Wednesday, January 18, 2017

An Interview - Lessons from Anjali's Ajji

Anjali's Ajji, Dr. Nalini Nargundkar visited us as she normally does this time of the year. She is 86 years old and in slightly frail health but full of that independent spirit that makes her want to stay alone in her house despite her health concerns. While she was home last fortnight I observed that she did not appear bored for a moment - she had a full schedule and was fully independent. She'd get up early, make her bed, do yoga, read a book, walk in the courtyard, read the newspaper, nap, watch went on and on like clockwork right up to the 12 O clock at midnight coffee and laddoo that she eats every day.
On the last day of her trip I could not resist asking her about her daily routine which looks like a good one to follow if you want a happy and long life.

Everyday she said she wakes up at 5 or 530 am. Her bed is perfectly made first. A glass of warm water, honey and lime juice (the lime quarter is cut and kept ready the night before) first thing in the morning. Then she goes into her room to do warm up exercises while sitting on the bed for 10 minutes. Then 4 sets of pranayama, yoga and then Kriya yoga. The entire routine takes and hour and a half. At 7 am sharp she heads to the TV and switches on DD News. After the full report is heard she heads to breakfast. There is a daily forecast on one Marathi channel that she is awfully fond of though she does not believe it at all. Then she takes the newspaper and pores over it with great concentration, dismantling it page by page, until it is all in separate pages. Once the newspaper is devoured, she gets back to watch any serial she may have missed or picks up the book she is currently reading.
Place for everything and everything in its place 
When she is in Pune or even her at home she goes for a small walk and picks up flowers in the garden. In Pune she has this Parijatha plant and she collects as many as she can and makes intricate patterns from the flowers. At around 1030 am or so she has a cup of coffee. Back to serials, books and then lunch at 1230 or so. After lunch she heads off for a nap and reads in the bed. Wakes up at 4 and makes coffee. In Pune she has a bridge club and they all troop in, an adorable bunch of old people, doddering along and fighting over the game. (Every year someone or the other dies in that group). Around 630 or so she walks around in the courtyard. At 7 pm the TV begins telecasting her favorite serials which she watches with rapt attention. the serials go through dinner, which is about 830, and continue till 930. From 930 till 11 pm she reads in bed again and drops off to sleep. At 1130 or 12 she wakes up and heads off to have a cup of coffee and a laddoo which she says is her favorite time of the day and her most awaited for food. 'The other meals I don't like anymore,' she says. 'But this midnight snack I love.'

Not one day does she miss this schedule when she is home. All else happens around her and she manages both at the same time. Never have I seen her bored or even a mite disinterested in life. There is so much for her to do, to look forward to, to talk about. Give her five minutes in a doctors appointment and out comes her book and she is at it. She loves the Agatha Christie and Perry Mason types of stuff, not to mention Mills and Boons. And of course any new challenge that she comes across.

I asked her about her other passions. She loves astronomy and every now and then points out to some constellation or the other. Every day she is out gazing at the stars. On the 1st of every month she said she checks out the position of the stars in the newspaper and follows them. She says her father taught her about the stars and the constellations. She watches the union and separation of planets, the rise and fall. After reading a book called the "The Passion Test' she decided she should follow her passions (this happened a few years ago) and took off on solo trips to Andaman, Rajasthan, Malaysia, Corbett Park etc with some tours. Her voracious appetite to learn things has led her to do a homeopathy course, conduct yoga classes, avidly follow film festivals and shows, watch theatre, drama and dance and basically not miss a single new thing that's happening around her.

I asked her a few questions.
Q. Do you get bored ever?
A. You have to entertain yourself. You must learn that principle. Walk. Read. Picnics. I used to wonder for a while how to attend the film festivals an now I get some company and go.

Q. What is the purpose of life?
A. Be happy. Be self sufficient. Keep others happy. Be healthy.

Q. How can one be happy?
A. Don't bother too much about other people's opinion. I keep myself happy by chit chatting. or playing rummy.

Q. What is the single most attribute to do well in life?
A. Whatever you decide to do, do it conscientiously irrespective of others' criticism. You do it to your satisfaction.

Q. Your thoughts on staying alone? Does it ever bother you?
A. I don't worry about it. Forget it and continue your routine. Be engaged in something, be active as far as possible, do something whenever you can do. Try to help others as much as possible.

Q. Any new insights in life?
A. I realised that the home is for me. I am not for the home. So I do what I can and leave it. I don't stress myself to keep it spic and span like I see some people do even if their backs and breaking.

Hmmm. Lovely advice. I like those routines, the fullness of her day, the never say die spirit and that spark in her eyes which is all ready to explore new things. If there is one thing I will adopt from Anjali's Ajji it will be this spirit of learning, of curiosity. It will ensure that I will never get bored. Ever.

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