Breaking free from paradigms

Not far from us, a passerby sat cross-legged on a sheet. He rolled a cigarette slowly and took long deep puffs as he gazed vacantly ahead. He took no notice of us as we lay on the ground near him.

This was the first day of our walk from Chennai to Velankanni. Errol, who was on the pilgrimage for the seventh straight year, knew every nook and corner of the route and gave me the experience of a lifetime. An early start to the unusual was sprawling out on the pavement along the GST highway while buses, lorries and cars went screeching by.
By sundown we reached Tambaram, enjoyed filter coffee at an Udupi Restaurant, then rested a while as we still had another ten kilometres to walk before we reached Guduvenchary, our night halt. Resting halts along the route were at convenient spots on the pavement, under shady trees or as in this case a quiet bus stand. We relaxed on the floor, looking up at the skies with a sense of peace, when the passerby settled down near us. He smoked his cigarette with equal peace and serenity.

After a while we took out the small packet of iddlies, that was our dinner, and eat it in silence. Our intriguing neighbour never looked once in our direction. He was in his own world with his sparse belongings and perhaps another night without dinner. All he wanted was a good night’s sleep. If he had cares in the world, he never showed it.

He and many others I encountered, the fellow pilgrims and those who selflessly came forward to help, made me examine the paradigms within which I lived.
My sense of well being, recognition and authority came from the corporate world and I was fearful of losing it. It resulted in stress, anxiety and preoccupation with career over most other aspects of life. The corporate world is a fickle source of all that I considered the prime requirements for satisfaction. True contentment comes from other quarters.

Enduring satisfaction and happiness grows out of the fertile soil of gratitude-gratitude for all the people who sacrificed so much that I could live life as I choose to. It grows from knowing who I am and happy to be who I am. It grows out of deep compassing and empathy for others. And it grows out of a desire to help others be happy.

I may have lost many years, but I am on this merry journey now.

A sense of well being and satisfaction require good health. It cannot also come if we don’t allow ourselves the joy of fresh adventures and unfamiliar experiences. We need to lean on resources that can help us get fit and healthy, experience fulfilment and a sense of purpose that spiritual pursuits bring us and the resources that provide the platforms where we can be of service to the community.

All these are essential ingredients of an active ageing agenda.
I urge you to build the agenda for happiness and fulfilment till the last days of your life as soon as possible.
#well being #wellness #active ageing #healthy living #retirement #healing

A tale of two professionals

Two professionals face a dilemma. They face choices that have far-reaching consequences.

Both face hard choices. The first has to choose between a high-paying job in Mumbai or one at half the salary at his home town, Chennai. The other, in Chennai after decades in Delhi, can go back to Delhi as the CEO of a startup on lucrative terms.

Give me more details, you ask, and rightfully so.

The first professional’s wife loyally stood by him in alien conditions without a whimper. She longed to get back to familiar surroundings but considered it her duty to stand by her husband. The other’s wife, an accomplished classical music singer, left her childhood home after marriage. She was hugely excited when they returned to Chennai and secretly wishes her husband will not go back to Delhi.

It would be fair to see polarisation between the more lucrative career option and accommodating the spouse’s needs

Here is a little more detail. Both are financially well off and have family considerations to be in Chennai. The first has aged parents who long to have their son with them. The second’s wife has finally got back to practising and performing classical music and now trains budding singers.

What would you advise these two professionals? Care to share your views as comments?

Here’s how I would go about it.

