Saturday, March 22, 2008

Your Smile means I am fine...

Similar to the incident where I met the 100-year old man, I happened to meet another elderly person. I was in the hospital to meet a friend and someone mentioned about this person and said he was also admitted in the same hospital for some ailment. I never knew him, I hadn't talked to him anytime before, but I knew he was a resident of the community. A couple of other friends also thought let's go and visit him although none of us knew him well. So we went to his ward. He knew only one among our group but he understood we are a gang. He must have been in his late eighties (or may be in early nineties). As we could see, his ailment had taken a heavy toll. The first thing that happens, I think, to some people who are otherwise healthy, well-built for a long time and suddenly fall sick in their old age is that, they lose their cheeky build and drastically reduce to a thin frame. He had great difficulty having food on his own and his wife was feeding him a semi-liquid from a cup. We thought it wouldn't be good manners to step in but they said its okay and moreover, it was already getting dark and we thought he might wish to take rest later. His wife was also in her eighties and still does voluntary work.

I felt that though his frame had reduced, the shine in his eyes had not. He mentioned about my friend's father and recollected how they went back a long time, though they had branched out into different workplaces. He was happy that we were visiting him although he actually knew only one of us. He said: I am not so sure about the ailment and the pain that has inflicted me, but when I see the (well-wishing) smile on your faces, then I know I am getting well. Your smile is a sign of my wellbeing. I had mentioned in an earlier post, that elderly couples, after a threshold age, go on to become good old buddies, with the bonding turning almost as a spiritual friendship. I felt the same way when I saw the old lady feeding her husband. Seldom do young couples pause to think that the test of true bonding lies far ahead later in life, that the best of fun times are only the beginning part of the wedding promises and keeping them up till the end is the proof of the pudding.

They both probably had come to the plain realisation that the ailment may be terminal. She mentioned, that the God they believed in, whatever He did would be good to them. Wow, I thought. It's easy to debunk or theorise about a belief in God, but it's tough to turn that faith, whatever God you may have, into a positive strength when it matters the most and when all our devices are shutting out in non-co-operation. You know that your most possessive possession so far, your own body, is giving way and you have to use the strength of something that is not made of body stuff. You don't even want to think of trying that, and even tougher to try it at 80+.

His strength was even better. Similar to the earlier incident, his mental strength was amazing. His voice was blurred so I couldn't get it verbatim, words came with breaks, but let me capture the main idea. He said : Suffering is a great test of your spirituality. For a long time, we have been 'knowing' the whats and hows of being spiritual, but in such a situation, it is a test to have the faith that My God is always with me. And I firmly believe He is with me. That the condition of the body is this or that doesn't matter, but in my mind I know, whatever happens we have His Blessings. This is the time to remember, and actually practise what we have always known all these years.

It set me thinking on suffering. Suffering, I agree with him, is really a great test of spirituality. Other times, you probably "apply" your spirituality "on others", to third party situations, but the acid test of your spirituality is when a real suffering touches you directly. Dhoodh kaa dhoodh, Paani kaa paani Ho Jayega. Buddha devoted his entire life in finding the answer for this one question. We live off our lives not bothering about it, as if it were out of syllabus, but dude, thats one sure question thats going to be on exam paper. For, old age and its accompaniments are a certainty and more often, such a certainty that we will most likely be all alone to handle the actual stuff. If at all you want to have an Either-Or choice, now is the time make that choice between becoming a Budda or a Buddha. The others can rally around you in support, speak nice words and may be even help you out, but there is no proxy for living out your pain. You have to do it, yeah scary it is, all by yourself, bit by bit. This requires a lifetime's preparation of your mind, brick by brick, to keep it strong in old age. When the body is strong, the mind may fritter away, but if such a frittering can be streamlined and built to be strong, then such a strength would come in handy when the body is on its withering way.

I and one of my friends are opposites in our lifestyles. There are many unhealthy elements in my lifestyle, I blog after midnight and I sleep late, I have a lot of junk food and less of healthy food, I live like a sin(e) curve, don't keep a standard schedule etc. Whereas he lives his life as if a clock decided to become a human being and bless the earth, and lives in a very simple straight line, while a few others run around in circles. :) . I often joke that he is like The Wall, stay and play, ball by ball and hit a slow century. Another friend of mine jokes that he spends the first 60 years in disciplined suffering so that he may live the next 20 happily, whereas others spend first 60 merrily and suffer the last 20. While I often quip away the flexi lifestyle to be the ultimate exercise of Brahamachari independence, I have to sheepishly agree when well-meaning friends often insist, will rolling eyes, that body will soon show its signs. Come to think of it, the jokes apart, my friend does have a healthier lifestyle than mine, and the compliment is not only about the body. The health of the mind that you acquire across years is going to be a major support when you have crossed most of your years. This recent quote about paradoxes on Prasanna's blog puts it well.

When we moved away from that hospital bed that night, after holding his hand reassuringly for a moment, wishing him the best and praying for his good health, we didn't know he would be no more within two weeks. But those two minutes of interaction with him had set us all thinking on why it is important to live a life in a particular way and not just in any way, anyway.


  1. Touching, well-written.
    Sai Ram

  2. it was nice to be a part of an incident that was very moving. HATS off to the man for having lived such a holy and healthy life.

    coming to the point of leading a healthy life some one recently sent an sms the contents are " People struggle all the life to maintain their physical health and finally what do they get .... A senior citizen concession discount of 20% in the end." Such is the state of our affairs.

    OUr lifstyle should be health automatically everthing else will fall in place is my philosophy .

    Wait and you will get to read my thoughts on health and happiness but you will need to develop patience. because this is year ending and i will be beusy for quit some time.

    when time permits i will work on this post. do look out and thanks for sharing your vies on life and lifestyle.

    love and regards

  3. Well done Sriniji, keep writing.

    with luv

  4. Naams,
    Its cliche to say, you have done a good job. Yet I am forced to say for there is no other way to express it than respectful silence, which unfortunately cannot be reflected in this world of typed electronic ink.

    Your start of the para with 'It set me thinking on suffering...', though such a simple statement, starts inquisitiveness in the mind of the reader. And the way you intertwined life-style with the (co-)incidence of meeting an elderly person makes it a good beginner article on Health-Care

    Keep going...frankly, only few posts of Naams I have read, but this one once started could not be left alone

    Waiting for more...

  5. Reading this was (spiritual) tonic for me...Looking forward to regular doses....

    Sai Ram


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THANK YOU: These reflections draw sometimes from readers and friends who initiate ideas, build up discussions, post comments and mention interesting links, some online and some over a cup of coffee or during a riverside walk. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this blog are the blogger's personal opinions and made in his individual capacity, sometimes have a story-type approach, mixing facts with imagination and should not be construed as arising from a professional position or a counselling intention.