About the Author: “Mr K. C. Verma is a close friend, author of “Stories I wouldn’t tell my mother” and ex-chief of R&AW.
Old age does not suddenly come one fine morning. Instead, it kind of creeps upon you. It creeps upon you like a soft-footed tiger and you are seldom aware that it has come so near – until you find it is right upon you!
So watch out for the warning signs. As do I. A growing impatience, an intolerance, a disappointment with an imperfect world. Cars parked wrongly. Rude people jumping the queue. Inconsiderate women talking so loudly. Those men wearing still louder clothes. That incessantly yapping mongrel down the street. The neighbour’s brat who plays such jarring music. The list of things that irritate you is almost endless.
Old age is not related to your years. Nor does it have anything to do with your creaking bones. Or to your reluctance to climb stairs. Or even to that little bit of incontinence. No, not at all. Old age is wholly dependent on how old others think you are and how old you yourself think you are.
Remember, it is not that nagging pain in the back that damages your ego. Your ego is hurt when that pretty thing addresses you as ‘Uncle’. The grey in your hair is not at all demoralizing but wouldn’t you be crestfallen if you are offered a seat on the bus by that middle-aged man?
Many many years ago, people would address you as “Beta”. “Beta, just run to the corner shop and get me a paan.” “Why don’t you comb your hair, Beta?”
Then Beta became Bhaiya. “Bhaiya zara hat ke! Bhaiya zara bach ke!”
And one day it suddenly became “Sorry Uncle!”
Uncle? Uncle! Ah, the dreaded word! That is the dead giveaway that you are now old. And your neighbours tell their children – “Beta, say hello to Baba!”
Not Baba as in a child but ‘Baba’ as in grandfather.
Another damning clue to your advancing age is the frequency with which you lose your temper. This is, of course more noticeable on the road. Just about everyone seems to be conspiring against you. The leader of the conspiracy is the inveterate honker who keeps blowing his horn behind you. Then there is the dangerous motorcycle rider; hell bent on committing suicide, who swerves in front of you. And the mad man who overtakes from the left. So totally aggravating!
The number of times a day you give unsolicited advice to others also reveals your ripe age, In fact this is a fairly accurate indicator. Count the number of times you tender advice to others in a day. Multiply the number by six. Add to fifty. The sum is your age!
And don’t forget caution. Caution is not a virtue; it is a red flag! Your reflexes are slower, so it makes sense to wait for traffic to stop before you cross the road. But do you need to check twice whether the door is really locked after you have locked it?
As you age, your language undergoes subtle but definite changes. You start using much more ‘Oldspeak’; the language that hypocritically uses the term ‘experience’ for attitudes that you would have earlier dubbed ‘timid’ or ‘cowardly’. ‘Oldspeak’ uses statements like “I am thinking” when you actually need to say “I am confused.” Never forget, in Oldspeak you never use the word ‘forgot’. Never say “I forgot where I put my spectacles.” Say “Who took away my specs from the table?”
But above all, take comfort from the fact that old age does not last forever. So enjoy it. Enjoy also everything else that comes with it – irritability, forgetfulness, wrinkles, grey hair, spectacles, dentures and hearing aids.
Incontinence? Ah yes! That too!
About the Author: Mr K C Verma is a former Chief of the R&AW