Last twenty years have changed this world so much that some of my contemporaries get overwhelmed. There are new technologies, new processes; different thinking is rapidly barging into our lives. On top of that, new buzzwords and new methods of communication are giving run for money to the older generation. Millennial is one word I often read these days. It means a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century. Such individuals have grown up with all new things. They are as comfortable with new ideas as we were with bullock carts, dial-up phones, using a notebook and pen for writing and yes, reading books too!
But to me, we the people in the 7th decade of life are also millennials of the new world. Don’t worry! I know what I am talking, and my grey cells are active. The golden period of our lives is the time in our lives when we have time on hand; we have enough money (everybody’s definition of enough is different!). The situation is the result of one’s children settling down, and you are now a free bird! The real millennials are comfortable with new things in life but we millennials are comfortable with life itself. We don’t understand some new things; we don’t care. We have no worry about anything in this world. Who is bothered about death when there are so many things to do?
The traditional writings are treaties that say that Vanaprastha means “one who gives up worldly life”. It is also a concept in Hindu traditions, representing the third of four ashramas of human life, the other three being Brahmacharya, Grihastha and Sannyasa. Vanaprastha is part of the Vedic ashram system, which starts when a person hands over household responsibilities to the next generation, takes an advisory role, and gradually withdraws from the world.
Till handling of responsibilities to the next generation is fine by me. But what is the need for Vanaprastha? In olden times, I am not sure how long people lived, on average. Plus, until as recently as late as fifty years back, there was nothing to do in the evening of one’s life; the real-life evening ended with the Sunset. Now our evening begins with the Sunset! Though the indication to take advisory role and withdrawal from life is suggested, to me it’s a crappy piece of advice. But now we the new millennials are too busy doing and planning different things. Who has time to get old?
Higher life expectancy, better health adds to the change in the thought process. We want to go and see Raigad and Pratap gad. We want to go and see Machu Picchu and go and watch Wimbledon finals. We want to take a tour to see the whales and then go and see the midnight Sun. The list is unending; the bucket list keeps on getting longer. It was no surprise to see Charulata Patel on TV, all of 87 years old, enjoying the India-Pakistan world-cup cricket match. A ninety-nine-year-old lady, who was a wheelchair user, was enjoying all alone when we took Alaska cruise. There are examples galore, and the new millennials get more and more encouraged to try and do new things. See new places, get into new hobbies. Some are learning to play the organ and others are enjoying painting. I have joined a creative writing online course conducted by Oxford University.
During student life, humans are busy getting educated and later they are busy working and raising a family. Everybody had hidden from us what joy is waiting for us in our golden period. Some of us are unfortunate and remain unwell; sometimes, they are bedridden. But this can happen at a young age too! There are no writings; there are no treaties written on how to enjoy the golden period, which in conventional language is called old age. Why has this happened? It is simple. The golden age concept hardly existed until recently.
All the fun from college days and professional times are relived by the oldies. Now we do it without feeling any guilt. I am sure that we will soon have books and article deluge on this subject. At 9 am, take your breakfast and suddenly decide that you want to go and see a movie starring Dev Anand, Nargis, Waheeda or whoever. Sit in your car or Riksha, call an Uber and go the multiplex and see the 9.30 am movie. In the meanwhile, send a WhatsApp message to a few more friends and check if they can join you for an Idli-Dosa or a thali. Why not brunch at the Marriot? You have not had that famous missal-pav for some time, have it. Oh, don’t forget to end with the latest craze of Yevale Chai!
Do I want to become old? Do I feel old? Do I have to grow old? The answer to all the questions is no! The simple reason is I don’t have time to become old in the sense of older thinking. That biologically we are growing older is a fact of life, but that does not mean that we must advertise it, we don’t have to show it. One important aspect we forget about the ladies. They are years past their menopause, and their life must be very comfortable. Handling “monthly issues” during work and travel was never a joke for the ladies. It is real freedom for them.
What stupid things you will have to bear with other than some chronic diseases? Maybe you may have to wear some thick glasses, but with current developments in eye surgeries, you may get back the 20/20 eyesight. The world again looks brighter, and you can look at the lovely ladies without staring at them! You can let the time pass by, the way you want! You can wear some stupid clothes or hats and get away with it. People will just murmur, he has become old! I forgot one thing, buy yourself a fancy walking stick!
Would you want to go to a bar where there is loud music? You usually would avoid but now who cares? Don’t take your hearing aid with you! Live the life you want to live! Don’t bother about wasting your time; you have enough time on hand!
All the literature, all the wisdom always did not talk about the benefits of old age! It is because such things never were known to people, and many things did not even exist. The best sign of ageing, though, is that you are still you and people will accept you as you are! If they don’t, who cares?