HEARTBEATS – The Golden Age

It’s a fact beyond doubt that age brings in tremendous changes in our life, affecting all of us without any exception.  While physical changes happen in front of our eyes, there are changes happening in our cognitive abilities, which largely depend on the biological changes happening in our brain.  Research findings reveal that while physical abilities do decrease as we age, the person gains more experience, maturity, practical knowledge of handling life situations, and acquires a wider knowledge base as the age goes up.

On nearing the sixties people start looking at you differently, naturally creating a feeling in you that you are getting old, and perpetuating your perception that you are likely to enter the last phase of your life “retired”.  The surroundings also makes you feel that you are actually becoming good-for-nothing, and your age, health conditions, and old age predicaments in general, will be a talk of the town in your circles of friends and relatives, and often there will be reprimands as well demanding you to take more care, and you may be  naturally needing more and more attention, but actually appear to be receiving less and less of it, sometimes have to face rejection, and may be even ultimate abandonment, in reality.

Research findings suggest that while there may be some decline on the episodic memory (memory of experiences associated with a particular time and space), the semantic memory (general knowledge) largely remains in tact.  Procedural memory or the knowledge level of performing any skilled tasks, generally remains in tact.  You may have seen some old people performing some specified tasks very accurately like cycling, yoga, walking, running etc. which of course are related with the physical ability of the person.

Unless the person suffers from some serious illness in the brain like Alzheimer’s disease or any other malfunctions of the brain, people will generally be able to retain the cognitive abilities in tact.  There are increasing evidence to show that even the decline in memory that happens with age, can be substantially compensated by mental exercises, like meditation, activities that require thinking, reading, reasoning and memorization.

The weight of the brain does decrease when age advances, 5% by age 70, 10% by age 80, and 20% by the age 90.  Also the frontal lobe of the brain, that plays a major role in maintaining our working memory, gets weakened over time.  As we go up in age, maintaining overall ability will be possible by maintaining proper vegetarian diet, physical (exercise, walking, running etc.), and recreational activities.   Education and life style of the person in general will play a vital role.

There are so many evidences to show that the intellectual abilities do appear to be in tact, until the person enters age 60, 70, 80, and beyond.  Only tasks requiring physical activities may decline in speed drastically as we age.  There may be slow reaction time, but this can be amply compensated by enhanced maturity level, experience and knowledge, which can be far superior to youngsters.  It has been found that intelligence (an ability to think and reason) increases upto the early twenties, and then start declining, whereas crystallized intelligence or the accumulated knowledge increases over the life span.

It is said that creativity declines as we grow older.  However, creativity is not the exclusive domain of the youth.  There are famous artists, inventors, and composers, who have completed major works of art very late in their lives.  Michelangelo continued his designing and painting until his death at the age of 83.  In the recent past, MF Hussein continued to shine till very late in his life, and we can see many more examples which explains that creativity does not actually decline as we age.

Along with steps to maintain physical and mental abilities, maintaining your contributions to your surroundings in such a way that your surroundings will really miss you will go a long way.  In fact old age is the time, when you can indulge in the activities you have always wanted to do, and be happy.  It can really be the golden age, with a little extra care to remain active..




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HEARTBEATS – Don’t give in to miseries!

Although there are volumes of motivational material available around you, my strong attachment is with what Swamy Vivekananda has said “sitting still and wishing makes no man great, we must put the bait in the water in order to get the fish”.  Every one of us is nurturing dreams, aspire to do something, and ambitious to become someone big in life.

You need inspiration to draw strength from the surroundings, insight to understand the things that a common mind cannot, and integrity to make you acceptable to the relevant people, nay, maximum people as you are in the profession of reaching out to people through your actions, and so many other qualities are actually required in order to succeed in life, to keep you on your toes, and to protect you from distortions in your perceptions and approaches.

The reality, however, is that the temptations to divert your attention is so large in number, that you are always under the influence of those temptations,  one way or the other, and it will be almost impossible to keep you on tracks unless you have extra ordinary discipline, devotion to duty, and nothing like it, if you have the support of the following, in your schedule of day-to-day activities::

  1. Constant emotional stress making your life constantly miserable, taunting you every now and then about your deficiencies, gaps in your efforts, and a dream always appearing to be beyond your reach .
  2. Empty pockets adding fuel to the fire, always making you lacking in one thing or the other. ..
  3. Empty stomach making you realize the harsh realities of life, making your compulsive persuasions always alive and kicking.

One great thing learnt by me from a great personality the late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam is that miseries come to us, actually not to trouble us as we think, but to help us unearth our hidden talents, to look for new ways of living when all doors appear to have closed, instead of pushing yourself to a corner.

