Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ayushman Bhava

I just read a report that a boy born in the mountainous enclave of San Marino in northeast Italy is likely to live to 80, the world’s longest life expectancy. For females, Japanese women traditionally lead the world tables- with a life expectancy of 86. You may ask who published the report and I will truthfully reply that WHO published the report.

Perverts amongst you will at once assume that an offspring of a relationship between a San Marino male and a Japanese female can then have the best odds of living well beyond 80. But, this is not correct, as life expectancy is dependant on a number of factors.

The spirit and rigour of scientific enquiry demand that we look at all the possible variables that can influence a result, observe afresh by eliminating one variable at a time and then zero in on the incriminating or the beneficial factor. That’s what we will do in this case as well.

Could it be the diet? I remember how, as a child, I used to be admonished by my great-grandfather for my tendency to eat fast food fried in crude oil, while he himself used to subsist on a frugal diet of hand-pounded rice and skimmed goat’s milk. But, as it turned out, I had the last laugh. The old man died long back, while I am still alive. So, it can’t be the diet.

Is it something in our genes? Sponsored by Levi’s and Lee, a team of scientists from the University of New Berkshire, worked, round the clock, for several years on a gene bank under controlled conditions and finally managed to isolate the one gene that controls the lifespan of human beings. For this breakthrough, they were awarded the Nobel Prize, posthumously, as the round-the-clock-working had taken its toll and they had died of exhaustion. So, the jury is still out on whether it is worth having the right genes. .

Maybe a simple, disciplined, lifestyle enhances the chances of living longer? Can brisk 5-km walks every day contribute to a longer life? Post mortem reports on a 250-year old tortoise that had been fitted with a walk-o-meter all its life, showed that the creature had managed to walk a sum total of 2.1 km during its entire life span, while twenty generations of zoo keepers who had attended on it, often walking 10 km a day from their villages to the zoo, kept dying with regularity. So, a sedentary lifestyle is not necessarily inimical to a long life.

As always, I will apply the principle of the Occam’s razor and accept the simplest explanation. The main reason why some of the San Marino men and the Japanese women are today over 80 years old is because they were born before 1927. Those of us who were born after this date will find it difficult to make such a claim. So, here’s the secret to a long life. Ensure that you are born early enough.

Finally, friends, countrymen, a touch of romance. As per Tamil folklore, a Japanese woman architect fell in love with an Italian man from San Marino and married him. When the man died at the age of 127, she was so stricken with woe that she built a memorial, which was an exact replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She gave it the name of Nikkumo Nikkadho ( “Will it stand, or won’t it?”)

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