July 07, 2019


Like-minded company helps keep the mind happy and brain cells working | Fatimah Ali/White Star
Like-minded company helps keep the mind happy and brain cells working | Fatimah Ali/White Star

It might appear absurd to offer a prescription, even advice, on how to deal with old age. In the first place, most old people are in denial; they fail to decide how old ‘old age’ is. Quite clearly, they do not wish to know when they will kick the bucket.

Obituaries often say that people either had an ‘untimely death’, or they passed away at a ‘ripe old age’. One wonders what time is actually ‘untimely’ or when exactly does age ripen. Ironically, although it is your own life, you have no say in the duration of your visit to this planet. No matter how smart you are, you can’t dodge the dreaded angel, can you?

At best, some may claim that, whatever the duration, they lived a happy life. Was it because they happily put up with the twists and turns of life and lived it with the same abandon as if playing a game of hockey or football or cricket?

As an old man myself, I have observed that most of us oldies are generally not handling our age with much common sense. Hence this compulsion to offer a code of conduct for consideration:

Some common sense rules to cope with ageing

The first and obvious fact to remember is: Learn to live for small mercies. Small mercies vary from individual to individual. You have to look for your own ‘small mercies,’ available specifically to you.

Second: Don’t try to keep pace with the world. You will tumble on all fours and make a fool of yourself. No need to play to the gallery. If others are overtaking you, let them walk ahead of you.

Third: Talk less. With age, you might have become wiser, but the real wisdom lies in suppressing the urge to impart knowledge and advice to your children and grandchildren. It misfires, you know. Instead of sinking in their young, your words fall flat on the young ears and you are taken to be as a khabti (senile).

Fourth: Learn to enjoy your loneliness. Loneliness, if accepted willingly, can be enjoyable. It is also a prerequisite for nostalgia. You can even make it romantic. Write your memoir if you can, and read it to yourself to spend quality time.

Fifth: Don’t lose touch with your doctors. If they are taking you for a ride by charging outrageous fees, don’t forget that paisa haath ka mael hota hai (money is easily spent). In old age your money is for spending lavishly on your doctors! Keep those specialists in good humour, telling them an occasional joke (even if it goes over their financially preoccupied heads).

Sixth: When you have an urge to reminisce about the good old days, don’t drag your children and grandchildren down your so-called memory lane. They are living life in the fast lane and it is irritating for them to change lanes and shift to a slower one, i.e., your dilapidated, wishy-washy memory lane.

Seventh: Even though your children have not migrated to the US, Canada or Australia and are accessible to you, you are still walking a tightrope. Be careful in getting too close to the grandchildren. There is a risk of the grandchildren becoming too attached to you. In that case, you are sure to be blamed for spoiling them.

Eighth: Keep your sentiments and moments of bliss to yourself. Don’t try to unnecessarily share them with your ‘near and dear ones’ — a sunrise, the sunset, the full moon, the trees bathing in the rain, raindrops falling on the leaves, not even an old melody. These things do not invoke the same feeling in their young hearts as they do to your second-hand decayed heart. They can even be boring for them. They are already enjoying all this on their cell phones.

Finally, don’t be afraid of embarking on the final journey. Look forward to the next adventure; you don’t know what exciting time awaits you.

The writer is an amateur photographer and singer, trained in classical music by Ustad Wilayat Ali Khan

Published in Dawn, EOS, July 7th, 2019