Here’s a tongue-in-cheek view on aging and how society views the elders, by Delhi-based Ruchira, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Honestly, I am thoroughly peeved with the ‘age’ obsession harboured by millions of my countrymen. Personally, yes I have completed 50 revolutions around the sun. I wear reading glasses, can’t thread my needle anymore, and dye my hair to hide the greys. Is that a strong reason to stare at me with an expression of curiosity mixed with pity – as if I were an extraterrestrial from another galaxy?
The Age Shocker
I am sure a sizeable chunk of the 50 somethings (read women) in our country have undergone similar experiences. Be it your workplace, neighbourhood, the beauty parlour or even a polyclinic, if you happen to state that you are in the late-30s or mid-40s, you perceive numerous pairs of eyes focused on you. As if it is a criminal offence to be old! Wonder why such youthful people don’t realise that in a not too distant future they too will grow old that aging is a part and parcel of human life. There is no escape.
Pride of Youth
It baffles me further when I am on the verge of doing something exciting and adventurous and some of these FYTs (Fairly Young Things) stop me saying “Nehi madam aap yeh nehi Kar payegi, aapki aiize (read age) ho gayi hai”. (You are old, so you won’t be able to do it). Why on earth should I change my mind when I feel confident and ready to embark on my venture? Anyway, what business is it of theirs when I am willing to go the whole hog? A couple of years ago I looked for a job switch. The concerned individual tut-tutted and looked at me with compassion. “Madam everything is fine, but your age….” he trailed off. I wanted to scream at him: does advancing age dull my mental faculties, language skills or imagination? Anyway, I am not in sales or marketing sectors that my waning energy levels might affect my performance level.
Many People, Many Views
I will recount a personal experience during a Delhi Metro ride. All I had done was ask an FYT for a seat, as (it being after-office hours) the coach was too crowded; moreover, a bout of arthritis was on. Scowling, she gave up her seat. Lodging herself elsewhere, she spoke into her phone, “Err…..well I had to give my seat to a senior citizen,” she said, disgust writ large on her face. I slammed her, asking her if she knew what the age bar was a Senior Citizen. Secondly, it was pretty obvious that I was on my way home from work. Didn’t she know senior citizens by and large was a retired lot? During yet another metro ride, I overheard a group of FYTs discussing aloud, “Arey yeh wale colours mat pehn, yeh to auntie wale colours hai.” Now, what has colour got to do with one’s physical age? So, genuinely old people ought to dress in black or white because their lives are devoid of colour?
Certain sections of Indians treat the aging/elderly as a new species. This is the root cause of the Uncle/Auntie syndrome which has assumed gigantic proportions, particularly in the north (where I live) as compared to other parts of the country, where I often travel. As per this trend, the official form of address, Sir and Madam has been replaced by Uncle and Auntie, in that order. The advocates want to do away with the colonial hangover. Pshaw! Don’t the nerds know that even Uncle/Auntie is borrowed from English! God help them! Why don’t they realise that these appellatives denote family relations whereas Sir and Madam are formal and polite? They will argue, they are offering you izzat since aunty and uncle have middle-age connotations. I have nothing against the word auntie per se. But too often I have seen in their eyes and facial expressions again a blend of curiosity and compassion becomes crystal clear. I wish to quiz them: what is the need to dovetail age factor with a respectful address?
Pray Do Not Mock
The stupidity of such behaviour hits you in the eye, even making you squirm – just because you are past a certain age limit you are nothing but a condemned, discarded item. The world belongs to the youth. They must hold sway over everything. So where do the aging folks go…to the junkyard? Why discriminate against us? Just because we have spent a little more time, than you did, upon the planet? There are umpteen instances where aging/ elderly individuals have stolen a march over their juniors in their respective arenas. Rather than benefit from our experiences; all you do is treating us with disdain. Is that humane?
Age is Just a Number
Why not devise some terms which are universally acceptable without causing affront to anyone? For instance, down south any female in the 8 to 80 age group is hailed as Amma (lady/mother). For grown-up males, it is either Thambi or Anna (Little boy or Big brother).Or follow the Bongs, who refer to ladies and gentlemen simply as dada-didi. Age no bar. Ditto for Islamic culture wherein Janaab has a unisex application.
People might seriously think I am off my rocker. But, let me assure you I am not. I am merely a sensitive human being who wants to live life king size with being constantly reminded that I am not so young anymore…
©Ruchira Adhikari Ghosh
Photos from the Internet
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Born in Guwahati Assam, Ruchira grew up in Delhi and Punjab. A product of Sacred Heart Convent, Ludhiana, she holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh. Armed with a P.G diploma in journalism in Journalism, she has been a pen-pusher for nearly 25 years. Her chequered career encompasses print, web, as well as television. She has metamorphosed as a feature writer, her forte being women’s issues, food, travel and literature.