Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The heart has its reasons....

This has been a season for thinking about hearts.

No , not as in Valentine,s, or playing cards, or proclamations of "cross my heart", and so on.....

But thinking of something, that starts off, beating in a foetus, while in "bonded" labor inside some one's uterus,  only to attain freedom from the bond, roughly 280 days later, under some fairly tough labor...

And then continues to beat, year after year, moment after moment, through childhood, puberty, even childbearing, middle age, old age, and so on... through  good and bad days, regardless of all kinds of pressure put on it, externally or internally.   

It gets nothing out of all that beating, unless it is the ability to beat more.

And so one marvels, at the philosophy of work or living, that is followed by the heart, and finds, that it is the finest exponent of Nishkaam Karma,  which is enunciated in the Bhagwad Gita, one of our oldest Hindu scriptures, which is actually a treatise on living.  Your best mode of worship of God, is to perform your work, honestly, to your absolute best, and more importantly, without worrying at all about the reward or the fruit of that labor.

The heart continues to ceaselessly do its work, independently of any other organ's behaviour in your body, with the possible exception of the brain,  which is really the ON/OFF switch for the whole body.

It's job is to receive dirty blood, send it off to the lungs to be purified, receive the purified blood, and then pump it into the big Aorta pipe, on its way to the different body organs, carrying nutrition, medications, and other markers of health.

Think of how willful the other organs behave.

The liver, that lies below the ribs and to the right,  spends its entire life tolerating and handling all the fat and carbs you imbibe under the excuse of celebrations and "loving it ".  Like a car whose engine is flogged without limits, the liver too has problems, but in its own selfish way, doesn't let on till it is 80% messed up.  When your blood shows up worrisome liver function values, it is almost 80% gone.

Your stomach, the recipient of all kinds of junk you eat.  It gets used to pouring in all kinds of body acids to digest your food. Then when occasionally you reduce your food intake, it finds it difficult to change the acid habit, and you then have left over acid in your stomach.  You complain of pain and acidity. It is not as if the amount of acid is fixed, but for some reason and for some folks, the digestion process bears a grudge against your previous excesses.

Your intestines. All 22 feet of them.  The whole idea is to have a quiet absorption/assimilation /exchange process going on while the digested  food moves about on this long road, so that what remains can be summarily chucked out.  But sometimes, the entire length of the intestine can get into a tangle, and cause you pain. Sometimes,  there are blocks in the path caused by stenosis;  consequent to some healing procedure, scar tissue forms, but clogs the path, simply blocking food from passing through nicely.  The intestines don't care what happens to the connected organs. They just do what they feel...

Think about your bones. All that milk you drank, and exercises that you did, as a child, followed by fitness concerns as a young adult.  Hit yourself accidentally with a tennis racket while playing, and you end up with a wrist fracture.  Take a irresponsible jump somewhere, and get an ankle fracture. I know of folks with a desk based sedentary lifestyle, who bent down to pick up a paper,  mistakenly thrown in the  waste basket, and sustained a rib fracture.  With all the fuss over bones in childhood and later, you reach menopause, and the same bones, in a wild independent streak, go haywire and start thinning. Without any concern for anything else around them. Sometimes, as a malicious  afterthought, some bones even develop extensions in weird places, and get called sesamoid bones. One such has often  kept India's star cricketer out of the game on occasion, by causing discomfort and pain.   

Think of the huge network of blood flow; arteries and veins. Thanks to folks who think they are being terribly stylish and smoking ,  these pipes simply remain inert watchers, as the walls are latched on to, by deposits which are byproducts of bad habits. Like Mumbai's subterranean water pipes, this network too suffers from  fatty junk sticking to its sides. The walls of these arteries and veins can do nothing, but look on fearfully as obstructions develop.

And then you think of the heart.

Relentlessly pumping the blood around. Sometimes putting in continuous hard work, which makes you a blood pressure patient.  The heart is often in cahoots with the brain; like, when  old age happens, and  weakness doesn't allow blood to reach everywhere in the body. The brain then instructs it to ration the blood supply, go to all the important places like the kidneys, stomach ,lungs, liver, brain etc, and reduces the supply to the limbs, ears, eyes etc; and you become bedridden, see and hear weakly.