“You know your situation better than anyone else and are in the best position to decide.
Consider a few things first.
You play many roles in life. Your professional role, while being the most important, is just one of them. God willing, you will live till 90 or even 100, while your working career may end by 65. Invest in the building blocks that will bring you self-reliance, independence and a sense of well being till the very last days of your life. This is your concern, nobody else’s. Pay heed to your health, physical fitness, social responsibilities and the concerns of your family. Seek to be more engaged with community, social welfare and spiritual pursuits. Give time to yourself for the hobbies and passions of your life. Look for greater engagement with the family and a greater say for your spouse in the affairs of the family. Expand your life, you will enjoy it.
Make your decision when you have given adequate thought to these considerations.”
#shapingyourstory #active ageing #career development #career choices #well being #retirement

Impetuous experiences-the fabric of life

My friend and I returned, famished, to our hostel in Jayanagar, Bangalore with just one rupee between us, after a weekend adventure to Yercaud. A classmate lent us money for the luxury of chilled beer and a hearty meal. Youthful impetuousness directed the many escapades of our lives in those days.

A night halt in a low-cost hotel near the bus stand in Salem brought the unexpected. We returned after a late-night movie to sleaze that we were not accustomed to. After bolting into our room and securing ourselves for the rest of the night, we beat a hasty retreat, navigated our way over people in drunken stupor, and checked out early next morning. We were in touching distance of the seamy side of life, a trifle shaken but relieved as we made our way by bus to Yercaud.

I remember we had a pleasant but uneventful stay at Yercaud. Such memories don’t stick. It’s the unusual that lingers on and weaves the fabric of our life.
On our return, we walked rather than take a bus to Salem. A reasonable adventure became an excruciating walk down the mountain in the blazing sun. After several hours, thirsting for water and near dehydration, we made it to the highway. Water from a mud pot at a nearby hut was the sweetest we ever had. The warmth and hospitality of our curious hosts were touching.

We were soon at Salem and back by bus to Bangalore. The little money we had was enough for tiny cups of tea at a midway halt. Then with just a coin between us, we were back in our hostel.

A maze of emotions, the unexpected and the unusual make for unforgettable experiences. A spirit of adventure and the willingness to experiment is natural in youth. Age need never be a barrier, there is no need to be circumspect and unwilling to challenge ourselves.

Give yourself the right to savour life to the full at any age.
#shapingyourstory #active ageing #well being #wellness #retirement

The Mangalayaan Man I know

Radha is a fascinating person. At a college cultural event, he shocked us by performing a kathakali dance. We thought it was quaint and a lark. Little did we know that he had trained as a kathakali dancer during his school days. He gave Carnatic music recitals at other events and to our untrained ears this too was a caper. He was later trained by a renowned artist and performed at Guruvayur Temple and leading music sabhas. At the pinnacle of his career, he was the Chairman of ISRO. Little wonder he is the pride of our batch from IIM Bangalore.

On the day of his superannuation, Radha drove down to the Press Club of Bangalore where the Chief Minister of Karnataka presented him the “Man of the Year” award. Then with grace and simplicity he spent the rest of the evening with his wife and close family members, proud of his past achievements but looking forward with anticipation for the dawn of a new phase in life.

Radha will never be the simple and affable student that we knew. But his humility, passion for classical music and dance and deep spiritualism remain untouched by fame.

He recollects visiting temples in Kerala, during his days in service, with the mandatory retinue of security guards and police vehicles and wishing for the day when he could stand in line with everyone else to purchase coupons for conducting rituals.

Deeply influenced by the Bhagavad Gita, Radha says that in the eighteen or twenty minutes during the launch of an important mission, he lives in the moment, unmindful of honours and accolades. He thinks only of the role he is ordained to perform to the best of his ability and experiences a state of bliss.

In his autobiography, “My Odyssey,” he says, “I feel happy and contented. Posterity might remember me as the Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission) Man. But I would like to be remembered as a person who served the Indian space programme to the best of his ability.”

Post retirement, Radha has more time to practice and perform Carnatic music, besides being an eminent speaker and author. He is the Chairman of the Board of Governors of IIT Kanpur and the Chairman of the Standing Committee of IITs. He continues to serve in an advisory capacity at ISRO.

Radha is a wonderful example of riding on an illustrious past without yearning for the trappings of power and position.
#shapingthestory #active ageing #retirement #wellness #well being

An ode to teammates

Seeing teammates, colleagues and associates growing in their professional careers is a source of pride.

