Simplicity, Work and Enjoyment

“My secret for long life is simplicity, work and enjoyment.” – Maia Helles

I’m loving every bit of this video of Maia Helles by Julia Warr. Julia met Maia Helles a ballet dancer, who’s just turned 95, on a plane on 4 years ago.

Shot in Fire Island, New York, this film (4min. 23 sec) captures the secrets of eternal youth as Maia Helles, a Russian ballet dancer turns 95 but still remains resolutely independent, healthy and as fit as a forty year old. Made by Julia Warr, artist and film maker who met Maia on a plane 4 years ago and became utterly convinced by the benefits of her daily exercise routine, which Maia perfected together with her Mother, over 60 years ago, long before exercise classes were ever invented. Set to the music of Lola Perrin.(2011) Film by Julia Warr Music by Lola Perrin visit visit

There is a beautiful cadence to the routine and the ritual: Maia watering her garden, Maia exercising (she’s been doing these exercises for over 60 years!), Maia preparing a meal. I love the bits of splashes of orange - the little flower printed orange pillow on her exercise mat, the bright orange pan hanging on the wall, the movement of the bluish curtain fluttering in the breeze; little things of joy, suspended staccatos in this opus. There’s tenderness in the moments between the rituals - as she gingerly ties her apron, as she fusses in front of the kitchen fluffing her hair, as she sips tea at her simply set dining table and as she smiles the wrinkles and lines carefully aligning themselves.

I’m thinking I should focus a little more on Maia’s philosophy of simplicity, work and enjoyment. I’m always multi-tasking: answering emails, biting into an apple, reading a cooking blog, planning dinner. I need to slow down, breathe and focus. Bite into the apple, answer an email, bookmark the cooking blog, postpone thinking about dinner. Make this a habit till it becomes second nature and then just who I am.

It’s nearing dinner time. I peel a couple of potatoes, dice and toss them into the pressure cooker with the lentils. While this cooks, I slice the onions, mince the garlic, julienne the ginger, slice the green chillies, count the curry leaves. I saute these sliced and diced veggies in some ghee with sizzling cumin seeds, throw in the powdered spices and roast till it smells like my mother’s kitchen. The tempering is ready, the lentils and potatoes are waiting. A bowl of rice with a heaping of dal, a glass of wine - simplicity, work and enjoyment have come together as dinner.  

Maybe this is where I start building the rituals and routines I’ll grow old with. Taking a moment to fluff my hair when I pass a mirror, putting away the laptop after 10 pm and picking up a book to read, meeting friends more often- living fully, staying engaged in the moment and being beautiful