Age is but a number. Don’t ever get taken in by it!
The other day I was sitting at a coffee shop enjoying my “quiet, me-time”. A bunch of 20-somethings sat at the adjacent table. And they were a riot. They ribbed each other, laughed loudly and were so full of Life. One of them even chided the others for being so noisy and said, “Stop behaving like teenagers!” To this, another among them asked her to how old she was, and she replied, “24”! And everyone burst out laughing!
I thought about those young folks at the café for a long time that day. And I thought about the question: “How old are you?” Closing in as I am on my 50s – just two-and-a-half-years away – this is a question that I have often found an interesting one to answer. To be honest, I never imagined I would be this old someday. Deep within me, I carry an image of me, of a boy wearing a blue printed shirt. I must have been 11 when that picture of me was shot by a Japanese guest who I befriended at the swimming pool at Taj Coromandel Hotel in Chennai – where I took my first swimming lessons. The gentleman, Yoshiro Kizuka, was a long-staying guest at the hotel and he liked me and my brother as he too had children our age. He snail-mailed me my picture when he went back to Japan (those days you had to process film rolls and print the pictures at a studio/film lab!!!). I still have that picture with me somewhere. It’s a picture that’s very school-boyish – a lot of curiosity and wonder in my eyes, the feel of being on the cusp of adolescence evident on my face, a certain innocence and an unstated ambition lend that picture a unique quality. Even today, within me, I feel the same way – curious about Life, naïve about how to deal with its trials and tribulations, despite having faced innumerable crises; and, importantly, I feel that I am still to grow old! I must confess, quickly, that with my progressives arriving last week, with my rheumatoid arthritis reminding me of the withering nature of the human body and with all the shades of grey that adorn the sides of my almost bald pate, I do have Life pointing to my biological age more frequently than I would like! Yet, I look around me and I have enough inspirations of people who are biologically older than me, but who are still young at heart and with all that they continue to do – Amitabh Bachchan, Apollo’s Dr.Pratap Reddy, Vyajayanthimala Bali (who at 80 performed at the Chennai Music & Dance Season last December), the dancer couple Shanta and V.P.Dhananjayan, my dear friend – the unputdownable and peripatetic Ejji Umamahesh, my father (who at 76 despite chronic diabetes remains active) and my father-in-law (who despite a stroke and Parkinsons Plus retains his zest for Life). And so, after unwittingly eavesdropping on the youthful conversation at the café the other day, I have decided to deal with my age as a mere data point from now on.
Indeed, your age is but a data point. It is when you make it the focal point of your Life that you miss the plot! This is what I have learnt from Life: the body is a vehicle, an instrument, to live and enjoy Life. Like all vehicles, all instruments, all machines, it ages and, through wear and tear, keeps withering away, until death, the inevitable end, consumes it finally. So, the body ages, the body dies. Not you. Not me. This is a natural cyclical process that encompasses all forms of creation from birth to death. No other aspect of creation, however, agonizes over aging and withering away or dying. Only man is obsessed with aging and dying. For instance, the leaves of a tree don’t agonize over falling off and being consumed by the earth. But we humans rue the same destiny, however intelligent we may be to know that such an end is inevitable. Which is why, we don’t live our lives fully. We are constantly, foolishly, fearing an end that we can’t really avoid or prevent.
Refusing to be taken in by your age, which is just another number, is an important step to live your Life fully! Nurturing this attitude to living does not mean you will not feel the body’s aches and pains as it ages. It only means that you will exercise your choice to live each day better, making it count, than pay heed to what you cannot change, what you cannot undo and what you cannot reverse. So, rather than crave for an ageless body, celebrate the timeless spirit within you. It is like pure wine – getting better and better as it grows older!