Service engineers with a mechanical or electrical background re-invented themselves in the digit era. Managers and admin staff often found lights on in offices later at night, and suspected intruders, only to find service engineers hard at work on computers that were free only at that unearthly hour. Now many of them hold responsible positions, against all odds, in the cream of IT companies.

Team members head businesses in fields as diverse as telecommunications, e-commerce, insurance, and IT services. They lead large teams with integrity, humanism, and business acumen.

Others grabbed the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and are respected businessmen in their communities, contributing to community development and social welfare.

Some from humble beginnings now see the fruits of their hard work and sincerity bring unimaginable opportunities to their children for education and career development.

It was a privilege to have so many magnificent people around me.

My friends, in your 50s, you can reflect on their careers with pride. There are miles to go and promises to keep, I know, but decide now how the course of your life will run. Take care of your physical fitness, health, mental wellbeing, diet and nutrition. Keep the youthful spirit of adventure burning brightly. Challenge yourself. Contribute to society.

We have much to learn from each other.
Share- Learn -Encourage
#shapingyourstory #active ageing #wellness #well being #healthy living

Responding to the call of the wild

At 60 I was still in the mire of the corporate world with several years to go, when I took stock of my life. Fitness and the outdoors, photography, chess, writing, and things spiritual were among many things in the bucket list.

On a cold winter morning in Delhi, I set off on my first cycle ride in over forty years. I gingerly cycled along the roads near my house and dismounted when anything appeared before me. My first ride was a few kilometres of hesitant cycling but it felt good. Modest rides of around 20 kilometres on the highway nearby, a couple of days each week followed, till I joined a group of cyclists. That began a long and fruitful association.

These cyclists opened the doors of fitness and adventure for me. I progressed from Sunday rides of 45 kilometres, to intercity rides over three or four days, to the ultra-cycling Desert 500 events in Rajasthan. On the first Desert 500 event, I entered for the 250 km ride, plagued with doubts about my credentials. I stopped cycling in pitch darkness 50 kilometres before the finish line. The following year with greater resolve I completed the 250 kms ride with loads of pride and satisfaction.

At the urging of my cycling buddies, I took on a personal trainer who put me through the paces of strength and flexibility training three times a week. Sustained effort got me reasonably fit as I responded to the call of the wild.

In January 2019 at 70, I took on a challenging endeavour that many thought was foolish of me. I cycled from Chennai to New Delhi, a distance of about 3000 kms, in under two months to draw attention to the critical needs of the elderly and to celebrate active ageing. The cyclothon, thanks to HelpAge India, was memorable and satisfying.

What next? The spirit of challenge and adventure burns just as brightly as before and fresh goals and aspirations beckon.
#shapingyourstory #active ageing #wellness #well being #retirement #healthy life style

A new me!

I spent 40 years on the corporate treadmill, immersed in work for most of the day, with stress as a constant companion and little mental space or time for most things that I would love to do. The funny thing about the corporate treadmill is that it becomes a part of you and you worry at the thought of getting off it one day.

I have enduring memories of the people I worked with and the many battles we fought together. We won many and lost a few. My fondest memories are of the many people who so willing marched with me into these battles and of us fighting together as one.

Well before the day I turned my back on the corporate yoke, I knew how I would spend my days and so it was that as I walked into the setting sun it was with anticipation of a new day and a new beginning.

The outdoors beckoned and the company of good friends took me into cycling and hiking and a life of adventure and challenge. There was finally much more time for the family. The very first word my little grandson uttered was “Achachan” (grandfather) – can you believe it!

I took to writing books for a lark and the sheer joy of it.
I immersed myself into spiritual activities.
I take care of my health and physical fitness.
I plan to do the many things I never dared too.

Funnily, I am on a different kind of treadmill. This too is now a part of me and yes one day I will have to get off this one as well. The thought doesn’t worry me.

#active ageing #healing #self help #retirement #well being #wellness #healthy lifestyle

Direct the course of your life

If you are over 50, start work on directing the course of your life post retirement straight away. You have very little time to lose.

