Summer is upon us – mild mannered in some places and already showing its blistering nature in others. In my books, the amount of heat or cold felt by people is (much like age) a ‘state of mind’. If this was not the case then why would weather merchants coin terms like ‘real feel’ in their forecasts?

I know of an old friend, who (like yours truly) loves the outdoors and his forays into the hills around Islamabad, at the height of the cold season, are ‘hallmarked’ by the sight of a senior citizen clad in drab colored short sleeved vest and denim jeans trudging up the steep tracks oblivious of the fact that others around him are wearing heavy woolies to keep out the ‘wind chill’. I have even gone to the extent of surreptitiously checking out the contents of his back pack and water bottle, to detect any ‘antifreeze fortification’, but have found none except a homemade chicken (and sometimes cheese) sandwich accompanied by a bottle of plain simple ‘aqua pura’.

To my question as to how does he do it, he simply points to his head as if saying - “It’s all here”. What my friend says is true, for how else would octogenarians in China take a plunge in an icy river with the temperature hovering around ten degrees below zero or how could ‘fire walkers’ tread calmly across a bed of glowing coals.

We know that amongst all living things, the dolphin uses around twenty percent of its brain, thereby manifesting almost human intelligence, coupled with the ability to use ‘sonar’ for navigation and hunting purposes. It may sound strange, but we use only ten percent of our grey matter – except in cases, where increased utilisation produces geniuses or psychics. Modern science calls this ‘gift’ Extra Sensory Perception (ESP). The awesome power of the mind and the prospect of humans using a much larger part of their brain than what they currently do, is mind-boggling. The need to explore this new frontier has been recognized by the developed nations and discoveries are even now being used for criminal investigation, pain and trauma management and treatment of serious illnesses. Such is the cognisance of potential that ESP is now a recognized research subject at celebrated centers of learning such as Duke University in North Carolina.  

Having dished out enough heavy stuff, it is time to get back to our story. My grandfather’s younger brother (affectionately called ‘Chotay Nana’) was doted upon by us, except on one count. This unique individual (who passed away at the age of sixty two due to heart failure), had developed the knack of bathing in the icy waters of a spring that supplied water to our summer home in Murree. This ritual would have been considered a personal matter, had it not involved us being dragged into standing underneath the cataract, in open air every morning, with utter disregard to the cold wind and the ‘real feel’ factor. The funny thing is that none of us ever caught a cold or suffered from any other chill related malady after the dousing.

One of old domestic staff members, had the ability to use acacia thorns to pry out splinters and other stuff that painfully embedded itself into his hands during chores. He went about this as calmly as if he was peeling a potato. Much later, I could relate this to members of some south American tribes, who pierced their lower jaws as a ritual or for that matter the ‘yogis’, who slept on a ‘bed of nails’.

Last, but not the least there is the tale of the young man, who so displeased his liege that he was sentenced to stand neck deep in a pool of chilled water for a week. He was released (more out of fear and superstition), when his tormentors saw that he was none the worse for the experience. In private, the man claimed that on the first night, he had looked around for some sign of hope and assistance, when he spotted a distant fire in the forest. In a desperate bid to survive, he began to conjure up a daily vision of sitting next to the blaze and this exercise in mind over matter is what perhaps saved his life.