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Friday, January 17, 2014

“I am 17 short of a century”

Someone has wisely remarked: “How old would you be if you did not know how old you are?”

Today is my father-in-law’s 83rd birthday! He’s been telling everyone who’s been calling to wish him: “Today is the 17th and I am 17 short of a century!” There’s a rare zest in his voice. To me, he is equanimity personified. He goes about his daily schedules – peacefully, undeterred, unperturbed with his surroundings. People call on him to seek his blessings or advice or sometimes just to chat up. He greets all of them with warmth and affection – he has never once been grumpy that he has been disturbed. He loves to watch the Indian cricket team and Chennai Super Kings play – and win! The only times I have seen him flustered, that too momentarily, is when the “boys” throw away their wickets or give away too many runs!! It is not that he doesn’t have age-related health complications. He has. For reasons of protecting his privacy, I will refrain from detailing those. But he has never once complained. Over these years, it has been as if, his physical condition and his spiritual state have happily co-existed – for they have never been in conflict with each other. It has been over 12 years since he lost his wife (my mother-in-law). While I know he misses her greatly, I also know he always feels her presence. It is a beautiful spirit of companionship, I believe, he nurtures within himself which makes him deal with worldly feelings like ‘loneliness’ and ‘boredom’ very spiritually. Truly, he never fails to amaze me with his wit and disciplined lifestyle!

My dad too, at 75, is a very inspiring man. A chronic diabetic, he simply manages to set his age, and his condition’s complications, aside and keeps moving on. An accomplished singer himself, he coaches young children in the art of Carnatic music – keeping himself busy and active all the time. He often tells me that he is grateful for this “bonus” Life and for being able to move around rather than be confined to a bed. Recently he regaled a full house in his condominium – singing hits of legendary Tamil actor-singer Chandrababu on karaoke for the New Year celebration! He has this phenomenal ability, thanks to his music and his prayer routine, to always rise above the fractured fabric of a very complicated family situation. I may have found him often stirred by circumstances, but never once shaken.

I am sure you have such inspiring icons in your family as well. If we observe them carefully, there is a lot we can learn from them.

First, is the art of forgetting your age.  I guess the ability to treat age as a mere number, a data point, helps immensely in learning to continue to live a full Life. Second, I feel, in your own unique way, learning to be detached from “worldliness” helps. This simply means that you must accept the impermanence of everything – including your own Life. Next, if you can drop all expectations from everyone around you, you can be blissful. Always, expectations that people – children and grandchildren – must be this way or that surely brings agony. After all, people have their own lives to lead. So letting them be and you too simply being is a great way to creating a peaceful ecosystem. Then, realizing that the idea, that happiness must be pursued is a myth, is a great eye-opener. When you realize that you are the happiness you seek, Life becomes simple, no matter what situation you are in. And finally, learning to respect the body as the temple that houses your God, your soul – and therefore treating both the body and the soul with dignity is the clincher, the Killer App, that delivers inner peace unto you!

So, the next time you have a painful joint or an aching muscle, the next time you catch yourself hopelessly worrying or woefully lonely, the next time you think you cannot plough on in Life, spare a thought for the senior citizen in your immediate family or circle of influence – the one who continues to live Life fully despite the odds! You will then immediately awaken to the futility of your crib. If you are smart and intelligent, which you indeed are, you will quickly expunge your wasted feelings and step up – to keep playing on, until the last ball is bowled!   

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