25 January 2019 Off By Naginder Sehmi


“Finally we are free from end-of-the year guests and festivities. Come home on Wednesday. From there will go to lunch in the village,” Richard phoned a week ago. Heidi and Richard are our friends for over 45 years. No one can beat their German “Bauhaus” precision in everything they do, including planning social gatherings.

“What’s the occasion?”

“We’ll celebrate your birthday.”

In Eldoret, Kenya, for thirty years no one reminded me that I was born. How can there be more than one birthday. That was my narrow vision.  So, no annual celebrations. My birthdays passed like any other day. Not this time.

This morning commenced reading a flood of messages, many lovingly automated by Facebook – HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. They propelled my ego and self-importance like a rocket shooting into the celestial regions. I adored liking them all.

Those close to me or who have read my books know that everything just “happened” to me and it continues to happen. Some think that I was blessed by that entity we humans have invented, known as God, Bhagwan, Allah, Waheguru and numerous other names. These names are a useful psychotherapeutic props like an old person’s walking stick.

Well, it happened again. Yesterday morning I went to do Cross Fit where I miserably failed to relearn to skip a rope. Two hours later I went to meet my new doctor. My previous one decided to retire. Three doctors, one man and two women, have opened a medical clinic in the new multi-storey building overlooking our house.  I handed in my medical file there with the hope that I will get the male doctor after thirty 36 years. “Sorry, he can’t take more patients”. My new doctor is a young lady. She went through my medical record and then measured my blood pressure

Raising her eye brows: “It’s dangerously high.”  Much higher than I had ever measured before.  “It can happen at the first meeting”, she said. I smiled and she handed me a prescription.

On the other side of my fence is the primary school. That evening all its children including my grandchildren gave a grand concert. The magic of their singing seemed to have lowered my blood pressure to normal.

This morning I forgot that I was born. Is it the entrenched old habit from Kenya or a sign of my failing memory?  I did my not-so-regular morning 26-minute exercises in front of the TV led by three young pretty women instead of this time the tough young men presenters. These women made me suffer more but I tolerated the torture of “total flat belly” exercises more easily.

Eating my brief breakfast I watched the snow falling softly. For the first time I was a coward: I did not dare to fetch the newspaper from the letterbox!  Instead, I start to write this blog. The peeling alarm of my mobile phone reminding me of Richard’s invitation shook me up. “Hurry up you have to pick up Karin on way to the far end of Geneva and it’s snowing”, I pondered. Again I forgot that the alarm was set to get ready and not to depart. Unintentionally I took the longer circular route to avoid the city; still I was half an hour too early.

Richard and Heidi welcomed us with tight new-year hugs. What warmth and what joy! Celebration started with chilled champagne followed by a gastronomic lunch with the main dish of delicately steamed sander fish that I washed down with organic red wine. Discussing various matters and projects kept us in our dining chairs for four hours. What a memorable day! Thank you Heidi and Richard.

The morning after? I measured my blood pressure: it’s ideally normal. Unbelievable, ready to confront my doctor!