The times have changed; to be a burden on others is untenable. Planning your life and preparing in advance will enable you to lead a life of happiness and fulfilment all the way to the eighties and beyond.

Start laying the foundation for three must do requirements

Physical fitness–Healthy eating habits –A spiritual foundation

You can build strength, flexibility, and cardio fitness even if you have been living a relatively sedentary life. Get started and build your fitness gradually. You will soon adopt a fitness regime that you will follow all your life. This will keep your muscles and bones strong and minimise the risk of falls and loss of mobility. In latter posts I will cover suggestions on the physical fitness regime you can follow.

The principles of healthy eating are simple. Dr. V. Mohan, the eminent diabetologist says, “If you follow a balanced and nutritious diet by reducing carbs, eating small quantities of healthy fats, plenty of green leafy vegetables and fruits and sufficient quantity of proteins from vegetable sources, along with keeping yourself physically fit and taking stress reducing measures, you will lead a long and healthy life.”

Ishi Khosla, the well know nutritionist says, “Eating right will slowly change you, both in terms of your hunger and preferences.” She says that eating right will reduce our food intake by as much as 50% and yet increase our energy levels. The right food keeps craving away and keeps you from eating junk food.
A spiritual plank in your life is essential to keep a sense of purpose as you cope with the challenges, physical, mental, and emotional as you join the ranks of senior citizens. This does not mean that spiritual activities and religious pursuits are necessary only in the latter stages of life. It is a tremendous force multiplier at all times. It gives you emotional strength and the wisdom to navigate the inevitable twists and turns of life.

Think about the things you love to do and pursue post retirement. Some of these pursuits may require skill development, investments, and preparatory work. You also need to take heed of financial planning and make adjustments if you need to. Starting well ahead of time will ensure that you eagerly look forward to retirement and set about achieving your aspirations straight away.

In the next few posts, I will cover my personal approach to retirement planning and setting up an active ageing agenda and the approaches of a few others.
Please share any thoughts or queries that you have at this stage.
#active ageing #retirement #ageing #healthy lifestyle #well being #wellness

Staying passionately engaged

Dr. V.S. Natarajan, Sabita Radhakrishna and Major General Ian Cardozo are outstanding senior citizens who stay passionately engaged with life. They are mindful of staying fit and healthy in body, mind and spirit. A defining feature of their lives is dedicated service to others. They are excellent role models who can inspire us to follow the passionate interests of our life in our active ageing agenda.

Geriatric Housecall programmeDr. VS Natarajan was the first doctor in India to specialise in geriatric care. With relentless effort he established the first Geriatric Department in the country at Madras Medical College in 1978 and after ten years of dedicated effort he established the first ward dedicated to geriatric care, in 1988. Little wonder that he is known as the Father of geriatric care in India. Dr. Natarajan at 79, recollects that he looked forward to retirement with eagerness and anticipation. He established the Dr. VS Natarajan Geriatric Foundation in Tamilnadu and has dedicated his post-retirement years to his passionate concern for the wellfare of the elderly. Of the many initiatives the Foundation runs, Dr. Natarajan is proud of the emergency service for elders who need immediate attention at home. This service has saved the lives of many senior citizens through prompt help at home. He has written over 30 books and published several periodicals that give invaluable information to the elderly and their care givers. He received the Padmashree in 2012 for his lifelong service for the care of the elderly.

PICTURES OF SABITHA RADHAKRISHNAN FOR SUNDAY MAGAZINE. EXPRESS / R.SATISH BABUSabita Radhakrishnan at 78 is passionately engaged with life. She continues to champion the cause of the handloom weavers and offers help in innovative design ideas, marketing, and financial management. Her play, Song of the Looms, which highlights the plight of the weavers, was staged as a play by the well know English Theatre group Madras Players. She established a home care service for senior citizens with a band of dedicated volunteers, UDHAVI in 2013. UDHAVI offers companionship to lonely elderly people. After receiving training she provides home care assistance to elders with dementia to give relief to the family care givers. Sabita developed an interest in traditional and age old Tamilian recipes. Besides cooking delicious and authentic Tamilian cuisine, she has written two books which received Gourmand World Awards for the best cookbooks from India. Sabita is an amazing play writer, author and social worker rolled into one.