When you are experiencing constant pain, out of the shortcomings of life, your drive to analyze your circumstances, and look for solutions, will become a routine activity.  So commit yourselves that miseries cannot pull you down, there will always be a solution available, and you have not yet reached the end of the tunnel. This internal communication is of utmost importance in dealing with a crisis.

Most importantly, protect yourself from the perennial human disease called procrastination which is basically the habit of doing things at the last moment, when things have gone on fire.  Remember, most of the cardiac arrests happening to active and agile people, are due to the stress level for surviving the fire-fighting episodes of life.  So take special care to avoid procrastination totally by taking quick action to put your ideas into action.

Modern life is so much competitive where any amount of skill levels will be insufficient to hold on, because the talents available in the world are constantly being upgraded and re-sharpened, making you always wanting.  Someone has rightly said “standing still is actually going backward”, because everybody in the race will keep on moving.



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HEARTBEATS – Brand Human

Today is 2nd October, this day in 1869 that great soul was born, who was described by Einstein that future generations will scarce believe that a person called Gandhi ever lived on this planet in real blood and life.  A substantial portion of any library across the will occupied by biographical and other presentations about two persons, one, The Mahatma, and two, William Shakespeare.  What is the meaning of Mahatma  (Maha = Great + Atma = Soul = Great Soul),.

There are many examples where moral forces have won over physical forces.  His life itself was a solid one.

On his death, on 30th January 1948, Friday, Government of India received 3441 condolence messages, all unsolicited, from foreign countries,  UN lowered its flag by half-mast, 110 nations mourned his death, and millions across the world did not light their kitchen fire, did not eat, did not sleep, and wept as if one of their close relatives has expired, that includes even people who have not seen him, except that they knew that he was a rare human being, a good human being.

All this for a private citizen, without wealth, property, official title, official post, academic distinction, scientific achievement, or artistic talent, yet possessed the power of a king, a great administrator, and a great leader ever lived in this world. just because he represented human beings across the world.  “Mahatma Gandhi was the spokesman for the conscience of all mankind” said General George C. Marshal, United States Secretary of State then.

Having ended the riots in Kolkata by his moral force of fasting, Gandhi returned to Delhi on September 9, 1947.  The city was reported to be choked with Hindu refugees who left Pakistan and Muslim refugees ready to go to Pakistan.  He visited Hindu camps, Muslim camps, and made arrangements for prayer from Hindu scriptures, the Koran, and the Bible, to send out the message that unity of all religions is very important, the real principle of Hinduism.   There were people talking behind him about his taking side of other religions.  Most unfortunately his own countrymen failed to understand him.

When he died, his accumulated earthly possessions consisted nothing more than a pocket watch, two pairs of sandals, a book of the text of Gita, a Hindu scripture, a rosary of beads, his pair of glasses, and a few items of basic crockery and cutlery.  That symbolized the Mahatma.

The funeral, Oh God, nothing like that has ever happened and most likely will never happen again, with an ocean of humanity, it took five hours to cross five miles, especially in those days with no social media coverage.  It was not a hired crowd even.

Nirupama Subramanian reported from New York (Indian Express dated 25.09.2015) the remarks of a Cabbie driver “I know one thing about your country.  Years ago there was a beautiful man without whom you would not have got your liberation from the British.  His name was Gandhi, and he worked only with his mind, he didn’t need weapons. He was a great man”.

She also reported that the cabbie driver who was an African-American was curious to know whether our children learn about him in schools.  Should we not really teach our school children about him?  What other teachings can we include to make good human beings?

The Mahatma who is still the inspiration to millions all over the world, is not a hero to many who nurture the opposite ideologies, unable to understand the language of love and universal brotherhood.  We are now in a society where even hero-worship is being partitioned.  We have given enough support to him, now Nathuram Godse also should be given a chance, many people who are in support of the ideology of the assassination, may be of the opinion.

How do you define the greatness of a person?  I endorse the views of Swamy Vivekananda who opined that the activities of a person in ordinary situations should be the criteria, because in a created situation anyone will exhibit polished behaviour fitting to that of a gentleman.  The refusal to copy the word, disregarding the recommendation of the teacher, during a class test in the presence of the education inspector, employment of a low-caste young man in his home against the established custom of untouchability prevailing in the society, relinquishing the insurance policies, and gifts worth thousands of rupees in those days, and similar other activities of Gandhi in ordinary situations of life, are the testimonials of his greatness.

At least let us try to make proper use of the highest faculty of human mind, the ability of reasoning, and try to perceive things about him without coloring.  Humanity needs it, society needs it.



(Further Readings: 1. Mahatma Gandhi, His life in Pictures, Gandhi Study Centre, Chennai, and 2. The Life of Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer.)

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