I first meet the soft-spoken Captain Saigal in February 2018, at SDS Shipping, the company he heads. I am there on a corporate assignment, to teach him and his team French.
“Pardon my French,” he quips. “I am seventy-six years old and a slow learner.”
My jaw has dropped. This handsome, straight-backed man cannot possibly be seventy something.
I give him the perfunctory sermon on the downward spirals of negative thinking on learning, missing the whiff of irony in the air.
In the days that follow, as the Captain picks up the rudiments of French, I become a student of life. His life. I am intrigued and enthralled. By the end of the month, I am inspired and humbled.
He has just run the half-marathon.
What???!!! No!!! You’re seventy-seven!!! I can barely run for my life!!!
How does he train? How much? When? Where?
He veers off course. We’re discussing food. Not food, nutrition. Not diet, nourishment. There’s a fine line.
“Good nutrition is very very important”, he says.
He proffers no labels. No keto, no paleo, no Atkins, no low-carbs-no carbs. Just a list of all the good things he eats. All that he eats is a list of good things: nuts, fruit, vegetables, lentils, rice, bajra rotis. No meat, no milk.
“That’s gluten-free and vegan!” I surmise.
“Egg-eating vegan,” he smiles. His family doctor insists that he eat eggs.
“They’re packed with nutrients.”
What else? No coffee. No mindless snacking. No alcohol.
“No fun, Captain!!!!”
Plenty of fun, I discover. The fun is in the discipline. The fun is in the mindfulness. It is in the conscious way that one lives one’s life, in the deliberate, wise choices we make. And finally, it is in the attitude of gratitude.
“Surely there are days when you don’t feel like exercising and eating right?” I ask. “You give yourself some off-days, na?’
Here’s what he leaves me with: “It is easy to make healthy choices when you feel like making them. The challenge is to make them when you don’t.”
I have no time to ponder his words. I must raise my hand in a silent,
triumphant salute. Aye aye Captain. Rise to the challenge, we shall. Someday.