Posts Tagged ‘musing’

When does old age begin?

October 24, 2018

I turned 64 yesterday, and was musing on what old age is, and when it begins.

Certainly, as I grew up, the horizons of old age shifted. In my childhood, 60 was an unimaginable old age, and life expectancy being what was in India then, a man who turned 60 would have a big ceremony to mark the occasion.

When I first started travelling abroad, I was much struck by the fact that people in the “developed” countries of the west…and many people in eastern countries…seemed to be hale and healthy at what I considered an advanced age. The trains I took in Switzerland were full of 80 year olds, having a good time as they enjoyed the relaxation of a life after work and career.

Of my immediate family, my parents both died at 66, and my mother in law at 59. None of my parents’ siblings made it beyond 70. My father-in-law an inveterate walker and cyclist, lived up to 87, but it was dependent and sick old age for the last few years, after a series of strokes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s took their toll on his physical and mental health.

In spite of all that, the increase in the average life expectancy began to reflect in many other extended family members and friends. As I grew old, 50 became the new 40, and now, 60 took up the same position too. I have friends’ parents who are in their eighties, living independently and enjoying reasonably good health.

One of the most unusual example of old age I have seen was my WASP son-in-law’s paternal grandfather. With the help of two consecutive pacemakers, he made it to an independent 101. And then he did something which I have not seen anyone else do…he took charge of his destiny and After a few episodes of congestive heart failure, decided he’d had a full life. He asked his pacemaker to be switched off, and passed away the next day after that.The only parallel I know for this was the story of Bhishma in the Mahabharata, who had the boon of “icchA maraNam” (death at one’s own will) and exercised that will when he decided that his life’s work of protecting the kingdom was over.

Today, I am surrounded by so many people of my age, or older, and what I notice is the importance of good health in their happiness. Independence of life, and good health, are the essential parameters, I find, of a good quality of life in one’s sixties, and beyond.

But an intangible which I think very important …is…the ability to also get along with people younger….and much younger….than one. I can truly say that I don’t seem to consider someone’s age in interacting with them; I have very close friends who are 20 years older than I am, and 30 years younger. I am so lucky in being able to enjoy the company of children so much that I find the thought of a senior citizen’s home, where there may not be many children, not appealing at all….yet!

Another intangible is the attitude we bring to age. Far too often do I see people who are young, thinking of anyone beyond a certain age, to be “old”. Also, many of the people I see, of my own age, seem to think they are “old”, and begin moaning and groaning about their small ailments. At 50, a friend told me,”Our lives are over, now we have to live for our children!” I disagree. I love my child, but I can’t live only for her! In fact, perhaps my keeping up my own interests and activities, and the fact of my having friends of all ages, has kept me healthy…I am not so sure of this, though!

This is because good health, unfortunately, is not always the guaranteed result of regular habits and a disciplined life. Illness and disease come out of nowhere and strike hard, making a mockery (mocking a makery?) of one’s will to be independent. Dependent, and sickly, old age, is a daily torture. The ageless personality in the suffering body chafes at the restrictions that hedge and control life.

So what is the point of all this musing? Er, nothing…it’s just musing…meandering, and possibly a sign of old age. Three sure signs of mental “old age”, according to me, are….1. A perpetual harking back to the good old days, and a feeling that the quality of life has gone down in all ways; mores and values have deteriorated. 2. What a wit called anec-dotage…the tendency to live in that now-glowing past, and recount endless stories of one’s prime.

And 3…the tendency, in the age of the internet, to keep on forwarding stuff! When I start sending you forwards (instead of sharing my own thoughts) regularly, can you come and snuff me out,please? Thank you!

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The last few leaves…..

December 25, 2014

I tear off the leaf of my daily calendar.It’s a habit that’s a long-standing one… for many years, I always asked my sister in law, to buy a “rANi mutthu” daily calendar for me (I was superstitious..the 2 years that I bought one for myself, I lost my parents, and then again, once, when I did this, I lost my brother. Now, I’ve lost a lot, including the superstition, and I buy my own.)

At the start of the year, it’s a fat, thick wad of papers. It represents the future..unknown, yet to be experienced. There are hopes, there are fears. There is speculation on what may come to pass…or not.

Then, the leaves slowly start dropping. No, it’s not fall, it’s just the daily tear-off.

This year, there was a big hiatus from June to November. I came back from a visit to Scandinavia and the US, and tore off a huge chunk of the future-that-had-turned-into-the-past.Since then, it’s been pretty much a leaf a day, except the visit to Delhi which lasted a week. (I should have got my sis in law a calendar when I went, but it hadn’t come on sale yet.)

Now, the piece of cardboard has just a few leaves…dates….attached. Detachment…when I detach the leaves from the calendar, why don’t I also practice another kind of detachment? I should let the past go. Missing my grandchildren so intensely that it hurts…missing things from a past life that will never return…why do I allow these unprofitable thoughts? Attachment must drop from me, as the leaves do when I pull them off the calendar.

I will go out in a day or two, and get another calendar. Soon, it will be time for this baby-fat Murugan to go to the recycling, while another one will smile at me, over another stuck-together-with-cloth-and-gum pile of 365 small sheets of paper, that tell me the date according to the English and Tamizh calendars, tell me the auspicious and inauspicious times of the day, the “star” of the day, the time of the lunar month, and mention which south Indian temple has what festival….and also what festival it is for several other religions, as well as leaders’ birthdays and national holidays and Hindu festivals. For example, today it has the picture of C Rajagopolachari whose birthday it is, and a Santa with balloons to denote Christmas.

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My daily calendar…an unobtrusive yet essential part of my daily life. Tearing a page off usually means that twenty-four hours have gone by. What have I achieved? What have I thought? How have I treated others? I do not always introspect…but I am doing so now, when there are just a few leaves left.

