Strength To Hold On. Courage To Let Go.

“Jump off the beam,
flip off the bars
Follow your dreams,
and reach for the stars.”
~Nadia Comaneci


“In the middle of the room stand two 1.6m high Parallel bars – an unusual contraption for a granny in her ninth decade, clad in a green leotard.”

Continuing my series on “athletes who inspire”, today’s feature is on Johanna Quaas, a ninety three year old gymnast, and officially the oldest gymnast in the world according to the Guinness World Records.

Born in Hohenmölsen, Quaas started gymnastics at an early age, and appeared in her first competition at age nine. She switched to handball after World War II, when then East Germany discouraged individual sports and promoted team sports instead. Quaas excelled in handball as well, and her team even won the East German Championship of 1954. By age twenty, she completed her training as a gymnastics coach in Stuttgart, and subsequently trained coaches at the Institut für Körpererziehung. After getting married and raising three children, Quaas began competing again at age fifty-six – with two friends and fellow gymnasts, one five years older than her and the other four years younger. (The two friends have since died.) Quaas has co-authored a book on gymnastics, often referred to as ‘the’ textbook for gymnastics – “Gerätturnen“. In 2012, she received an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records as the “oldest gymnast in the world”.

johannah Quaas8
Officially entered into the Guinness World Records as the oldest competing gymnast, at age 87.

Usually, gymnasts do not stay in the sport for decades as tendons and ligaments stiffen with age, and the body’s ability to absorb force against the joints diminishes – an invitation for injury. Quaas, however, reveals she uses gymnastics as a preventive tool – to avoid being susceptible to falls. The sporty granny (and a great-grandmother as well) trains for an hour every day, and counts hiking, swimming and dancing as her other pursuits. She sleeps for six hours a day, eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, and loves whipping up dishes of pork and sauerkraut.

A green, crushed velvet leotard, is her signature outfit. When Quaas performs on the Parallel bars, not many people even half her age have the dexterity, strength and flexibility to perform such tricks balancing on one’s arms. Her upper body strength might be unmatched for many people quarter of her age. “My face is old, but my heart is young“, is her message for older people as she travels around the world for events. Quaas speaks via an interpreter. Her quotes are brisk, but say a lot.  “If you are fit, it is easier to master life“, said Quaas in an interview to The Sunday Times. “When there is movement, there is life“, she signs off. This is a video of Quaas performing an impressive routine on the Parallel bars at a competition in Berlin in 2016.

“You have to do your exercises again and again.”
“The stereotypes of weak, older people hurt. I like showing younger people what’s possible.”
“Live your life and forget your age.”
“You can be anything you want.”



Washington Post, June 20 2017

The Sunday Times, April 30th 2017

The Pages Of A Book – The Best Place To Be In.

Books take you places. They need place for themselves as well. When every micrometer of bookshelf space is filled up, the Kindle really comes to good use in stocking up additional titles. The first picture below is just one of the cabinets filled with my books. They’re scattered in different places around the house – separated according to genre, size of books (smaller ones on higher shelves, heavier ones on lower shelves), academic and technical books, leisurely reads, immediate reads versus distant reads. As a rule, I keep non-fiction as paperbacks and fiction on Kindle. But somehow I constantly seem to run out of space – so many new books are being written, to add to the recommendations of older ones I receive from friends. The books on shelves are anyways sorted and shuffled every other month or so. Now I’ve started beautifying the Kindle as well – there are so many books, it’s getting difficult to keep track of what I have and what has been read from the lot. This weekend I transferred them all on to the desktop, and renamed them starting with title, year of publication, and name of author – as seen in picture two. Subsequently, the lot was transferred back into the Kindle. Plus, I’ve made folders according to themes, so it’s easier to find a particular book or browse through  a particular genre. Some good friends whose recommendations I value also have folders under their names. Time to make maximum use of every Micro-millimeter of e-reader space.

17th oct 2017


Friday Fun with Paper Quilling

The Wonders of Pineapple Perfumed Gum. The “crafty” weekends continue with some paper quilling. Realizing I had run out of glue to stick the strips, this “flavored” one had to be picked up on an emergency basis. I didn’t have much hope from the “pineapple gum”, but the quilling didn’t turn out that bad after all. Have a look! I didn’t have any design in mind – started from the center and kept adding all around and branching out. Someone turned it the other way round and said it looked like a butterfly. What do you think? It hasn’t been framed yet, though this is how I have displayed it for now – somewhere between a bouquet and a bell.

6th March 2018 (1)

6th March 2018 (2)

More Than A Meow

Sometimes I wonder whether pets are as Conversant with the same things as humans are. They’re always found pottering about our stuff, in a way that appears to be more than just inquisitiveness. This cat of mine is always on attention whenever I’m reading a book, almost wanting to read it himself. The same way he’s curious about every race medal or dance costume or running gear that’s scattered around in my room.

“Oh a new book! Let’s have a look, shall we?”
“I highly recommend this life changing book. It has turned me as devious as can be.”
“It is important to apply what one has read. That is the true test of good literature.”

(PS: Yes, that’s an actual book. I will elaborate on it in my Book Review section.)

Memory – The Diary We Carry About With Us

Mnemonic (/nɪˈmɒnɪk/) – noun – the study and development of systems for improving and assisting memory.

Mnemonics are learning techniques that help us organize, retain and remember information, by making recall easy. They make use of cues and imagery to encode information is such a way, so as to allow for efficient storage and retrieval. They assist in retaining information by associating it with something more meaningful and easily accessible. Mnemonics could be in the form of poems, songs and jingles, acronyms, phrases, or images. They are popularly used for remembering lists, numerical sequences, learning foreign languages, and also to aid patients with memory deficits as a result of neurological conditions. As toddlers, we were taught the alphabet by singing the ABCs, and recollected the colors of the rainbow from VIBGYOR  – Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red. In school, an aid to remember the value of pi was by asking the question, “May I have a large container of coffee?” – the number of letters in each word (including the question mark) equals the numerals in pi – 3.1415927. While studying biochemistry in college, we learnt how MeTT VIL Phly with His Arg – Methionine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Phenylalanine, Histadine, Arginine – the essential amino acids. As athletes, we are aware of RICE in case of sprains – Rest the injured area, Ice the sprain, Compress with a wrap or bandage, Elevate the injured area. My earliest memories of using mnemonics  have been in childhood piano lessons – beginning with the notes on the lines and spaces of the treble and bass staves.



Bookish Tribute – Lewis Carroll

“I can’t go back to yesterday  – because I was a different person then.”

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

“You used to be much more…’muchier’. You’ve lost your muchness.”

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”

” ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ Cried Alice (She was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English.”

Today is the 186th birth anniversary of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, more popular by his pen name Lewis Carroll. The English writer, mathematician and logician was known to be quite inscrutable as a person – a religiously, politically, and personally conservative man. He is famous for his “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and its sequel “Through The Looking-Glass”. His “Alice” books were known to be whimsical, while his mathematical works included word play and humorously literal interpretations, Dodgson having delighted in “nonsense, logical confusion, and language puzzles”. I didn’t pick up one of his books for the occasion, opting to create some bookish artwork instead. A simplistic, cheery bookmark to keep my books company.

Jan 2018 (5)