Age-old story: heavy books, weak bones

JS Raghavan

ROBERT BROWNING in his Rabbi ben Ezra wrote ‘Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.’ But will that promise hold for all, especially for one approaching 80, ticking with pesky health issues? Deplorably, he will have to bid farewell to a few of his old passions, like handling and poring over stout books.

Other heavyweights including the complete works of Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Somerset Maugham or Wodehouse’s Jeeves omnibus, would prove burdensome to hold for prolonged periods, while lying in the bed, as the bony chest will begin to protest. The eyes would complain about inadequate focal length.

The hardbound volumes will turn against you, forgetting your dalliance with them in the past. They would prefer to stay put on the book shelves. Paperbacks, bantam weights in comparison, would be the remedy.

But wait. Having had a long haul, the body would almost always pine to remain in suspended animation, either curling up in an easy chair, a sanctuary for super seniors, or the inviting bed that would have demarcation of the user’s body outline. Contemplation of the wall opposite or the ceiling may become a dull pastime.

A paperback to hold at such a position may not be as cumbersome as holding a hard-bound library edition. No, a featherweight kindle is not your cup of tea. There are other complications that would rear their head. The side-effects of the fistful of tablets you take will take their toll. The head would nod now and then, eyes pulling down their shutters, forcing you to have catnaps or micro sleeps, like truck drivers take unknowingly during a long haul on a highway that would stretch for kilometres without any bend. A book can be nibbled only in short bursts.

Paradoxically, insomnia and drowsiness — the two diametrically opposite maladies —have a relationship comparable with that of a mother-in-law and her son’s wife. Sleep will take leave of you between midnight and 2 am, the witching hour. You will wake up, casting away the mists of sleep but will not be able to get up, as ‘waking up’ and ‘getting up’ are different entities.

One way of using the hiatus effectively would be to pick up from the pile of books kept at the bedside with a pedestal lamp ready to provide light. However, one problem will be the bookmark would have tumbled down with the book on the floor when you dropped to sleep.

But there is hope. The book would have been retrieved, your spectacles removed, light switched off and sheet covered up to your chin, courtesy your wife, not very much younger to you, but as a divine compensation is mercifully devoid of karma debts like diabetes, BP and such. You will heartily agree that under such circumstances, one can grow old aided by women empowerment, hoping the best is yet to be.

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