Uncle Pai: I do not lose my temper easily

Lovingly called Uncle Pai, Anant Pai is the editor of Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle -- two comics all young Indians grew up reading and loving. The mesmerising story teller tells us what keeps him energetic and healthy even after 80 years of life

Anant Pai at his deskMany manage to live long; few manage to do it in good health. Uncle Pai tells us how he easily managed to do both.

You are a chemical engineer by qualification. What made you change tracks to become writer-editor of children's illustrated books? How has the experience been?

I love children and I wanted them to be acquainted with the cultural heritage of India. Thus, I started writing and editing Amar Chitra Katha and then Tinkle. The experience has been pleasurable. There is joy in writing for children and attending to their imaginary complaints. [He laughs]. I still receive 4,000 to 5,000 letters from children every month. And I love reading them.

Is being with children a therapy to feeling young and energetic?

Definitely; I do feel energetic in the midst of children. Often, I forget myself when I am talking or relating stories to them.

Do you think there is a connection between diet, attitude and longevity? What has been your experience?

Yes, certainly. Food is what makes a person healthy. If you are tensed, your stomach, duodenum and intestines release chemicals in response to this feeling. Secretion of plenty of gastric juice makes your stomach acidic. It may result in constipation or cause pain. There is a hormonal balance in your body which is maintained by glands called pituitary [main gland], thyroid and parathyroid gland near your neck.

Our emotions affect the levels of these hormones. If you eat lot of sugar and sweets, it may lead to diabetes. Eating spicy and hot food, may affect the pressure in your stomach. This can cause many complications.

What is the secret of your wellbeing?

The Bible gives the age of man as three score and ten. Whatever you get more than that is a bonus [he laughs again].

When I was a child, I had the habit of eating fast. I recall what my grandmother had told me then. She would say: Kalidasa said 'Hita Bhuk [eat what is good], Mita Bhuk [eat little] and Kala Bhuk [eat at regular times].' I follow this dictum even today. I eat little and avoid eating fried stuff. Also, I have been taking morning walks for the past 25 years. Of course, now I walk less than I used to before.

Further, I do not lose my temper easily and keep my cool whenever I am faced with problems or difficult circumstances. Perhaps, these are the reasons why I have not had any major sickness or chronic health problems till now.

How do you manage to keep your cool when you are faced with problems? How does it help to stay healthy?

Just as easily as others, I too find it difficult to keep my cool when I am faced with problems. Almost all human beings rue over words said or actions performed. I also tend to do something similar. But I immediately recall words of Kabir, "Beeti tahi bisarake age ki sudhi leye" [forget the past and move on]. Harivansh Rai Bachchan too has composed a long poem expressing at the end of each stanza, "What is done is done." [Beet gayi so bath gayi]

"Look at the skies, from where stars fall away [Poetic license]. The sky does not cry over stars that have parted company. Look at the gardens. The buds ripen and then fall down on earth. The plants do not cry about this. This little pots sometimes fall down and break apart. But no one cries over broken mud pots."

Can you elaborate on Kalidasa's dictum 'Hita Bhuk [eat what is good], Mita Bhuk [eat little] and Kala Bhuk'? How has it helped you?

Let me tell you at the outset—Kalidasa has never said a word of advice on good health. To impress me and her other grandchildren, my grandma just added some flavour of her own to persuade us. Follow this and you will remain healthy.

Please give some advice to our readers for a long, healthy and happy life.

For a healthy and happy life, remember Kalidasa's words: be moderate in your eating, in your exercises; do not get angry as it affects your memory. Krishna says in the Gita: When you are deeply attached to a person or object, you feel angry with the person who takes away [or threatens to take away] what you like. Anger leads to confusion and confusion leads to loss of memory.

When it rains heavily, water pours down from the sky. Water, which does not accept the two restraints we call banks, leads to floods and a lot of destruction. Therefore, self-control is good for you.

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