IMG-20191127-WA0001Major General Ian Cardozo had a leg amputated after a mine blast during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. He was then a Major with the 5th Gorkha Regiment. He insisted on remaining in service and battled stereotyping and prejudice to command a regiment and later a brigade. Post retirement, he has dedicated his life to the service of children with special needs and disabled war veterans. He served as the Northern India Head of Spastic Society of India and as the head of the Rehabilitation Council of India. He is the Vice-President of the War Wounded Foundation. His willingness to fight for a cause, led him to prison at times during protest marches and vigils for the cause of the disadvantaged. At 83 he says that he will serve the cause of the disabled as long as possible. Post retirement General Cardozo ha written several well researched books. The sinking of INS Khukri, Param Vir-Our heroes in battle and The Indian Army in World War -1 have been publicly acclaimed.
There is much we can learn from these gallant senior citizens.
#active ageing #well being #wellness #healthy living #retirement #Dr.V S Natarajan #Sabita Radhakrishna #Ian Cardozo

Being the blacksmith of your life


The Nobel laureate Dr. A Sholokhov said, “You don’t accomplish anything if you don’t have a definite goal. We are all ‘blacksmiths’ who have to hammer and shape our own happiness. People of conviction, people who are spiritually strong, can exert a definite influence on the direction their lives take, even when fate takes an unexpected twist.”
We hammer and shape our happiness in our own unique way by drawing up an active ageing agenda and continuously reworking priorities along the journey. The passionate pursuits of your life and the must do pursuits are integral parts of your active ageing agenda.

Let us look at the must do or essential elements in this post.

It is about being fit and healthy at any age and includes physical fitness, nutrition, mental and emotional health, social and spiritual engagement.
A gentle stroll in the park every day along with a group of friends is not enough. Interactions with friends is excellent tonic but gentle walking will not give you the benefits of keeping most age related illnesses at bay. WHO in its guidelines for adults who are 65 years or more, says, “Overall strong evidence demonstrates that, compared to less active men and women, older adults who are physically active have lower rates of all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type two diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer. They have a higher level of cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness.” WHO’s recommendation for the intensity of physical activity for adults who are 65 or above is to increase moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes a week or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate -and-vigorous-intensity activity. You can see that this is far in excess of a gentle walk in the park.

I have cover at some length about eat right for health and long life in previous posts and will delve into it again in later posts.

Excessive stress is a roadblock to wellness.
A certain level of stress is inevitable but prolonged stress has an effect on the body and mind. It causes changes to the brains structure and functioning resulting in difficulty in new learning and memory and becoming less capable of coping with stress. Exercise and relaxation techniques help in reducing stress. Deep breathing, meditation and yoga are well known relaxing techniques for calming the mind. Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise and sufficient sleep are also important.

Family and social support are vital for a sense of well being.
The psychiatrist Sidney Cobb defined social support as a subjective sensation in which the individual feels, “That he is cared for and loved. That he is esteemed and valued; that he belongs to a network of communication and mutual obligation.” Social activity is as rewarding as physical activity and a healthy diet. People who are socially active are less likely to face declining mental faculties. A strong social network makes us less stressful as we have emotional support and assistance in times of need. Taking part in community development activities, volunteering for social work, participating in religious activities and joining clubs help in leading an active social life. Games such as bridge and other group sports provide social contact and mental challenges.

When you start putting in these essentials into your active ageing agenda you will see how full your plate becomes and how important it is to prioritise and organise your activities. And we haven’t yet got to the pursuits driven by one’s passion.
#well being #wellness #active ageing #healthy living #retirement #healing