Tuesday, March 2, 2021
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Old Age Always 15 Winters Away!

Birthday. Is this absolute natural phenomenon indeed deserves such hullabaloo like birthday wishes, messages and celebrations — be it cutting cakes or throwing lavish parties? If anybody celebrates his bagging first prize in a competition, receiving an Arjuna award or a promotion in career; it is definitely understandable as the success has been achieved through devotion, determination and skill enhancement. But why so ecstatic about a mere Birthday! Especially when the fact remains that the pampered “Birthday Boy/Girl” concerned has played absolutely no role behind the special date! He/she has zero contribution behind his/her arrival in the world! So where lies the logic behind the hoopla revolving Birthdays!
During childhood while my simple parents did not translate our Birthdays to be days of endless merry making restricting the occasion to savouring a few sweets or two, no such celebration to speak about was also witnessed in my friend circles or neighbourhood in the 1970-80s.
As I entered adulthood, Birthday continued to be more and more insignificant in my life.
However after debuting on social media, my very personal date has turned public thanks to Facebook notifications. Now the Facebook friend list consists of genuine friends as well as “friends”! While wishes from genuine friends among blood relations or colleagues no doubt touches my heart (though such wishes in public definitely causing a lot of embarrassment); those from “friends” seem to me amusing enough because throughout the year we have no emotional contact with each other with few of them even not giving a nod also if our path crosses in office corridor! But come Birthday, they also wish in response to the notification they receive in social media perhaps absolutely mechanically like the “Likes” given liberally on the posts notifying the demise of any acquaintance also!
Again these wishes or posts are not in my control. Only my mindset can do the talking for me. So the Birthday which was a matter of nominal enjoyment in childhood turned absolutely irrelevant on early adulthood. But presently it has indeed become a special day for me; but special in my own terms, not that of the society’s.
As a year passes by, my father turns more vulnerable with son steadily stepping towards the doorway of college. Inflation devalues my hard-earned limited money, a major chunk of it increasingly getting allocated towards the medical and education sector to satisfy the private giants who have set up brilliant commercial ventures in the name of “serving” the society!
Added with the decreasing period of service left as a year passes through like a breeze, theoretically as well as practically there lies no reason to cheer up!
Yet why don’t I feel anxious! That too with a brisk rate of hair falling! And haven’t our commercial players constantly “enlighten” us of the “fact” that without transplanting hair, we would appear “oldies” resembling “father” of our own wives and “duty-bound” to land in deep depression as the very meaning of life “would get lost”! Moreover we are also biologically marching towards old age!
But far from turning depressed, I feel proud of my greying hair as well as balding scalp enjoying the natural beauty of increasing years! The exuberance which I possessed in my 20-s seems to have no end as I step on 50-s also psychologically as well as physically! The distance which I used to cover by walking in 34 minutes almost two decades ago took not a single minute more today also that too without feeling exerted! As far as registering protest through words is concerned, not an iota of enthusiasm has got lost with my own heart doing all the talking without mortgaging my mindset to the “mainstream” by drawing inspiration from John Mason’s “You were born an original. Don’t die a copy”.
And my jumping running to hide and seek with kids gain an extra boost with George Bernard Shaw’s “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing”!
Also right from blue Bhutanese sky to our neighbouring flowing Hooghly, the little baby to the wrinkled senior citizen — I succeed in appreciating the beauty of all invoking Franz Kafka’s assertion “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old”.
And far from importing the inevitable future adversities to my present consciousness, I try to rewind the happy days which each age has gifted me and also eagerly look forward to the happiness which future age has in store for me. No wonder why Ausonius has remarked “Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years”!
Ending with Bernard Baruch’s claim “To me old age is 15 years older than I am”. Yes, the feeling of vitality which I had in my 20th year remained constant on 35th with the status quo being maintained in my 50th winter also! Let this Baruch spirit keep on egging me on my 65th and 80th Birthday also!
Kajal Chatterjee

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