Sometimes, the heart tries really hard to pump, and meets a tough opponent in some junk, blocking an artery totally.   Sometimes it is an artery that supplies the blood to the heart itself, as an energizer of the heart.  That's BIG trouble.

Even then , the heart doesn't give up. It sends out the word. An alarm. Your arms radiate pain. Your chest feels tight. There is a burning sensation in the breastbone. A sudden loss of energy.  And you rush. To the hospital. Sirens blaring, oxygen pouring into your nose , a small medicine under your tongue.

You are taken to a very sophisticated lab, where you watch, as some expert doctor, a cardiologist,  inserts a very very small diameter wire into an  artery (femoral)  in the groin, and guides it all over the place so that it reaches the blocked artery.  You yourself are able to watch it all on a huge screen. I know of a teacher by profession who even asked the doctors questions ....

Like Google maps, the doctors need to have the entire body artery / vein blood flow  map in their heads.  When to go straight up, when to do a U-turn, when to take a right, a left, and when to wait a second;  it takes amazing expertise.  (Unlike our Mumbai roads where we merrily destroy other roads in the process of repairing a given road.)

The specialists  scrape, and suck out the junk from the arteries,  shoring up the walls with some stent reinforcements. There are so many people there, helping out, reassuring your heart, to keep beating as well as it can,  and the little throbbing organ that has been doing so relentlessly, understands, tries its best, and at the end of a tremendous effort by some very clever folks, suddenly finds that blood can flow through its surface easily again.  The trauma and memories are not easy to erase, it isn't easy to live with repaired parts, but it tries.

Because its Bhagwad Gita philosophy for living says, it must perform its work to the best of its ability.  Nishkaam Karma.  Always. 

Without worrying about any rewards. Either from wilful types like the lungs, or kidneys, or stomach, or limbs, or intestines, or from the brain, which had been sensing what had been happening.   Presumably the person who undergoes this experience learns from this. 

The heart doesn't relax and sit back because the person has learnt a lesson; in fact it is so busy, pumping away blood, with a newly granted life, that it is now in its own life rhythm , doing what it knows best.  

  In the real world, such people are difficult to find. If you see a person who lives the philosophy of Nishkaam Karma, we think he is putting on an act.  Everyone has an secret agenda, and no one is ready to trust anyone.

If we only paid attention to our bodies, and the messages they convey ..... 



  1. Most people have some ulterior motive for the things they do. So they think that everyone's attitude is like this. And find it difficult to believe there are those who do believe in Nishkaam karma.

    Nice post!

  2. What a wonderful post, so much heart in it:)
    Truly, the most selfless of organs.

  3. so true mam.. only if we did that rather if everyone did that imagine how beautiful this world would have been ..

    Alas its like the situation when Mind kicks in and takes over .. then it hurts as usually mind and heart not always want the same thing.. Mind says be careful be careful .. heart truest and goes for it and end up broken :)

    lovely post ..

  4. You related heart and nishkaam karma so beautifully.Yes , i do see people find it hard to believe and doubt the intentions of a person that follows the philosophy of 'Nishkaam Karma'. I have seen and met many such people who work selflessly for the betterment of others and the society and i completely trust them.Such good people do exist.

  5. Pleasure to read your post, as always. But sometimes, the heart does give up, unexpectedly, even when its near and dear ones are hoping and praying otherwise.

  6. if anything there was heart in this post ! :)

    glad to read this !

  7. I have my own take on heart and it can be read at:

  8. I could relate to this "wholeheartedly"
    I underwent an angioplasty last year.
    Am okay now.

    As an engineer, I agree with the statement that no engineering design or technology developed by humans can match the design and "technology" that is evident inside our bodies and designed by the Creator.

    It is indeed a wonder that our bodies tolerate all the abuse we subject our organs to.
    We ought to be grateful to our organs and treat them well.
    Unfortunately, nearly all of us realise this only late in life when the damage is done.

    Good post.

  9. Manju Thank you..

    Dipali Thnak you ....

    Bikram Interesting stuff about the Mind and heart !

    Kavita Thank you !

    Sucharita Sarkar Just tells us that great folks are also human !

    HW Thank you !

    chapter18 Will do so ASAP. And welcome to this blog !

    GV Thank you !

  10. The way you summed up intricate details of the human body so simply and light 'heart'edly (no pun intended :D ) brought a smile to my face...

    lovely post!!!