“Rookhi Sookhy Khai kay ……KHUSHWANT SINGH AT 98 *”Time tested tips on how to stay healthy & live longer – by Khushwant Singh
Coming on to 98 and still earning more than I did in my younger days,
people ask me how I manage to do it. They regard me as an expert on
longevity. I have pronounced on the subject before; I will repeat it with
suitable amendments based on my experience in the past two years.
Earlier I had written that longevity is in one’s genes: children of
long-living parents are likely to live longer than those born to
short-lived parents. This did not happen in my own family. My parents who
died at 90 and 94 had five children, four sons and a daughter.
The first to go was the youngest of the siblings. Next went my sister who
was the fourth. My elder brother who was three years older than me went a
couple of years ago. Two of us remain; I, who will soon be 98, and my
younger brother, a retired Brigadier three years younger than me and in
much better health. He looks after our ancestral property.
Nevertheless, I still believe gene is the most important factor in
determining one’s life-span. More important than analysing longevity is to
cope with old age and make terms with it.
As we grow older, we are less able to exercise our limbs. We have to
devise ways to keep them active. Right into my mid-eighties, I played
tennis every morning, did rounds of Lodhi gardens in winter and swam for an
hour in summer. I am unable to do this any more. The best way to overcome
this handicap is regular massages. I have tried different kinds and was
disappointed with the oil drip and smearing of oil on the body. A good
massage needs powerful hands going all over one’s body from the skull to
the toes. I have this done at least once a day or at times twice a day.
I am convinced that this has kept me going for so long. Equally important
is the need to cut down drastically one’s intake of food and drink. I start
my mornings with guava juice. It is tastier and more health-giving than
orange or any other fruit juice. My breakfast is one scrambled egg on
toast.My lunch is usually patli kichri with dahi or a vegetable. I skip
afternoon tea. In the evening, I take a peg of single malt whisky. It gives
me a false appetite.
Before I eat supper, I say to myself “Do not eat too much.” I also believe
that a meal should have just one kind of vegetable or meat followed by a
pinch of chooran. It is best to eat alone and in silence. Talking while
eating does not do justice to the food and you swallow a lot of it. For me
no more Punjabi or Mughlai food. I find South India idli, sambhar and
grated coconut easier to digest and healthier.
Never allow yourself to be constipated. The stomach is a storehouse of all
kinds of ailments. Our sedentary life tends to make us constipated. Keep
your bowels clean however you can: by laxatives, enemas, glycerin
suppositories, whatever. Bapu Gandhi fully understood the need to keep
bowels clean. Besides, taking an enema every day, he gave enemas to his
women admirers.Lucky man,he was.
Impose strict discipline on your daily routine. If necessary, use a
stop-watch. I have breakfast exactly at 6.30 am lunch at noon, drink at 7
pm, supper at 8. Try to develop peace of mind. For this you must have a
healthy bank account. Shortage of money can be very demoralising. It does
not have to be in crores, but enough for your future needs and possibility
of falling ill. Never lose your temper, it takes a heavy toll and jangles
one’s nerves. Never tell a lie. Always keep your national motto in mind:
Satyamev Jayate — only truth triumphs.
Give generously. Remember you can’t take it with you. You may give to your
children, servants or charity. You will feel better. There is joy in
giving. Drive out envy of those who have done better than you in life. A
Punjabi verse sums up: Rookhi Sookhy Khai kay Thanda Paani Pee Na Veykh
paraayee chonparian na Tarssain jee (Eat dry bread and drink cold water Pay
no heed or envy those who smear their chapattis with ghee) Do not conform
to the tradition of old people spending time in prayer and long hours in
places of worship. That amounts to conceding defeat. Instead take up a
hobby like gardening, growing bonsai, helping children of your
neighborhood with their homework.
A practice which I have found very effective is to fix my gaze on the
flame of candle, empty my mind of everything, but in my mind repeat Aum
Shanti, Aum Shanti, Aum Shanti. It does work. I am at peace with the world.
We can’t all be Fauja Singh who at 100 run a marathon race but we can equal
him in longevity and creativity. I wish all my readers long, healthy lives
full of happiness.