Let me muse on the way this year has gone, as time creeps past, and the leaves fall from my mind, and my life, as well as from my calendar….

Sunlight, and thoughts

October 1, 2013

We’d gone for “lunner” or “dinch” to the Boathouse at Forest Park,and I looked out of the enclosed seating area at people who were sitting outside, at the edge of the water.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”, goes the saying, and this applies to PYT’s too.

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I enjoyed the sunshine through her hair, I enjoyed her smile, and I hope life treats her well…we were ships that pass, not in the night, but in sunshine…will I ever see her again, and will I remember or recognize her if I do? I don’t know…

Thoughts about an Indian marriage

September 23, 2013

When a couple move from love tomarriage..they begin to navigate the thorny thickets of social customs, unspoken expectations, implicit equations, and the general interaction of personalities…marriage in India is not to one person but to the immediate, and extended, family…and is more complicated than any corporate management job!

Colours…and thoughts.

September 22, 2013

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Even if I am not a happy person, all I have to do is to reflect other people’s happiness, and I will become happy myself. I got this lesson from this dark brown, dull wooden wall, which reflected the bright colours.

Jigsaw Puzzle, 100913

September 12, 2013

Life…is fitting together the pieces
And making sense of it.
Your parent’s there to guide you
If the pieces don’t fit!

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St.Louis, 100913.

Friend on FaceBook? No way!

August 22, 2013

I got a message from Flora Williams, and since I wasn’t able to guage whether it was “genwine” or not, I replied, and asked her for more details. Now…you evaluate, from her reply:

“I am Miss Flora William,24yrs old from Freetown Sierra-Leone,the only child of Late Dr.David William who was killed by rebels when war broke-out in my country but my friends used to call me Miss Hope and i really love the name because i have hope that one day, i will be free from this place.I lost my parent and relatives during the war, but through the help of the UNITED NATION (UN) I was rescued and brought to Dakar Senegal refugee camp together with other surviving people.
My hobbies are,Swimming,dancing,cooking, meeting people, going to social activities, and also i like listening to good musics .I Will like to know more about you,your likes and dislike,your hubbies and what you are doing Presently. I will tell you more about myself and the main reason why i contacted you in my next mail.
As i told you earlier I am staying in a refugee camp.Staying here is more like a prison because we are restricted from doing or having some certain things here in the camp. This Refugee Camp is headed by a Rev. Father peter Johnson. He likes me so much to the point he call me his daughter,I do make use of his office computer to send email and i only enter his office when he is less busy. i wait to hear from you soonest.
kisses Flora William”

I am not planning to have anything further to do with the Flora of this species….call me cynical, call me hard-hearted….I am, ofkose, busy with my many hubbies….

Boarding the Treatment Train to the Terminus of Good Health

August 13, 2013

Life has a way of suddenly rearing up and throwing stink-bombs at you….a young friend of mine (25 years old!) has been diagnosed with a 2-cm hole in the heart, which, by virtue of its position, needs major surgery for closure (sometimes such holes can be fixed laparoscopically.) In the course of the diagnosis, diabetes was also discovered, and the path towards surgery has become further complicated. I feel miserable that I am so far away from this young couple at this time. However, the internet allows me to keep in touch, and I wrote to them, likening their lives now to a train journey….the Passenger Train to the Good Health Terminus.

I feel this simile is apt, because once ill health strikes, there is the hopeful journey forward towards eventual good health…but it will have a lot of stops along the way, like a passenger train. There will be good stations, and bad ones…good things, and not-so-good things, will happen. But the train will go rolling on….

Another thing I have found, while dealing with projected plans of action, is that “healthy (pun intended) pessimism” works for me. I *expect* delays and checks…so if they happen, yes, I can take them in my stride…and if they don’t…I feel happy that this part of the journey is smoothly accomplished.

Having said this…I think that it is NOT easy to continuously feel positive. There are the doubts, the “why me”, and the “what if”. They keep rising like thickets of weeds, in our mind. It’s a constant
battle and we have to keep fighting! Prayer, puja, homa, friends, family, humour, meditation…I take whatever help comes along. The confidence that I build up this way is the currency that will get me through this difficult train ride!

In a way, I suppose, this way of handling things works for me, no matter what difficulties I face in life. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to laugh at myself, and at my checks and reverses, and to me, being able to deal positively with the stink bombs is the ultimate victory. RSH (Random Shit Happens)…but if we are able to grapple with the shit and move forward, we have been successful in defeating what life has thrown at us.

Which way?

August 7, 2013

DSC03545  180713 creeper pole wall

I could go up that fence in two ways. Be stiff, uncompromising, straight up. But that might mean, I’d be wooden, and dead.

I could compromise, bend to the needs of the terrain, and grow in lateral ways. I’d be green and thriving, but I might not be straight.

Are there any simple answers to how I must meet a situation? What’s good, what’s bad? Depends upon me….

Prairie, Lewis and Clark State Historical Site, 270713

July 30, 2013

DSC04409 prairie hartford ill, 270713

Under the summer sun
And the fleecy clouds,
The prairie flowers bloom.
Before the day is done
There will be crowds
Of insects, fighting for room
On the blossoms, to partake
Of the nectar so sweet.
Wings help the creatures make
Quick landings with six feet.
A scene of quiet and serenity
Appears to our eyes;
But the fast-paced activity
Of the insects is seen by the wise.

Coneflowers, Bee’s Balm and other flowers on the prairie, Lewis and Clark State Historical Center, Hartford, Illinois, 270713.

For photos of the birds over the weekend,

click here

For photos of the insects,

click here

For the Lewis and Clark State Historical Site,

click here