Written By: Dr. Gulfaraz Ahmed
I read with envy that the most beneficial investment is when done on one’s own professional capacity and enriching experiences of new places, sights, cultures, explorations, discoveries and adventures etc. I took this pearl of wisdom internally and analyzed my own state of mind and style of life. Although I did revere this wisdom, I had practically recused myself from the associated excitement. Then I came upon a corollary of the same: when you lose the excitement for exploration and adventure, you really need it the most. I realized that children were ever ready and excited to explore, so emulating a child’s attitude, I could rejuvenate my excitement for places, time, mode, activity, company and accoutrement etc.
I thought that my dull attitude might be a common pattern with growing age although one does come across bold exceptions when older people do carry the spirit of adventure through cherished hobbies, adventures and pleasures of exploration. I felt that it was me who had put on the blinders limiting my aspirations in a narrow beam of practical realities of my limited living pattern. Aspiring to re-stimulate my life, I thought of a plan. I live with two grandchildren, a boy of seven years of age and a girl of five years of age, and their parents. I decided to start emulating them in chasing excitement and rekindling a long forgotten spark in my life. As a starter, I shared an idea with them of going on a trip to Chitral during the upcoming Eid holidays in the last week of June 2017. Although I initiated the idea I was not sure of carrying it out. But they built on the idea, and the combined excitement gained momentum impelling me to pull it off. We located a scenic hotel in Chitral known as Hindukush Heights and booked the rooms for five days. The tickets we got for the PIA flight to Chitral were for 25th June with the return flight scheduled for the 30th. I was caught up in the excitement spearheaded by the grandchildren. As the day approached we all headed to the airport rather early, obtained the boarding passes and waited anxiously to board the scenic flight of around 40 minutes. The scheduled time passed and then there was a bombshell announcement of cancellation of the flight because of adverse weather along the route.
Grossly disappointed by the cancellation of the flight I reconciled to the fate of a missed trip but the kids refused to give up and insisted to go by road. I had no choice as the kids refused to go back home. We started the journey by a van arranged by the hotel and set out at 2 p.m. for our destination. On my own, I would have never agreed to a difficult 20 hours’ drive but wanting to relearn the spirit of adventure I became a willing part of it. We spent the night in the Army Mess in Dir and started off the next morning to drive over the Lowari Top at about 11,000 feet altitude. There were 30 hairpin bends on the northern side to lose the height without covering the distance horizontally. As the journey progressed as did I start redeveloping the child in me – a child that must remain an inseparable part of you all your life. I joined the kids in all their excitement of dipping feet in ice-cold glacier water, standing in ice-cold wind hitting you with great force on the Lowari Top, going inside the tunnel closed to the traffic and stopping frequently to explore. Anything that excited the kids I joined them. The trip was going great for me as I redeveloped the old curiosity and spirit of discovery.
I caught the contagion of reliving in excitement and we had a fabulous five days in the long drawn valley with the pleasure of spending two days in Mastuj, a much more scenic place nearly twice the altitude of Chitral. We collected dry fruit, honey harvested from wild trees and local souvenirs. We were lucky to find the flight operational on our way back and reached home without diluting the taste of the fantastic trip.
Encouraged by this experience I decided to follow it up by another trip abroad about three months later. My son had long been inviting me for a relaxing trip to Nice in the south of France but I had always been stalling it on common excuses of busy schedule and likewise. I joined him in Nice in September which was in the middle of the holiday season and the beaches were packed with tourists. I was lucky to join two of my granddaughters who would pack my time with total excitement and continue the process of motivation to start living active again. I joined the children in dipping in the sea, walking along the beach, interesting hikes, exploration of medieval villages, driving to Macao and seeing the splendor of the Monte Carlo. Wearing t-shirts and shorts and eating at the beachside restaurants I merged with the people who looked happier, at ease and joyous. There were people of all ages and the old seemed to be enjoying as much as the young.
As the journey progressed as did I start redeveloping the child in me – a child that must remain an inseparable part of you all your life. I joined the kids in all their excitement of dipping feet in ice-cold glacier water, standing in ice-cold wind hitting you with great force on the Lowari Top, going inside the tunnel closed to the traffic and stopping frequently to explore. Anything that excited the kids I joined them. The trip was going great for me as I redeveloped the old curiosity and spirit of discovery.
We know that children play a lot and stay engaged and happy. The old stop playing, become serious and are often unhappy. There are lessons in this contrast. The old tend to give up mentally way before their bodies give up. If we could emulate children’s curiosity, excitement and instinct to play, the old could re-stimulate the mind to commandeer the body and live a more wholesome, healthy and happier life. It is common knowledge that average age in the world increases by more than one year in every four years. Increasing elderly population is a new factor of global demography and our social patterns are reformatting in this respect. It is important that the old are able to recreate in spirit to take full advantage of the growing longevity by relearning the art of living from the children around them. There is a beautiful expression in Urdu poetry which portends that it is important for the mind to control the heart but every once in a while the heart should lead the mind to keep the spice of life alive. It is a beautiful way of eulogizing the need to keep the inner child alive even in old age.
I am aware that one tends to gravitate to inactivity as the years advance but one needs to be nudged to spring back to activity and rediscover the spirit of exploration. It has motivated me to share my experience of rediscovering the child in me using the stories of my joy-trips. While driving through Chitral Valley I was reliving the moments stored hidden in my memory of earlier trips during my youthful days. There is a great pleasure in reliving through the old memories every now and then not only for comparing the new experiences with the old but also for invigorating the memory itself that often becomes a problem in later years.
The writer holds a PhD degree from Stanford University, California USA. He is a former Federal Secretary and has been CEO/Chairman of OGDCL and Chairman NEPRA.