| Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia | 11 June 2016 | Asia Samachar |
By Dr Naginder Kaur
As I took my seat, a little weary after lugging several bags, ready to explore Sabah yet again, I imagined the usual itinerary with repeat visits to places I had been many times before. However, the trip by Sikh Women’s Awareness Network (SWAN) members last week turned out somewhat differently as it presented reflections and introspections I had not anticipated.
From the onset, my eyes caught a slightly wrinkled, laidback elderly woman effortlessly wheeling her bag onto the bus. On the exterior, she was a regular geriatric citizen, someone who wouldn’t turn your head at first glance. Yet, her agile movements proved otherwise, denouncing her age and supposed elderliness.
We live in a world where the elderly are supposed to look and act in a certain way, often depositing a weak and jaded appearance. But not this Maji, my eyes were fixated on her the minute I got onboard. This eagerness of mine to unlock her secret of youthfulness bothered me since and I was determined to unravel this supposed mystery of her state of being.
Soon, my chance arrived to break the ice with her. Her mild manner and soft spoken personality seemed to fit perfectly with her exuberance and joy for life. As the trip progressed, I had the chance to know her better. Maji Sarjit Kaur who hails from Kajang, Selangor, blessed with four children (two sons, two daughters) and several grandchildren, shared with me some ‘secrets’ of her evergreen state of health. I discovered that her healthy and fit physicality stems from her habit of walking regularly. A 40-minute stroll at the park near her house is an invariable daily regime of hers. She expressed in Punjabi, “main turna nahin shadeya; …. roj turdi …. katto katt do gehrrey padang dey.” (I never gave up walking; … I go for my daily walks … I make at least two rounds around the field.) Padang means field in Malay.
As we progressed on our journey in Sabah, Maji showed great strength and tirelessness, accompanying the mostly 50-year-olds in shopping and walking about at the Filipino Market, for good several hours. Even at the Mari Mari Cultural Village, not once did she ever complain nor stop to have a breather, seemingly gliding through defying her age and physical appearance.
At the Poring Canopy Walkway, I reckoned she would give it a miss, considering its daunting height of beyond 40 meters and trekking distance of several kilometers that would test our endurance. The 28-member group was left amazed through and through by Maji’s ability to complete the entire leg without any hiccups. There I was (the youngest member of the group) suffering altophobia and wobbly knees (owing to lack of stamina), and here she was (the oldest one amongst us), completely unperturbed by the height or length of the trail at Kinabalu Park. We were truly motivated and awed by her positive outlook on life. It got me into deep introspective reflection of my own disposition, my heart whispering to top-up my own level of avidity and fervor for life.
Despite a grand age of 80, Maji blissfully lives a hale and hearty life, free from any ailments, a fact I found hard to digest as I stood there with my aching limbs listening to her inspiring story. I was particularly impressed with her zest and zeal for life and her enthusiastic approach in dealing with life issues, in general.
I soon learned that the saying ‘mind over matter’ certainly rings true in this case and that age definitely is just a number, as it is up to the individual to make the most out of what life has to offer. Maji Sarjit Kaur is a quintessential example to demonstrate that our physical body is just a house that encapsulates our spirit and soul, and these two elements truly define who we are and what we are capable of doing as human beings. I learned that wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been and that you are the age of your heart – you can be as young, vibrant and energetic as your mind allows you to.
At the end of the trip, I feel more empowered and determined to embark on more activities of physical challenge. With Maji Sarjit Kaur as the perfect role model to motivate and bless us, perhaps SWAN could consider scaling Mount Kinabalu next. What say you, SWANs? Sounds like a plan?
The writer is a Senior Lecturer at Universiti Teknologi MARA Perlis Branch and a Life Member of SWAN.
Ageing gracefully, living life to the fullest (Asia Samachar, 9 Sept 2015)