brain diseases, our memory and thinking plus recalling old stuff do not change much.  

These new things I remember for months because they are unique but new. And experiencing new things is the best way to keep the mind young, pliable and growing — into our 80s, 90s and beyond.