By Bikram Vohra
You never really think you are going to grow old. Like youth is forever and a day till it sneaks past you on a one-way street and you realise, oops, I am not young any more. For me, the awakening came at the airport when everyone was doing that rapid ‘gettouttamyway’ walkathon to the Immigration from the gate after landing. And you are thinking, why are you running and rushing and pushing and shoving? Then someone fell down near the escalator and no one stopped to help except a few of us. The general consensus was that the passenger had fractured her hip. Look at her age, that is the customary risk, and fractured hips are the hallmark, trademark and imprimatur of going into the September of our lives — ask any adult children, they will confirm this.
The sobering thought was that she must have been a decade younger than I. The saving grace was she hadn’t fractured her rib which gives us some hope.
But that said, you do know that time has ticked away and you are not 22:
When you visit friends after some years and you discover their children are no longer children, and you say silly things like, “Migoodness, you have grown! I would never have been able to recognise you. Is that little Sabrina?” Seeing as its been sixteen years, Sabrina had little chance of staying the same.
When your children tell you, “This is not for you, you won’t understand”. Doesn’t matter if it is a movie or a book or some burning youth issue, “you won’t understand” is flung like a stone from a catapult.
When the twinge of pain isn’t automatically indigestion. Yo, not now, I am only 54, please let it be the Mexican chili not the myocardial mess.
When, if the elevator isn’t working, you are in trouble. This body would have run up those stairs in a jiffy twenty years ago, now seven floors is like Camp V to the summit of Everest.
When the hill you ran up as a youngster, suddenly, seems steeper. When suddenly, you are ‘the voice of experience’, and you never, realised you qualified.
When just as suddenly, no one has the patience to listen to that voice of experience.
When you get fed first so as not to ruin your bedtime.
When little kids, wet behind the ears, tell you what’s good for you and what isn’t, and you can do nothing about it because, no, you cannot have it.
When the earth no longer moves because you have arrived. They get you a chair and then ignore you the rest of the evening.
When your ideas are heard with patient amusement as another of the old boy’s idiosyncrasies… just the other day they called it uncanny sixth sense and you were the guy with savvy, finger on the button, the ‘go to’ guy.
When you find yourself saying, “in my time” or “in our days” as a preface to every remark.
When, dash it all, you can’t remember names and addresses of people you know.
When you begin to read the obituaries in the newspaper and discover you know most of them mentioned. And some are younger than you. Must have been smokers, lived life the hard way, burnt their candles at both ends.
You will never see Hailey’s comet again. Next soccer World Cup you will be so old you don’t want to talk about it.
When you can jump the ‘Q’ and no one jumps on you for doing so. They are understanding and that tees you off. They let you board the flight first.
When you are cutting out more things than you are adding. When a pretty girl is a pretty girl but a smoke is a smoke—if they will let you.
When you can insult people… and most maddeningly, nobody minds.
When, every time you want to relate what happened in 1982, everyone in the house is suddenly busy doing other things.
When if you tell a naughty joke or get up and dance or have fun, people are surprised you can do so at “your age.” They will label you eccentric because you are not sitting and sogging like corn flakes. You have to convince yourself these are not wrinkles on your face but character lines.
When you begin to wonder if you are being a burden on people and hate being dependent.
When your kids cart you along to some party even though no one called and invited you, and you protest, and everyone thinks you are making a fuss.
You notice there are no books in which old people are heroic and stars in the story.
Supermarket, airport, theatre you make your way according to where the toilets are. Everything is an aisle seat.
When you are angry and resentful with your body that it let you down and did the dirty on you. And even angrier you didn’t notice it happening.
People say stupid things like, ‘you are as young as you feel’, and ‘age is only a number’ and you want to smack them.
When you’d rather watch than play.
When you see young people make the same mistakes that you made and you want to warn them but you know they will not listen.
You cut out all the fun things to prolong the life you are missing. And that is hardly a comfortable thought to cling to… like a chicken pie without any chicken in it.
Bikram is former editor of KT. Everyday humour is his forte