She shrieked. It was a scream of utter horror. Soon afterwards, Chaddha ji’s daughter Bansuri started jumping in front of the mirror, pointing wildly, of all the things, at her skull. ‘What on earth is wrong with you?’ I asked her, secretly grateful to God that she has finally realised the lack of anything inside her head. “This,” she said, pointing to a strand of grey hair, lifeless now, in her hand. ‘Oh my goodness, you have ONE white hair?’ I tried copying her tone, sarcastically. “Stop making fun of me, do you even know what this means? I’m getting old,” she retorted. ‘Of course I do, I have three of my own, so three times older,’ I replied. “Do you see wrinkles too?” she asked in a very concerned tone, bringing the back of her hand alarmingly close to my eyes. I’m sure by now you know what stress I’m talking about this week. The age old stress — of ageing.
All of you would have felt this stress at some point, at times even those who are barely in their twenties. When even the end of teen-years gives tension to some, one can imagine what a lot of us must go through when we cross our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and so on. Internet tells me that the fear of getting old even has a scientific name — Gerontophobia. Maybe that’s an extreme stage of the disorder but I’ve seen some friends spending a good part of their life, growling at anyone who dares to utter the dreaded ‘A’ word — ‘aunty’. I call it wrinkle-induced depression, you can give it a name you like. But the fact is that the depression of turning old, preoccupies some minds to such an extent that these people completely lose out on a charming reality of life — that of ageing gracefully.
The chalte phirte Botox ambassadors — our filmstars — don’t help the situation. The other day, I met a social worker friend (she does the noble deed of donating immense time and money to the beauty parlour cottage industry). When I commented on the futility of spending the equivalent of the GDP of her colony on anti-aging creams, she asked me, “If Hema Malini or Rekha can look like Goddesses at their age, and Aamir can pass off as a college student at 44, what’s wrong with me trying to stay young?” Nothing wrong, my dear, except one reality. No amount of money or power can make you not grow older by another year on every birthday. Then why the obsession with not ‘looking’ it? The obsession instead, I think, should be with not ‘feeling’ it. Because the sooner we make peace with the truth that ageing is a natural irreversible process, the faster we’ll realise that in reality, we are as old as our mind is.
I’ve seen many people in their late 60’s and 70’s, enjoying life in a far more adventurous manner than their stressed out ‘young’ children. Couples who spend a good part of their younger life arguing, discover a strangely comforting companionship as they grow older with each other. Holidays become more fun, with less work-stress and of course, the senior citizen discounts. As for the failing health, which many associate with ageing, please remember two people — the 82-year-old retired banker who was fit enough to complete the marathon…and the 32-year-old CEO who died of cardiac arrest caused by stressful lifestyle. Life is what we make of it. Age is just a number.