The Failing Body Waits for No One

Last Tuesday, this paper’s lead by Vikas Hotwani was about a banker who developed tinnitus (ringing in the ears) after going to a disco/pub. Actually, the only unusual thing I found about the episode was the banker’s relatively young age.
A couple of years ago, my niece and her husband, who are in their late 20s and live in London, were visiting Mumbai. They wanted to experience our city’s nightlife, so we first had dinner at Seijo and then went down to Poison, a discotheque in the same premises.
The music was essentially some kind of trance music, which went “dhad dhad dhad” for the entire time that we were there. I found it quite boring after the first half hour, but since my cousins were having a great time, we stuck on. When we left, two hours later, I had a ringing in my ears, which I often used to get in my younger days after rock concerts or disco visits but would usually disappear in a few minutes. This time, the ringing didn’t go away and persisted till noon the next day. When I checked with the ENT, she said that this was because the loud music had killed a few of my inner ear cells and she warned me that this would only get worse with each exposure to loud music. I haven’t been to a disco since then.
When I was younger, there were only three ways to listen to Zep, Sabbath and Purple. Loud. Louder. Loudest. I was obviously damaging the inner ear cells even then (my wife insists I am deaf since I need the volume to be really loud when I am watching television), but it didn’t matter then. Now, in my mid-40s, it makes a big difference. I’m not getting any younger and those dead cells won’t regenerate and I want to be able to preserve my hearing as much as possible.
Heart attacks, stroke and cancer are the big life-changing experiences, which usually bring us face-to-face with our mortality. But in our 40s, these still happen to a small minority. What becomes evident gradually though, is the slow but definite and inevitable deterioration of various parts of our bodies. We can’t pull in all-nighters the way we could when we were in our 20s; we need to sleep more than before; we can’t run as fast as we could earlier; we can’t hold down our alcohol as well; our joints start creaking; vague aches and pains start troubling us without notice…I’m sure you can add to this list.
Most of us live in some form of denial, until some incident occurs that makes us face the truth of our failing bodies. For me, this was brought home when I found one fine day that to read the newspaper, I had to place it farther away than usual or I had to remove my myopia-correcting spectacles. There is even a saying in Gujarati for this, “chaalis pachi betaara” (after forty, you see double). Hypermetropia, the medical term for this condition, invariably affects most people once they enter their 40s, leading to the need for reading glasses or bifocals or progressive lenses.
A few days ago, one of our dailies had a front-page feature on how our mental capabilities start going down after the age of 27. I presume that this applies even to our physical capabilities. So, if you’re older than 27…welcome to our “over-the-hill” world. And morbid as this sounds, remember that it will only get worse.

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