Monday, January 29, 2007

Not there yet

Listen to the noise below. They are waiting for me. They are shouting and cheering for me. My wife's nervous laughter punctuates the ruckus as others pause to gobble pockets of air which they can paint in shrill colours with "Come on, Uncleji" or "What's keeping you bhaiyya?" or "Happy Birthday, Sunilji." No one calls me Sunil anymore. Those who can are either dead or going through what I am, and hence, denying me that pleasure. I am 60 today and its not a pleasure.
What will they know? They are still in their 20s. Rajiv still gets caught with porn and is brushed off as being his age. When I reach over to Rekha and touch her all I get is wrinkled skin. Kamala, the maid, grants me nothing more than the touch of her fingers on my feet when she arrives every morning and makes me cringe by calling me Sunil-mama. But that touch. What shall I say? I can't even ... forget it.
I don't want to go there. They are not celebrating anything. They are mocking at me. They are proud of their youth which I can never re-create. My adventures are nostalgia for them and cute for my grand-daughter who has returned from Norway. My nephew finds me outdated as he plays on his computer. I know how to use the computer, what does he mean? The only one who lets me feel proud, without her knowing, is my daughter-in-law who finds the description of my erstwhile romance with Rekha as the fuel that fires her disgust for her husband who is busy reading the stock market reports.
I find it difficult to button my sherwani. Damn! These fabrics are not like what they were once. I mean, not that the earlier fabrics were decades old... damn! Whom am I kidding. Everyone says I am old and my conversations are inherently sepia-tinted. Some of them say it to my face and then hug me, as if they thought they were being nice to me. Some say it every time I forget my glasses. But they forget their wallets and paying bills, too. Whither dost thou go?
I look at my skin and what my mirror shows me. I am not that. I never wanted to be that. Its not old age but the weight of what I had to do for others. Now they don't expect me to do anything. They don't think that I can create excitement and action in their midst. I am like that cuckoo-clock that Anand keeps repairing and replacing on the dining-hall's wall. They pause to listen to it as if it is important enough to demand a pause but not serious enough to... I am just that. A pair of feet to touch. A non-doer. Someone to consult during tax filing weeks, but not when they buy that Skoda. How dare Vivek rush over to help me get in and explain the dashboard to me! I didn't want to learn to drive that car. I didn't even like it.
The grey of my hair doesn't look good over my flushed face. I have to worry about my blood-pressure, Rekha says. She will be the reason for my death. Always reminding me that I am old, and I should carry myself like someone who is a grandfather, who is going to be 60 and from tomorrow, who is past 60. She is also proud of the fact that she has years left in her purse. And with all of them flattering her that she doesn't look her age. Of course she does. I am the one who has seen her once she removes her clothes. All those stretch marks and flab. She looks older than me, but I am the one forced to accept that I am 60. I am not.
I sit on the edge of the bed which first saw me when I was 24, then with Rekha when I was 25, then when I was a proud father of Rohan, then Samudrika and when Rekha was inconsolable after Samu's wedding. What has changed? Grey hair can't make me old. I can still carry Rekha to this bed.
I have no promises left. I wish I could have lived those years more attentively. Isn't life mostly what we see sitting in the giant-wheel's basket, moving away from us, waving out at us - little pink bundles of candy-floss, shrinking like a little girl's tail-less comet, the kid from the hoopla stall who didn't collect enough to get on a ride which mirrors the journey of his hopes up and down, the lingering smell of popcorn long after the brown-yellow blisters vanish into a bright yellow foam - while we are excited with the ascent only to languish in the looming descent? I think life is just that, the station that went past... and our relevance is only for the promise we hold. At 60 I have no promises to even cook up. I have either failed them or fulfilled them or lost them on the road to being 60... for everyone else.
What the heck! I am what they say I am... 60. I sink to the bed and feel the tears stumbling over the folds of my skin and getting lost in one of them. I don't want to go down there. My life is not meant to be measured against their piece of tape. They should measure me against mine. They should? Forget this sherwani. All this kills me. I think I'll sleep a while.

5 comments:

  1. Parvati6:43 PM

    Good writing howmuchsoever of dreary content is nevertheless a pleasure to read. I liked this post a lot...

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  2. Thoughts and emotions very beautifully captured. I think most people would feel this way at 60.

    This reminds me of someone I know who is only too eager to celebrate his 60th birthday the ceremonious Hindu way. I find this incredibly amazing. For one thing, there isn’t a need to celebrate birthdays (in my opinion). It’s just another day after all…and it make you feel older (how can you be happy about that? :().

    Even if one chooses to, going out for dinner with the family and the family giving gifts and cards to the person who has to put up with being older by a year, should suffice. I don’t see a need for a ceremonies celebration. At that age (assuming I live to be 60), I would only consider it a pain. I know quite a few old people who have crossed 60 without a fuss. This is the 1st time I see sombody showing so much of exuberance in celebrating it.

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  3. Dear P,
    Glad you find it so. Life has its dreary bits too, doesn't it?

    Dear X,
    Long time. Glad you like it. I don't quite connect to this thing of feeling older. I don't but I don't feel sad/bad/mad at being a year older. I would love to have as many birthday celebrations in a year as I fancy!! :-) I'll sure be the first to wish you on your 60th b'day!.

    A nice article I read (coincidentally) on a similar topic...
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Utilities/printer_preview.asp?idArticle=13187&R=111EE2AA9E

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  4. My life is not meant to be measured against their piece of tape. They should measure me against mine.

    Nice post...and nice lines those!!

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  5. Dear S,
    Glad you like it. Actually the emphasis was on the line that followed... :-) The point is that the narrator still wants others to measure him by his standards...

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