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My Dear Friend, the Old Age, Who I Travel With

Today, let us talk about the inevitable age - where we are wiser but weaker, evolved but bent in the body. The old age.

I love this quote because it sums up ageing beautifully. George Bernard Shaw said: "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

I've always believed that to make your old age happy, it is important to have a twinkle in your wrinkles. The old age is like climbing a mountain. It matters not if you get a little out of breath, but the view at the top is much better. After all, the best tunes are played on old fiddle.

At 78.5 years of age, I believe that I have earned the right to write about old age.

So, here a few thoughts that I'd like to share:

  • Believe me, laughter is timeless and dreams are forever.

  • Invest heavily in emotions and relations throughout your life. You are sure to yield rich dividends in old age.

  • As they say, always count your age by friends, not years, count your life by smiles, not tears.

  • And he who keeps the ability to see beauty, never gets old.

Every one wants to grow old gracefully and ageing is a natural process. Diseases and degeneration are one side of ageing while mental trauma, depression and loneliness are the other side.

These natural problems can only be overcome through love, compassion and kindness.

My wife is 72 years old now and was a teacher. Most of her friends are much younger to her.

She is always surrounded by her friends who consider her mother and call her mom. Majority of them worked with her in different schools of Delhi administration. Some of them address me as Sir.

My wife, Uma is compassionate, kind and large hearted. When I ask her friends why do they visit old people like us so often while they should be with their younger friends, enjoying life, their reply is "Sir, we come because this house is full of warmth and positive vibes. We come here of our own to enjoy the company of mom and you".

These young adults are our lifeline. They bring happiness and joy in our life. They keep on asking my wife if they could do any thing for her. This is not merely lip service. I think, it is compassion, kindness, love and the right values which attracts younger people towards her.

We also have lifelong friends, and we have been together for the last sixty years. To keep my aging mind alert, both my wife and I are parts of various community and friends.

One such group that I am a part of is called the radio warriors, comprising journalists from All India radio. Such conversations also help a lot in overcoming loneliness in old life. As Buddha says, "Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and look back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time".

He goes on to add that If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path. I strongly believe that parents should secure their old age and under no circumstances, transfer property in the name of children in old age. Yes ,help them in all ways but never take wrong step in blind love. I will narrate a true incident which touched my heart.

This story is about a family in Bhopal, living in same area where my sister lived. Their only married son was settled in America. Man of the house died and the son came all the way from America to wipe tears of his mother showing much empathy and concern.

He pleaded with the mother that I did not want to leave her alone and wanted to take her to America. He went on to explain how he would get all formalities of the mother's migration done with the American embassy. Since you will now be living with us, He said, let us sell this house and transfer all money to my American account, which would be joint in your and my name.

As the love of a mother is, she agreed happily. After completing all formalities, and saying good bye to neighbour's, the mother and son left for the airport. At the airport, the son told the mother to wait in the lounge as he wanted to complete some formalities. The poor mother waited and waited but the son did not return. When she enquired about the US flight, she was told that the flight had left more than an hour ago.

The heart broken mom came back to her locality. One kind hearted man offered her his garage as shelter. She is now washing utensils in the colony to earn livelihood. What a tragedy. And we read such stories in newspapers every day.

Only the other day, a women, a mother died in the neighborhood of our friend in Gurugram. She was alone and living with the hope that her children will visit her one day. Her son and daughter in law lived in America and her daughter was living in Mumbai.

Her son and daughter were informed about demise of their mother by society members and relatives but both did not turn up. Society members took the decision and performed last riots. She had fallen prey to deadly pandemic, COVID, which had played havoc with entire global population. Both son and daughter surfaced in society one fine morning. They had duplicate keys. Within days, they picked up all valuables, closed bank accounts and lockers and sold the house. No regrets, no explanations. And poor women always praised her children before her friends.

Many parents in old age have been duped by their own children. Many are languishing in old age homes. Last but not the least, love thy neighbour . Your neighbour's are the first to come to your help in a crises. Your biggest enemy in old age is first loneliness and then depression. I'd say, keep your self occupied as far as possible. Listen to your favourite music, read books you like the most, watch classic old movies, sports programmes, news, current affairs, whatever you like.

Take to gardening if you like. And when COVID is gone, meet your friends, a highly rejuvenating therapy. In short, do not stay idle, for idle brain is devil’s workshop. Another thing ,if you like, help your partner with house hold chores. You will stay happy, your partner will be happy and besides, it is good exercise.

As you grow very old, you become child-like again. Here is a small story about a little boy and an old man;

Little Boy: You know, I often drop the spoon while eating,

Old Man: Well I also do the same.

Little Boy: I cry a lot,

Old Man laughs: I also cry,

Little Boy: older people are mostly indifferent towards me.

The little boy felt a wrinkled hand over his small hand. Well, I understand, said old man with a sigh.

Are older people very demanding? The child asked.

I do not think so, said the old man. Give them respect, a little of your time and they are happy like a child.

Here is a prayer from an old man to god, pleading for help to overcome his weaknesses. I love this prayer, full of satire on old age. It brings smile on my face. Hope you enjoy it.

Thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples' affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it.

But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends. Keep me from the recital of endless details; bless me with ability to to get to the point.

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains -- they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn't agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint , it is so hard to live with some of them, but a harsh old person is one of the devil's masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy.

Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.

Old age is not a surprise, we knew it was coming – make the most of it. You may not be as fast on your feet, and the image in your mirror may be a little disappointing, but if your body is still functioning and not in unbearable pain, gratitude should be the name of the game. I don't see why there should be a point where everyone decides you're too old.

I'm not too old, and until I decide I'm too old, I will never be too old.

Are older people very demanding? I do not think so. Give them respect, a little of your time and they are happy. I think, life is a package of good ,bad and ugly. Accept it and life becomes little easy.

Here's a beautiful story about Buddha: After leading a sheltered existence surrounded by luxury in his younger years, Prince Siddhārtha ventured out of his palace for the first time at the age of 29. He set off from the palace to the city in a chariot, accompanied by his charioteer Channa.

On this journey he first saw an old man revealing to Siddhārtha the consequences of aging. When the prince asked about this person, Channa replied that aging was something that happened to all beings alike.

The second sight was of a sick person suffering from a decease. Once again, the prince was surprised at the sight, and Channa explained that all beings are subject to disease and pain. This further troubled the mind of the prince.

The third sight was of a dead body As before, Channa explained to the prince that death is an inevitable fate that befalls everyone.

After seeing these three sights, Siddhārtha was troubled in his mind and sorrowful about the sufferings that have to be endured in life. After this, Siddhārtha came upon the fourth sight, an ascetic who had devoted himself to finding the cause of human suffering. This sight gave him hope that he too might be released from the sufferings arising from being repeatedly reborn, and he resolved to follow the ascetic's example.

Buddha sums up life saying no one can escape death and unhappiness. If people expect only happiness in life, they will be disappointed. And than, life is temporary, why worry about some thing that is temporary.

When you move your focus from competition to contribution, life becomes a celebration. Never try to defeat people, just win their hearts.

Remember, old age is a compromise. Treat youngsters with concern and respect. Be polite and follow the maxim, silence is gold. Do not give any advice until asked and avoid confrontation as for as possible. Looks like a sermon, is not it. But then compromise is another name of old age.

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